Born in 1929 in Liverpool, where he spent most of his life, Dooley was an apprentice welder for a time at the Birkenhead shipyards. This familiarity with working with large pieces of metal would stand him in good stead for his career as a sculptor. A large man physically, he was a former heavyweight boxing champion of the Irish Guards, although he said that the only time he ever really felt like knocking a man out was in a match against the London Police. Dooley actually came from a staunch Protestant background but, falling under the influence of Father Michael Casey, the Guards padre, Dooley converted to Catholicism and the promptly joined the British Communist Party at the same time!
He studied art at the St Martin’s College of Art in London in 1953, supporting himself by taking a job sweeping up. By 1962, he was working as a labourer shovelling carbon dust at Dunlop in Liverpool. But his first one-man show came that year at the St Martin’s Gallery off Charing Cross Rd and he never looked back, becoming an accomplished sculptor. A colourful personality, Dooley was often compared to Brendan Behan, in 1967 he walked out of a London exhibition being opened by Jennie Lee, the Minister for the Arts. The BBC made a film about his “Stations of the Cross” at St Mary’s in Leyland and this won prizes at Monte Carlo and in Italy. Dooley did much work for churches in Britain, Latin America and Spain.
His best work was with scrap metal or bronze and his studios were always bizarre, one was in a former Chinese laundry, another in a former pub; his final studio was in the former Bear Brand tights factory in Woolton. Once, he made a gigantic statue in memory of the International Brigade and found that he could not get it through the studio doors, having to remove a section of wall to do the job!
He appeared on many television chat shows in the 1960s and early 1970s and was once the subject of `This is your life’. Arthur Dooley died in January 1994, aged 64 years.
Source: Guardian January 17th 1994
Be the first to comment