The frustration of not being able to complete a planned American road trip with his sons due to pandemic-induced travel limitations inspired a fascinating development in the work of artist Jeremy Dickinson.
Best known for his colourful compositions featuring stacks of toy vehicles (Motoring art, March 2018), Dickinson prefers to hunt down subjects to paint.
“The toy-fair circuit had shut down, so my source of fresh old toys stopped,” he recalls.
“My paintings are partly recreations of imaginary toy scrapyards, and during our previous road trips I’d regularly diverted to old wrecking yards.
“That fascination started when I was a lad, when I’d spotted a huge bus breaker’s from the train near Barnsley, Yorkshire.
“Back home with my OS maps, I worked out where it was then pestered my mum to take me there.
“She gave me an hour, and aged just 14 I walked free around the amazing site, which would be unthinkable today.”
Since that adventure, Dickinson has been drawn to scrapyards for subjects and during lockdown he began exploring sites using Google Earth: “I’d search for ‘wrecking yards’ across America.
“Most were too clinical, with neat rows of cars, but occasionally I found a gem.”
The virtual quest became really addictive, and inspired a series of oil paintings that ranges from the Barnsley bus breaker where his fascination started to yards across America.
“Some, such as Old Car City in Georgia, have become tourist attractions,” says Dickinson, “but with Google Earth you can explore remote places, too.
“Like my quest for rare toys at swapmeets, I love seeking out cars at the back of yards that wouldn’t be accessible on foot.
“It’s easy to take yourself to a different world, which was a perfect escape during lockdown.”
As well as capturing random groups of old vehicles, Dickinson became fascinated by the different colours of the terrain: “Texas in the south featured a deep red earth, which contrasted with the yellow sand of the desert yards.
“In the cities the colours were more neutral greys and browns, which has all added to the variety of the series.
“From Dagenham to Barstow, I’ve now done 20 paintings.”
The largest of Dickinson’s aerial works features the abandoned 80-acre Packard factory on East Grand Boulevard, Detroit.
The historic facility opened in 1903 and built 1.6 million cars before it closed in 1956: “I believe it’s the largest derelict factory in the world.
“Sadly the bridge over Grand Boulevard recently collapsed, but you can still see the original production-line layout and the buildings reminded me of Donald Judd’s horizontal wall art.
“I spent 2020 painting the factory and the canvas is two metres long. I’d love to visit Detroit before the old plants are totally demolished. The AMC building with its Art Deco tower would make a great subject.”
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