On a handrail

By Jon Lopez

What drew me to the drawings Tony made, and the handrail itself, is the line it treads between standardisation and customisation. The way in which, for instance, standard sections of steel are bundled together and expressed to form thicker newel posts or to hold the glazing panels of the balustrade. There is a wonderfully judged set of moments where the material is worked or twisted to form comfortable edges or ornamental flourish. I particularly like the jointing and bolting into the concrete stair soffit – it’s like the handrail is simultaneously hanging onto, and supporting the mass concrete of the stair. Tony’s drawings misbehave a little, fluctuating between perspective and orthographic projection, and the handrail seems to do this as well. It performs other functions beyond guarding and guiding, slipping away at the bottom to make a gate between the gallery and back of house by way of a subtle friction joint which allows the rail to pull apart at the corner. 

Tony Fretton, Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2886.1.
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.13.7
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.13.11
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.19.23
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.14.10
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.13.41
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.13.55
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.14.14
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.19.21
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.14.72
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.14.73
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.14.74
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.19.19
Tony Fretton (1945), Lisson Gallery Sketchbook, Handrails, 1991. Pencil in sketchbook. DMC 2897.16.75

Photographs courtesy and (c) Jon Lopez.