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 04/03/2018
Whit Sunday, Commercial Road
This is story about a location depicted in a painting that I thought I had lost forever. I had a few blurred images of it and felt a pang of regret from time to time that I had not kept better records when young. I could not even remember when and where it was sold or what size it was. All I had was a date 1989 and a title ‘Whit Sunday, Commercial Road’.
Out of the blue, earlier this week, I was contacted on my web-site by someone in Bristol who was in possession of a painting dated 1989 but unsigned. His parents had bought it in the late eighties or early nineties and he had often wondered who painted it. Eventually he traced me through images on the internet and together we pieced the jigsaw together of Whit Sunday. His parents lived in Farnborough and frequently visited Greenwich Theatre where I had an exhibition in 1989 entitled ‘Docklands in Transition’. This is where they saw the painting and purchased it.
The buildings depicted are on what was, prior to the construction of the Limehouse Link, the busy junction of an arterial road leading out of London. It would be instantly recognisable to anyone who travelled on a number 15 bus, as traffic often came to a standstill here. This branch of the undertakers, Francis Walters, the famous East End Funeral Directors’ with the horse-drawn carriages, has long since departed to Leytonstone where it now forms part of the Co-Op chain.
An interesting addendum is an anecdote told to me by my husband whom I had not met at that time. One night during the blitz, his grandfather was caught out in an air raid and had to leap into the doorway of the Undertakers to evade the blast of a bomb exploding at the junction. As he was crouching, recovering from the shock he realised that he had landed in the doorway of Francis Walters. Then, before he could gather his wits, a man dressed in Victorian funeral garb stuck his head round the door that had squeezed open just a little in order to survey the damage. With a face lit up by the flickering fire he looked down at his grandfather and shrilly chuckled, “That was lucky, almost another customer”, before slamming the door shut. This only added to the apprehension the poor survivor was feeling, not knowing whether he was still on this earth or was on his way somewhere beyond. Steve’s granddad actually had to wait twenty years for that pleasure, but eventually, he ended up at Francis Walters’!
The shop, East End Videos, in 1989 was a ‘state of the art’ enterprise renting out cassettes of films that had only been released a year or two earlier. It replaced ‘Samson’s Travel’ where I used to visit to gather armfuls of brochures to pour over on a cold night with a glass of red wine, the occasional windfall allowing the purchase of a dream that invariably failed to live up to expectation. I also used the agents’ to regularly buy National Express coach tickets to visit my parents in the Midlands, a time-consuming process in the pre-online days.
This painting appears to me in retrospect a cheerful, optimistic view of what was in reality, a dusty, dirty and polluted thoroughfare in the days before the parallel underpass linking the Highway through to Docklands was built. I am very pleased the purchaser’s family still have it on the wall and enjoy looking at it.