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'The Preacher', Forest Gate Methodist Church

A Grade II Listed Building in Forest Gate South, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.548 / 51°32'52"N

Longitude: 0.0253 / 0°1'31"E

OS Eastings: 540528

OS Northings: 185176

OS Grid: TQ405851

Mapcode National: GBR LR.51Z

Mapcode Global: VHHNB.DC75

Entry Name: 'The Preacher', Forest Gate Methodist Church

Listing Date: 19 January 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1430832

Location: Newham, London, E7

County: London

District: Newham

Electoral Ward/Division: Forest Gate South

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Newham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Forest Gate Emmanuel with Upton Cross St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

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Summary


Sculpture entitled 'The Preacher', 1961, by Peter Lazslo Peri. The sculpture, which has no plinth, is affixed diagonally above the principal entrance, on the western gabled brick elevation, of Forest Gate Methodist Church. Although the contiguous significance of the relationship between the gabled wall and sculpture is acknowledged, the Church and its associated buildings are not included within the listing.

Description

'The Preacher', 1961, by Peter Laszlo Peri.

MATERIALS: the sculpture is constructed of a mix of concrete and synthetic resin.

DESCRIPTION: 'The Preacher' is a figurative sculpture diagonally set above the principal entrance (an angular concrete porch with chamfered sides) and dramatically cantilevered from the western gabled, brown brick elevation of Forest Gate Methodist Church. The figure, which measures approximately 4.1m in height and 2.3m wide, is of a man with limbs of exaggerated length, in a short robe or dress holding a prayer-book in his left hand.

Pursuant to s. 1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the building to which the sculpture is affixed, is not of special architectural or historic interest.

History

The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

Visual languages ranged from the abstraction of Victor Pasmore and Philip King to the figurative approach of Elisabeth Frink and Peter Laszlo Peri, via those such as Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth who bridged the abstract/representational divide. The post-war decades are characterised by the exploitation of new - often industrial - materials and techniques including new welding and casting techniques, plastics and concrete, while kinetic sculpture and "ready mades" (using found objects) demonstrate an interest in composite forms.

The Hungarian-born Jewish artist Peter Laszlo Peri was commissioned to produce 'The Preacher' for the newly built Forest Gate Methodist Church, which was designed by Quaker architect Paul V E Mauger FRIBA (1896-1982) of 26 Pentley Park, Welwyn Garden City (No 26 is Grade II-listed, National Heritage List for England no. 1392710). The sculpture was executed and completed in 1961 and unveiled during the opening of the church in 1962. It consists of one of Peri's melancholy Giacometti-like figures that are known as 'diagonal sculptures' and is the only one known in London. Official Architecture and Planning (October 1962) commented that these were ''as much an expression of contemporary architecture as the functional lines of the buildings themselves''.

Peter Laszlo Peri (1899-1967) was born Ladislas Weisz in Budapest into a large working-class Jewish family. Articled as a lawyer’s clerk, he developed a passion for art and communist politics. After attending evening classes in art and an apprenticeship as a stone mason, he toured with an agit-prop (a highly politicised and leftist) travelling theatre in Czechoslovakia in 1919 when the Hungarian Soviet Republic of Béla Kun, which he supported, was overthrown. Seeking political refuge in Vienna and Paris, he eventually settled in Berlin in 1920. Joining the Der Sturm group of avant-garde artists, he acquired a reputation as a leading Constructivist sculptor. Peri worked for the city’s Architect’s Department between 1924 and 1927 with a view to becoming an architect. In 1928 he returned to sculpture but changed to a realist style. Following the rise of the Nazis he left Germany in 1933 and settled in England, moving to Hampstead in 1935 and becoming a naturalised citizen in 1939. On arrival Peri had joined the English section of the Marxist artists group, Artists International.

He pioneered the use of concrete as a medium for expressive sculptures and came to specialise in architectural reliefs in coloured concrete, developing ‘Pericrete’, a mixture of concrete with polyester resin and metallic powders. In 1936 he was awarded his first major commission, by the Cement and Concrete Association, for a decorative panel of workmen laying concrete in their boardroom. The following year the Board invited Peri to stage a solo show ‘London Life in Concrete’ to promote the use of coloured concrete as an artistic medium. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he was commissioned by the London County Council to create three relief murals of children playing to adorn their new estates in Lambeth. These are located on Darley House off Tyers Street, Vauxhall Gardens Estate, Lambeth and on Horton House and Wareham House, both located in the nearby South Lambeth Estate. In 1951 he created ‘The Sunbathers', a sculptural mural (or ‘horizontal relief’ since it jutted out from the wall) for the Festival of Britain and subsequently received numerous commissions from educational authorities, notably in Leicestershire and Warwickshire.

Reasons for Listing

'The Preacher', 1961, by Peter Lazslo Peri which is cantilevered from the principal western gable wall (not included in the listing) of Forest Gate Methodist Church, to which it was affixed in 1962, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Artistic interest: as a sculpture of high artistic and aesthetic quality, well-composed and innovative in its choice and use of materials;

* Historic interest: as a piece commissioned by a commercial client and architect from an internationally renowned artist, representative of a recurrent theme in his oeuvre of affixing 'diagonal sculptures' to the elevations of public buildings;

* Sculptural association: as a piece which has a historic association with Methodism and the Forest Gate Methodist Church's principal western elevation for which it was commissioned.

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