Geoffrey Preston

Stucco overmantel, on display at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. Photo © Christopher Horwood

Geoffrey Preston is one of the UK’s leading architectural sculptors, specialising in the historic skill of modelled plasterwork.

Geoffrey is a Master of traditional plaster-relief techniques who draws on eighteenth-century decorative art and sculpture, but combines it with his contemporary eye for design. He cites Giacomo Serpotta of Sicily and Egid Qurin Asam of Bavaria as two of the greatest influences on his work, both of whom stretched the boundaries of what people thought possible to sculpt in plaster during the Late Baroque period. In addition, he admires painter Rex Whistler and wood engravers, Charles Tunnicliffe and Joan Hassall, for their mastery of light and shade, which echoes the effects he strives to achieve within his own work. We are intrigued and delighted by how Geoffrey’s plasterwork adds depth, texture and vitality to a room, transforming a plain canvas into an interior of subtle, and at times dramatic, beauty.

While Geoffrey has previously been commissioned for restoration projects in great country houses – he led the conservation of the ceilings when Uppark House was almost destroyed by fire in 1989 – he prefers not to replicate exactly what was there before, instead incorporating favourite birds, flowers or motifs of his clients in order to continue the personal narrative of the building. He happily accepts contemporary architectural commissions, such as the Bar and Lounge of The Goring Hotel in London, where he and his small team created a wall of high-relief, sculptural plasterwork depicting mythical sea creatures and marine life – the latter inspired by the work of nineteenth-century zoologist and artist, Ernst Haeckel. For the re-launch of Annabel’s club in Mayfair in 2018, Preston created a horse-size Flying Unicorn that hangs over the club’s stairwell.

Geoffrey originally studied Sculpture at Hornsey College of Art, before training as a stonemason and carver and subsequently launching his own conservation businesses. In 2000, he moved to Devon to set up his workshop creating sculpture and decorative plasterwork. He also works in stucco – traditional, Italian plaster – which means working directly onto the wall or ceiling, creating wholly unique and distinctive works.

He says of his work and of the material of plaster, “I want to make panels and ceilings that help a room to ‘sing’, or as one of my clients once said ‘to induce delight’. Beautiful and elegant rooms deserve equally lovely plasterwork, just as they deserve the best of fabrics, furniture and paintings.”

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