Gallery 5

Other works…

 

In this gallery are some of my previous works in series …

 

 

 

On The Buses

This series came about partly as a result of completing London By Interruption, a 28-canvas panoramic work, in oils. By then I needed a break from the huge amounts of white spirit and turps that I’d been inhaling for over 18 months – so acrylic was a given. Plus, after walking some 3000 miles over the previous period walking between the river, the studio and home again, I had finally earned enough to travel by bus!

 

 

And so, it was on the buses that the idea took hold. Born a Central Londoner, and a long-time user of public transport, I found traveling on the the latest series of buses rather odd and attempted to render the experience first in drawings and then paintings.

 

 

The interior of the vehicles were a curious mixture of pacifying infant pastel colours and seat coverings, but with an overlay of multiple DANGER grab-rails in bright colours, with advert warnings about the consequences of things and alarm buttons and fire extinguishers. An endemic aversion to risk that seemed determined to leave nothing to chance, by heightening our awareness of the dangers of a bus journey. Plus televisions. Televisions to look at the back of your head (God, am I THAT bald?), televisions to show where you are going, televisions showing who’s sitting around you (Don’t like the look of that one…Nutter!), televisions showing the stairs, the doors, the upstairs back seat, the downstairs front one, all shuttling restlessly on short cycles until, before you know it, it’s time to check your bald patch again. Everybody likes televisions, it appears…

 

 

Passengers began to seem merely an illusion, an unwelcome consequence of being in the transport business, only the warnings and the drivers possessed any permanence – we were just faint shapes in temporary occupancy and then departing, ghosts in the machines…

 

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Tube – 62×42″ – Acrylic on canvas

And a single Tube painting…

 

 

London By Interruption

This was my attempt to capture the rapidly changing skyline that is Central London, in a panoramic installation. Numbering 28 panels in total, around 40′ in total area, it is taken from the foot of the Millennium (‘Wobbly’) Bridge. It is a comparatively ‘early’ work and the most ambitious thing undertaken since I’d started to paint full-time.

Crossing the Thames from South to North as a child was always something I treasured: I’m coming home! The smell of the exhaust fumes would make my heart race and whether I crossed by foot, train or vehicle, I would soon be back in my beloved West End, back in Covent Garden again.

But London is a machine for living and stands waiting for no-one, as anybody who has stayed there for long realises. The places you love are all-too-soon gone, the people even sooner, the venues and clubs, pubs and plays will be soon just a distant memory. ‘Wasn’t that…?’ ‘Didn’t that used to be…?’ ‘Where we used to…?’ are all questions we have long since given up asking, but still occasionally have to answer for those returning; ‘Of course, it was! What? You thought we’d hang onto it, just in case you came back…? Get away!’ Those who remain Central are toughened by the experience and mostly cling on to the stone and concrete with fingers like claws, you should see their fingernails –  like the pigeons, anonymous in their grey plumage, these are survivors.

 

 

The view down at the river has already changed even since this was painted, not unrecognisably, but it’s fuller, more is stuffed in, even into these narrow frames: how would I fit in The Shard or the new boxy extension to the Tate Modern, now?

My memories of the view are considerably different from even this work, since what is painted is not what was there in my youth, let alone how it has changed from the middle of the first decade of this century until today. The Millennium Bridge has increased the footfall across the river, a welcome and useful shortcut between ‘South London’ and St Pauls for those working and walking nearby. London has enjoyed a resurgence too since those earlier days – this too can only be for the better, since dereliction, bomb damage and neglect were still the prescient reminders of the past: Shaftesbury Avenue had empty blocks missing like rotted teeth, slowly filling with car-parking sites, the docks and the Pool of London were gone almost overnight in favour of more distant container depots and the grime of the coal-burning era left everything coated in black.

 

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The hippies, from the mid-60’s onwards, had a go reviving some of the neighbourhoods, painting their houses and squats, starting small businesses and trying to bring the moribund to life with street parties and gigs, but as ever with these things it takes the artists and outsiders to spark the interest before the property developers move in and do something – usually get rid of the hippies and move in the rentpayers, it would seem…

 

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Right View (LbI) – 28 panels – Oil on canvas

 

Being the City though, as this painting mostly is, the financial imperative is everything and change is all the more rapid – the only reason that it is so little remarked upon is that people rarely ask the questions, so few people actually live there. Will Guy’s Tower still be there the next time you pass? Or that square building at the foot of London Bridge? Southwark Cathedral will be, most likely, though who knows whether you will be able to see it from the same viewpoint. Nothing gets quite the time to decay that it might elsewhere here, the land is always too pricey for that. One day it’s there, the next…

 

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Left View (LbI) – 28 panels – Oil on canvas

 

A German visitor downstairs found out that I was an artist  and bounded up the stairs to my studio in Wapping. By the time that I had caught up, I could already see the disappointment on his face. Nothing but paintings, no slogans or discarded spray-cans, no agit-prop placards leant casually against a distant wall, nothing of The Revolution. He looked half-heartedly at the work, with a weary sigh, until his eye alighted on a small object in one of the panels. At this, he looked hopeful. ‘Is that, is that…a coffin?’ he enquired hopefully, a rising inflection in his voice. ‘No,’ I replied ‘it’s a boat.’ At that, his mild elation left him like air from a balloon and with  such deflated aspect he left the studio. Oh well, maybe ‘artist’ means something different in his town…

Painting the view in strips, as these are, was an attempt to render them as windows, an outward view on a blank wall – freedom from the bars that confine the prisoners, if you like…

(Photo rendering by Paul Gilbert at Tonal Nagual)