© Robert Olley Artwork
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Signed Print: 56 × 37cm
The Story Of The Westoe Netty
Early in the year of 1890 the Town Council of South Shields decided that there was a need for mens toilets in the Westoe area of the town. Eighty two years later, this public toilet gave inspiration to artist and sculptor Bob Olley, a native of South Shields, he was born 1940 within spitting distance of the urinal. He recalls memories of his childhood, when men always seemed to wear heavy dark clothing, cloth caps and white mufflers and frequented the many clubs and bars in the vicinity. When closing time came they would stand around, solving the worlds problems until the need to relieve themselves came upon them and it was then that the urinal reached it’s full potential and there was often a queue of fidgeting men waiting to use it. On the cement rendered walls witty graffiti covered every inch of space while the acrid pong from the porcelain stalls was kept at bay by the automatic ball cock flush struggling to cleanse the trough that was permanently choked with fag ends and tram tickets.
His painting is based on these observations. The original oil painting was exhibited in the town’s museum and library on January 1972 Olley’s second exhibition, controversy soon followed. An Alderman made a formal complaint to the Libraries Committee describing it as netty art and tried to have the exhibition closed down. Meetings were hurriedly called, the Council were divided on the issue as were the towns-folk but before any decision could be made the final day of the exhibition came and went. However, hundreds of people had came to view the controversial painting for themselves and masses of publicity had been generated which catapulted Olley’s career forward at a rate of knots. The response to the painting convinced him that there was enough interest to have prints taken from it and soon they were being sent around the world.
© Robert Olley Artwork
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