September 24, 2016

Philip Mussprat, Can House

view from the street (may 2016)

Facing the North Sea, Hartlepool is an industrial and harbour town of some 92.000 inhabitants  in the far north west of England, known from its now gone, once very numerous shipbuilding companies.

In terms of outsider art environments the town can boast a very special site: a house with exterior walls decorated with thousands of beer cans, as well as separate beer can structures in the back yard.

To my knowledge, such a site is a unique kind of art environment, not alone in the United Kingdom, but also throughout Western Europe (In the United States there are some examples of sites decorated with beer cans).

Philip Mussprat (2011)
this picture and the next four are screenprints from the 
Can House movie/trailer (see documentation)
published here in agreement with Maxy Neil Bianco

Life and works

This Can House was created by Philip Mussprat (1952-2015). A married man with four children, he worked as a bus driver, but had to prematurely retire because of a disability.

As it occurs in retirement, he had need "to do something" and in 2005 he began decorating a wall in his backyard with empty beer cans. It became a construction some 10 m (33 ft) long and 1,5 m (5 ft) high.

Apparently enthused by this activity, Mussprat decided to continue, partly because he thought that in this way he could raise money for the restoration of a local church.

decorations at the frontside (2011)

So he began decorating front and side wall of the house with beer cans, gluing these together and to the wall with waterproof adhesive and arranging them in geometrical patterns.

And then Mussprat also made stand alone creations, such as a barbecue installation and the pyramidal structure pictured below which is a fountain that actually sprays a jet of water.

fountain in the backyard (2011)

Some ten years after he started, Mussprat had processed 75.000 beer cans. Family and friends helped to gather these. As Mussprat said in an interview: We've all done our fair share of drinking to get the cans, but people come and donate their empties once they hear what I'm doing.

detail (2011)

Can House, the movie

Filmmaker Maxy Neil Bianco, who lives in Hartlepool, valued the Can House and its creator as a good subject for a documentary film, a topic he not just viewed in terms of contemporary folk art, but also as an act of defiance, a two fingers up to the hand of fate, to a world slowly degenerating and disappearing.
Mussprat and his family and friends were gladly willing to participate in the film and in 2011 its footage was shot.

It became a great documentary. Against the background of the transience of the old port town it gives a picture of people at the edge of society who in their own way create a thing of beauty which somehow gives sense to their lives. Indeed, that's what art environments might be about.

Actual situation

Maxy Neil Bianco's movie may also be of historical significance because it documents an art environment which for some time already is at risk with decomposition because of plans of the authorities to renovate the district where it is located.

The neighbouring house, at the corner of the street, still extant in 2014, already has been demolished.

Phillip Mussprat will not experience any disappearnce of his creation. He died september 20, 2015 at age 63.

* Peter Wilson, "The Can House. Embellished property in north of England", in Raw Visison nr 91 (october 2016)
* Article on Mail Online, nov 2015
* Article Meet our very own Can Gogh on Hartlepool Mail, nov 2010
* Trailer of the Can House movie below (3'25", Youtube, uploaded november 2011)

* Maxy Neil Bianco, Can House, film first screened 2012, 51'56". available on Vimeo

Can House from Maxy Neil Bianco on Vimeo.

Philip Mussprat
Can House
Corner Raby Road/Raby Gardens
Hartlepool, North East England, UK
still extant in 2016, can be seen from the street

1 comment: