Fletcher Priest Architect’s scheme for Sedley Place in London, completed in 2006, replaced the existing buildings with a mixed-use 10,000 sq m development of three buildings which successfully increased the floor area, created a new public”pocket-square” and improved the pedestrian connection from the buzz of Oxford Street to the relative calm of Woodstock Street. Different façade treatments have been used to reflect the different characters of the surrounding streets and the alley is enlivened with a transparent two-storey suspended glass structure and transparent glass bridges between the buildings. At its heart, the new pocket square provides an oasis of calm, animated by the water-sculpture by Tim Head and Tom Lomax, which was busy even on a dull grey London autumn day.
The art galleries of Mayfair crept into Woodstock Street with the opening of Parafin in September 2014, established by former Haunch of Venison directors Ben Tufnell and Matt Watkins along with Nicholas Rhodes, the founder of the Master Piper gallery in south London. The gallery is simplicity itself – two long white spaces on the ground floor and lower floor connected by an unfussy, almost industrial, staircase, with daylight from a rooflight at the rear of the ground floor. Thus, the visitor can focus on the art, the current exhibition being recent work by the Swiss artist Uwe Wittwer who uses “images of images” in his search to represent reality.
In the gallery upstairs, the colours of the artworks are muted, apart from “Necklace” which stands ablaze from the rest. Taking centre-stage are the large multi-part works “Cracking Glass (after Jarman)” and “The King’s Tear.” Each image in these works has complexity and detail that demands attention to understand the meaning behind it. In “Cracking Glass (after Jarman)”, stills from Derek Jarman’s films and text from T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” are shaken up and reassembled to suggest a reflection on the fractured modern world, by coincidence at the same time as newspaper headlines are full of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and the destruction of antiquities. The painting “Ruin Negative” shows a ruined building in Berlin, possibly once associated with Wittwer’s family. Downstairs in the darker space, “Bacchanal after Poussin” takes apart and reconstruct Poussin’s “The Triumph of Pan” in the National Gallery. While these people are having an enjoyable time partying into the night without a care in the world, upstairs the world is falling apart.