Dis­card sharp

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

He is en­tirely self-taught and his ma­te­rial is the stuff that other peo­ple throw out. Ju­lian Cole meets Brad­ford artist

Ge­off Latz. Pic­tures by Si­mon Hulme.

GE­OFF LATZ’S stu­dio doesn’t look much from the out­side. There is a wooden door and a win­dow you can­not see through. Once in­side, two things be­come ap­par­ent. One: it is just as cold in­side as out. And two: this util­i­tar­ian space is full of sur­prises, not least the artist him­self. Ge­off is vir­tu­ally self-ed­u­cated and ap­proaches art, as he ap­proaches most things, from an un­usual an­gle. His sculp­tures and art­works are made from scrap metal and dis­carded wire and bolts and nuts, and they are lined up neatly in here, ships and galleons and totem poles.

Ge­off is 57 and shares this unit on the Hil­lam Road In­dus­trial Es­tate in Brad­ford with his part­ner in art An­gela Boyce, who works in stained glass and acts as his PA. Tea is made and I am of­fered the chair next to a por­ta­ble ra­di­a­tor.

Ge­off ’s scrap art of­ten has a his­tor­i­cal or po­lit­i­cal theme. Some­times there are aliens in­volved. He has a fas­ci­na­tion with aliens.

It has been an un­con­ven­tional jour­ney to­wards art. Ge­off is the 12th youngest of 13 chil­dren. One of his broth­ers died, but there are still a dozen Latz sib­lings. “Eight guys liv­ing and four sis­ters,” he says.

He had a no­madic child­hood. “I never got an ed­u­ca­tion when I were a kid be­cause we were al­ways mov­ing,” he says.

Ge­off reck­ons he went to 12 dif­fer­ent schools in as many years thanks to par­ents who couldn’t stay put. His mother “was an ’ud­der­s­field lass” and his father was a Ger­man Jew who ar­rived in Bri­tain in 1938.

“There was a rest­less­ness in him be­cause of what had hap­pened to him in Ger­many, and he couldn’t set­tle in one place,” says Ge­off.

The older sib­lings de­parted, leav­ing the younger ones to fol­low their peri­patetic par­ents. “We ended up in these bloody two car­a­vans go­ing all over the coun­try,” says Ge­off.

For a while they lived in an old bar­racks in Kent which had been set up for peo­ple dis­placed by the war. “Tough times,” says Ge­off, who got lit­tle from school. “I never got a chance to learn, so I taught my­self a lot of stuff. I gave my­self an ed­u­ca­tion. I had an in­sa­tiable ap­petite to learn and I’ve still got that to­day.”

His par­ents rolled to a halt in Wales and Ge­off moved to Brad­ford, where other mem­bers of the fam­ily had set­tled. He worked at Fields Prin­ters for 25 years un­til he was made re­dun­dant in the spring of 2015.

As a child, he didn’t have many toys and im­pro­vised, mak­ing do with his imag­i­na­tion and what­ever came to hand. “It sounds the old poor tale, but it re­ally was: we had noth­ing. I’d find my own world and make things out of what­ever I could get my hands on. My fam­ily thought I was a bit ec­cen­tric.”

Ge­off was al­ways cre­ative, al­ways mak­ing things. “I can’t help it, it’s just some­thing I need to do. I am al­ways try­ing to say some­thing when I am mak­ing stuff. It’s like sto­ry­telling.”

While he was still at Fields, he be­gan work on a ship he calls Anne Galleon, a striking cre­ation named in hon­our of his wife. He and Anne live in Ec­cleshill and the cou­ple have two daugh­ters, aged 19 and 21.

The ship was in­spired by a ser­mon given by his pas­tor friend Paul Hub­bard. “He’s a mas­sive in­flu­ence on my life, we’ve been friends for 26 years,” says Ge­off, who at­tends the Chris­tian Life Church in Ship­ley.

“He was giv­ing a talk about set­ting sail and what your vi­sion is and I got this vi­sion in my head of a ship, but not any ship but a 16th cen­tury Span­ish galleon, as I love his­tory.”

Ge­off had no idea how to be­gin, but set sail any­way, call­ing on his en­gi­neer­ing know-how. The task took 1,000 hours over 18 months while he was still work­ing full time. “Anne used to call it my other mis­tress,” Ge­off says.

His galleon has cop­per pip­ing for can­nons (they roll in and out), a cop­per hull and myr­iad nuts and bolts.

Be­ing an artist hasn’t been easy, but Ge­off ’s work has been ex­hib­ited in and around Brad­ford at Cartwright Hall, Brad­ford In­dus­trial Mu­seum, the Kala Sangam Cen­tre, the Fabric Gallery and the South Square Gallery in Thorn­ton. He also had a solo ex­hi­bi­tion at Leeds In­dus­trial Mu­seum in 2013 and four years ago, he was a guest ex­hibitor at the Brick Lane Gallery in Lon­don. More re­cently, Ge­off and An­gela took part in the Sal­taire Open Houses trail.

A First World War piece is tour­ing Brad­ford li­braries at present. This was in­spired in part by his grand­fa­ther’s ex­pe­ri­ences in the war. “In those

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