Ian Walters, Battersea sculptor, died on Thursday 3rd August aged 76. He had been ill for some time with cancer of the liver and, after months of chemotherapy and an operation he died in The Marsden Hospital in Sutton.
Ian has been in the news recently about his portrait of Nelson Mandela. There has been controversy over the placing of the nine foot high, full length statue. Ian preferred the space in front of the National Gallery but Westminster Council refused planning permission resulting in a public Inquiry.
The result was a site being found in Parliament Square with the House of Commons as a backdrop.
Ian had hoped to design a plinth and to complete the fine details when the Bronze was cast to keep his own hand on the final stage. The sculpture is finished in clay and ready to be cast. Ian always worked with his hands, moulding in clay, rather than carving in stone. His was a great artistic skill and he was fully trained at Birmingham College of Art in classical sculpture. He worked mainly in a realistic manner and concentrated on portraits of radical left wing thinkers and activists. In 1982 he made a larger than life portrait bust of Nelson Mandela and it is sited at the Royal Festival Hall. He sculpted a full length figure of Lord Fenner Brockway which is at Red Lion Square. He made smaller portraits of Tony Benn, Harold Wilson, Barbara Castle, Oliver Tambo, Trevor Huddleston and Alf Dubs MP for Battersea. He made an abstract sculpture to commemorate the International Brigade sited at Jubilee Gardens, South Bank and the Wapping Printworkers relief sculpture at John Marshall Hall.
He had an order book for future work and he wanted to see his statue of Sylvia Pankhurst with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel put in The House of Lords with her sister Emily's statue.
Ian was a radical campaigner against injustice in the World and a member of Battersea CND.
He joined the Battersea Power Station Community Group at our demonstration at the Power Station on 26th June this year. He stood with us for 2 hours to protest against the demolition of the chimneys. He said that without the chimneys the Power Station would lose the monumental sculptural quality he so loved
Ian was based in Battersea. For many years he lived in St James's Grove and was redeveloped out when the Doddington estate was built in 1970. He was rehoused in Battersea High Street by the council. He had enough space for a studio and lived with his family in the house attached. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.
I first met Ian in 1969 when our respective children started at Chesterton Primary School in Dagnall Street, Battersea. We were on the Parent and Teachers Association together. My wife Aileen was the chair of the Association
Ian was a voluntary committee member of Wandsworth Community Arts project of which I was the Community Artist and Ian wanted to create sculpture for the community and designed a small model for a community park. This project was not completed through lack of funding. A nice model resulted to commemorate the successful campaign by local residents to close Thessaly Road following the tragic death of a child.
There is a sculpture of Ian's in the Adult Training Centre in Thessaly Road. Ian made it while the building was a library open to the public and it upset him that it was not accessible when the use was changed when the library was closed. Maybe Wandsworth Council could find a public site and move the sculpture to a more accessible place instead?
Ian had been commissioned to do a sculpture in Stockwell Memorial Gardens where I have a significant mural but this is not to be.
I am very sad that such a dynamic and vibrant artist has died at a very significant and productive time in his life. I am personally very sad that a friend will no longer inspire me to greater effort. Ian was always generous with praise to me and he would always find a compliment about my artwork that would not immediately be noticed by others.
Brian Barnes 7th August 2006