The Left Bankers are not so much an art movement as a social phenomenon, not so much something invented as stumbled across; not a group, but a series of individuals unknowingly connected by shared experience, ambition and ability, both artistic and practical.
I first coined the name Left Bankers late in 2010 after becoming aware of a number of artists who had exchanged life in the City of London for a more creative direction – but in doing so they were employing the skills and contacts they had made in the City to develop their art, further their own objectives and create new opportunities for others.
In fact, their number also includes people who have not left the City of London, but who have nevertheless already answered the call to follow their creative urge and have been able to realise their artistic ambitions.
What is particularly interesting about them is how the specialist skills and talents that made them a success in the City now inform their art directly.
Prize Winning Scuptures
Take Jonty Hurwitz, for instance, who creates astonishing and prize-winning anamorphic sculptures using billions of algorithmic calculations as his “paintbrush”… the same process he employed in developing the risk engine for assessing loan calculations in his previous day job.
Meanwhile Nasser Azam, a former chief operating officer at Merrill Lynch and now a high profile Contemporary artist, has bought the assets of the failed Morris Singer Foundry in Braintree, Essex – which cast the lions for Trafalgar Square – and created Zahra Modern Art Foundries, a business that supports Contemporary monumental sculpture. In the process he is rescuing the jobs of skilled foundry workers who would otherwise be unemployed.
Like Nasser Azam, both Bruce Denny (former City IT specialist) and Thomas Ostenberg (once Vice President of Citi Bank in Spain and Brazil) have found quick success and recognition as artists worthy of major public display.
Monumental Pieces of Art
While Azam’s monumental sculpture, The Dance, once on show outside the County Hall Gallery, where he was Artist-in-Residence, is now installed outside the Park Plaza by Westminster Bridge, both Ostenberg and Denny have contributed works for Westminster’s City of Sculpture Festival, which will see new works put on display in public spaces throughout the capital in the run-up to the Olympics.
In Denny’s case, this has meant taking over the gardens in Soho Square to display half a dozen works. The centrepiece, The Conversion of St Paul, is a life-size bronze of the saint on a rearing horse, the sole sculpture put on display, at the invitation of the Dean of St Paul’s, to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Wren’s Cathedral in the City. It took pride of place outside St Paul’s in the last few months of 2010. He has also been commissioned to commemorate Sir Simon Milton in a London regeneration project in Paddington Basin.
Strong Creative Force
At a time when bankers have been the target of much envy and opprobrium, it is refreshing to identify a strong creative force that is advancing artistic expression and contributing significantly to helping others on the road to success.
Is it a coincidence that most of those I have identified as Left Bankers are sculptors? I suspect not. There is something about working in three dimensions that seems to push the boundaries of creativity further, and all those I have talked to have a burning desire to find fresh themes and new modes of expression. Having escaped the business desk and a world that operates largely in the electronic ether, they seem to have more of a hunger than most for the tactile and to express themselves in something strikingly solid.
Guest contributor – Ivan Macquisten
For Thomas Ostenberg – Plus One Gallery, London
For Jonty Hurwitz – Jonty Hurwitz
For Bruce Denny – brucedenny.com
For Nasser Azam – Nasser Azam