The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work
Feature of the week 11/02/2018
The Ragged School Museum, the wedge shape building by the entrance of Mile End Park interested me when I first encountered it in 1983. It was not however until 2015 that I painted it.
Back in the early 80s I had no idea about the history of this odd looking building. On a hot August Sunday afternoon in 1986 I came across an amiable looking gentleman sifting through the rubble left at the side of Limehouse Basin. We fell into conversation and I found out his name was Tom Ridge. He was concerned about the fate of the area and what, if anything, would be left. As we
The Ragged School
discussed the canal I mentioned the odd shaped building alongside it by Mile End Park. Tom became very animated; excitedly he told us of his discovery that it was the location of the first Dr. Barnado’s children’s home. It was his ambition to have this fact recognised because, as he said again to the Gentle Author in 2011, “There should be a museum of the East End in the East End”. That is exactly what happened; the rest is history.
Tom, was at the time I met him, an enthusiastic geography teacher at nearby Stepney Green School. He campaigned tirelessly until his objective of creating the Ragged School Museum was achieved. I was delighted to read that he is still actively campaigning on behalf of East End heritage, his latest project being the attempt to preserve the Bethnal Green Mulberry tree. I read recently he is taking legal action against the big boys out of his own pocket.
So why did it take me so long to make paintings based on the Ragged School? Maybe it was the awkward shape and perspective that made it difficult to depict the building as a convincing image. There were also many more sites nearby of which I wanted to make paintings, sites that were disappearing. I made a few small sketches of the Ragged School in the 80s to explore the subject but just didn’t feel I had found the right composition to create something more substantial.
Then, when I returned to make a new series of works in 2015, the Ragged School was the first subject I found that inspired me. Other painters came to my mind, Algernon Newton was one and, perhaps incongruously, Canaletto was another. I wanted to convey an idea of a ship that had come to rest, after weary years battling the stormy seas. I felt that I wanted an aura of peace, quiet and stillness to settle around it, being a kind of monument to its own survival and a campaigner's vision.