In 1994 I bought a one-way ticket to Milan having had the idea of leaping into the unknown and starting a new life there - note that these were the days before low-cost air travel, before the euro and most significantly before everyone used the internet. It was a time when going to another country really felt like a big adventure .
If anyone asks me why I did that - which of course they inevitably do - I never know quite how to respond, how to put it into words. The best I can do is say that it was a crazy idea that I got into my head and wouldn't let go of until I had at least attempted to put it into practice.
And somehow I did, despite speaking hardly any Italian at the time and not knowing anyone. I was fascinated by the notion of starting from scratch, with nothing, landing in new city and seeing the process unfold whereby one thing led to another. It wasn't that I was running away from anything, there had been no acrimonious break-up to get over, this wasn't Eat, Pray, Love. I wasn't trying to 'find myself', I just wanted to try doing something that had no evident rational explanation. Having dutifully worked my way through school and university, completed a seven-year-long training as an architect, gained a certain amount of professional experience and generally tried to be sensible about things, just for once I wanted to see what happened if I let intuition overrule reason.
So having concocted this idea - I started telling everyone I had decided to go and live in Milan even though I didn't have a clue how I was going to make it happen - I'd never even been there but I thought it sounded glamorous, most of my friends were gay men at the time and I reckoned they'd be impressed. And in fact one of them came up trumps, in the most unlikely fashion. Milan may be famed for fashion, it was astrophysics that gave me the way in. My friend Peter, who has since become quite famous and writes a beautiful blog called In the Dark - is a cosmologist who was working in such a specialised academic field that he regularly worked with departments around the world - one of which was Milan. He was due to go there for work and kindly offered to take me as his companion which meant a place to stay for over three weeks. And so It began.
It turned out that my instinct was right and Milan was the perfect place for me. This industrial city in the north of Italy is not the most attractive or welcoming city to visit as a tourist, not romantic like Florence or Venice but to me it offered a whole new vision of what being an architect meant. Milan has a great tradition of architects doing a whole range of things. Here architects had been known to design plates, chairs and even typewriters. A training - or formazione - in architecture could be the starting point for all manner of things. The reason Italian design is famous all over the world is because enlightened industrialist called upon architects to conceive and style their products.
I worked in Milan for ten years, as a scenic artist, as an architect, as an interior designer; I began working for a magazine called Domus founded by Giò Ponti, a classic example of an architect who did all kinds of things. I spent my earnings on Prada shoes and acquired a taste for expensive furniture.
When I later began a family and we bought a house on a hillside, my work expanded further and I decided to gather the various strands into a project called the inhouse gallery. I described it as 'an ongoing project about the creation of spaces and places along with the making and collecting of things to put in them.' The inhouse gallery was not only a way of connecting art and architecture but also of connecting all this with everyday domestic life and over the years it evolved into a series of tales about life lived in various places.
Thus it followed me back to Liverpool where I became a resident artist at Bluecoat, giving me the opportunity to further develop my artistic practice. In 2014, I staged an exhibition entitled "Penthouse" there, this time I brought the domestic realm into the gallery space and introduced another element, conviviality, into the mix.
The dining table - la tavola - became yet another strand of the inhouse gallery, with Italian home-cooking provided by my partner, Luca. We needed the right kind of wine, the kind made by small producers that is not readily available here, so we brought our own over from Italy and people liked it so much that Love Lane Wines was born.
This in turn led to the creation of another new space, 17 Love Lane. First a storeroom for our wine, it became a pop-up bar, a dining space, the setting for assorted moments of conviviality blended with music, art, filmmaking and more.
And now, as if to come full circle, in this latest evolution 17 Love Lane becomes a gallery with the presentation of a series of paintings that have emerged almost accidentally over the last couple of years working in my Bluecoat studio, along with older works and collected artefacts.
Exhibition opens to the public on Friday 11 November 2016, from 5pm to 10.30pm, continues Tues, Wed, Thurs 4-6 pm & Fridays 5-10.30pm until Christmas.