First published: Winter 2012
"The life we inhabit is pedestrian. Mentally we live another life or exist in another planet."
Ian Leslie Ward was born in 1942, a time of war and upheaval. Britain was locked down for decades after with the restrictions of rationing. His love affair with motors started when his father Leslie gave him an Ian Allan book on British cars. Later, his interest grew with the iconic American designs in the 1950s. These screamed indulgent luxury, of the wanton aspirations of Hollywood glamour and of a sheer gorgeousness at odds with a monochrome suburban Britain.
The series of 30 car drawings was created from 1958 to 1964 whilst working in accounts for the Borough Treasurer at Watford Town Hall. They show a desire for a life less ordinary, an escape from a stifling job locked behind files and copy machines, and freedom from living at home with his parents. Life for many after the war was all about hiding beneath the parapet, to exist in safety and security, and not to shine or be bedazzled by behaviour against the norm.
After work, the dining table was employed, and with paper and pencil he began drawing the objects of his desire. They had such titles as: The Nashville Custom Joe; My Packard Country Clipper; A Jew Baby Lincoln; Dodge Royal 2 Door Station Wagon; Rolls Cadillac Series 75: Fleetwood Imperial Sedan; 1957 Lincoln Premier Landau 4 Door Hard Top; and To Greta Garbo With Love Zion Dean. Later moving to more elaborate renditions, the cars are decked with curlicues, baubles, bells and horns resembling Eastern influences, a reminder perhaps of a day trip to the Brighton Pavilion, or a moment eating a Turkish Delight.
As time progressed; a new stimulus was introduced via the technology of television. An influencing factor may have been The Liberace Show, broadcast Sunday afternoons by Lew Grade’s Associated Television (ATV) and avidly watched with his favourite aunt. The performer projected a flamboyance and glamour unseen before, and for many gay men at that time in Britain, Liberace became an icon and standard bearer. With this new introduction, his perception of the works as cars changed and all conventional vestiges began to disappear.