art, Illustration, Notebook

A History of Fish in the Home

Notebook: 4 November 2017 | ILLUSTRATION


I like fish. I like the way they look, I like the way they move and I like to eat them.

Nigel Bents likes fish too. He’s an artist and in 1982 he produced a lithograph entitled A History of Fish in the Home. His print is a ‘montage’ of collected 1950s images of fish from old magazines, books, other printed ephemera and ceramics. I loved his print (pictured below), bought a copy from him and it has hung on our kitchen wall for the last 35 years or so.

Nigel described the background and inspiration for his artwork and his continuing love for fishy things:

I love fish and I loved 1950’s homes, hence the 1951 Antelope Ernest Race chairs abounding in the print. I was in my mid twenties, doing a postgraduate fine art printmaking course at Central School of Art; I spent two happy years doing 8-colour offset lithographs, gradually building up the colours from lighter to darker. I got the images from design annuals, old mags, comics, MAD books and my own fish ceramic bits and bobs; the top half of the image is the dining room, the bottom the kitchen. I would photocopy all the images down to a similar size and then trace off the images onto kodatrace or tracing paper stencils, which were then exposed onto photo-sensitive litho plates. The lower image of Esther Williams, and the aproned figure drawn by another student at Central, Herbert Maly, are the only two adults in the image. I always liked the ‘hollywood happy couple’ images I grew up with. At the time I would have been obsessed with Doris Day, and frequented 50s clubs at the time to look for someone who looked like her.

I collected 50s stuff incessantly in those days. It’s so much easier – and cleaner – nowadays online. We spent years piecing together how it all linked together. Hindsight and the internet have made it much more simple now; you can be an expert without being obsessive. But I still love it all. Fish, the 1950s and Print.

Fish are just great. I love a kipper for breakfast and had skate and chips yesterday on the seafront at Shoreham. Best fish meals would be the ones in the Cap Mesquida restaurant in Menorca two years ago and my most memorable fish would be plaice in breadcrumbs with chips in D & H Evans with my mum and sister in the early 60s.

Nigel Bents is represented by the Peter Harrington Gallery in London and you can see more of Nigel’s work on their website. Nigel currently works as a senior lecturer running the first year of the BA Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design.

We have a collection of fishy items dotted around our house in Norfolk including a splendid fish weathervane created by my brother-in-law Robin Cheeseman. A small selection are shown below.