The third key object in our collection that I have been researching is the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) window created by the graphic designer Abram Games. The window is the most striking object in the museum and one that we knew little about. At first glance its meaning is not obvious but here I will tell you more…
After a bit of detective work and looking through the back catalogue of AJEX journals I discovered that Abram Games was commissioned by AJEX in 1987 to design the memorial wall for the memorial room at AJEX House in Stamford Hill. This included the window. This was all the information I could find so, along with our Curator Roz, I visited the Games family to find out more. Abrams’ children Naomi and Daniel very kindly allowed us to talk to them about their father and generously lent us the archive relating to the AJEX Memorial Window.
Abram Games was born in 1914, the son of refugees from the Russian Pogroms who came to the East End of London at the turn of the century. His mother Sarah was a seamstress and his father Joseph a photographer, from who he learnt a lot.
During the Second World War Games served in the Hertfordshire Regiment and spent a year with the Infantry before being commissioned as a war artist. He felt the war was just and knew what he was fighting for. He decided that his art had to be his own way of fighting the enemy and designed more than a hundred wartime posters.
Naomi and Daniel told us that his posters were as straightforward as he was; he saw things in black and white. Abram worked from his studio at his home in Golders Green and mostly worked with pen, paper and air brush.
The three working drawings of his window design below (© Estate of Abram Games) show how Abram worked in a very simple and quick way, using note paper and a Biro to sketch.
The window is much more than a simple piece of art work or a decorative window but is a lasting memorial to all those Jews who fought for the British armed forces. Each of the coloured strands at the centre of the design represents a medal ribbon from British campaigns that Jewish service people have fought in. The window was originally displayed at the AJEX memorial room alongside the British Jewry Book of Honour and panels inscribed with the names of Jewish servicemen. As Abram was an ex-serviceman himself, perhaps he felt that this project was one he could personally relate and contribute.
The ribbons depicted on the window include the King’s South Africa medal, the First World War Victory and Second World War Defence Medals and the Korean War medal. Abram researched the different medal ribbons using books and collected swatches as seen above.
If you look closely you can see that the medal ribbons are arranged to create a Magen David (Star of David). From the sketches below you can see how Abram began to arrange the shapes to create this design.
These are two mock-up designs that Abraham created using bits of coloured card.
The window was originally thought to be made of glass set in black resin but a conservator came to assess its condition last week and on touch felt that it was actually some sort of polyester. When the window is taken for cleaning they will determine exactly what the material is for us.
The coloured resin was moulded individually and the sketch on the document below shows how this could have been done.
Other designs by Abram Games that came as a surprise to me and perhaps will to you too, are the Stockwell Underground swan motif, the first moving BBC on-screen symbol (1953) and the Cona Coffee maker!
I’d like to express my thanks to Naomi and Daniel Games for talking to us about their father and sharing this fantastic archive. All the sketches and letters enable us to gain an insight into the workings of one of Britain’s great graphic designers.
All images relating to AJEX window are ©Estate of Abram Games
The Official Abram Games website http://www.abramgames.com/bb.htm