First published: Summer 2015
“Dear World. In the beginning when I was a child, I knew I had something special to say. Something I wanted to share with the world. I was never very clever with words. The use of them never really expressed what I wanted to say. So I turned to colour and pattern, which seemed to do the job so much better. I immersed myself in their use, and discovered my own language. I could now explore my fascination with vibrant colour contrasts and unusual images.”
Stephen Wright (b. 1954) is a London-based artist and former textile designer who, for the past 16 years, has been creating a House of Dreams in East Dulwich. This enormous endeavour started back in 1999 with his former partner Donald Jones, and was born from research trips to numerous visionary environments such as the Maison Picassiette of Raymond Isidore (1900–1964) in Chartres, France – a place that Wright now visits at least every other year for fresh inspiration and to feel a closer affinity with those following the same path as himself. The sprawling project was equally born from Wright’s desire to create something permanent. Having worked as a fashion, knitwear and stationery designer for many years prior to the conception of the House of Dreams, he wanted a change from the ephemeral nature of his former life; we use a piece of wrapping paper, we throw it away.
The house, bequeathed as it is to the National Trust, will be his personal legacy. This urge to create something of permanence was perhaps heightened following the death of Jones and both of Wright’s parents three years into the start of the project. Although Wright took a short break from his work on the house following his bereavement, he eventually returned to it, finding that it provided an outlet for healing and dealing with what had happened. He realised that it was something he needed to do for himself.
Within the house, Wright has created a ‘new’ family – not to replace the one he lost, but to create a sense of solace and belonging; something he is a part of, the creator of. Wright is very honest about the house and what it means to him, and the almost love-hate relationship he battles with. He compares the building of the museum to the building of an intimate human relationship, or like feeding a baby that’s never full up. His sculptures, his assemblages – they are his babies.