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  25/03/2018

Underground

Paddington to Plaistow

The London Underground has exerted a hold over me since the first time I came to the metropolis from the Midlands. I had experienced nothing like it coming from close to Stoke, even though it famously comprises five towns.  I was fascinated by the signage of the underground stations, also the walls of tile or brickwork. I loved their lighting, at times very bright on some lines, and on others more muted, akin to a Sherlock Holmes movie, where the platform lights suspended from the ceilings started to swing and creak just before a train arrived, the rush of air pervaded by sooty aromas, evoking November bonfires.

No matter what part of the city or unknown streets I found myself in, once I spied the distinct livery and attendant street furniture, I experienced in my mind the magic carpet effect of disappearing down an escalator in one part of London, only to re-emerge several miles away in what might appear to be another country. This thought enchanted me.

When outside in the open air I would quite often look for a station facade wherever I happened to be. My favourite stations were those with a flower seller or a newspaper stand and, Paddington where I lived (1976-83) was an Underground station with both. I came across my painting of it when I was sorting through work in my studio earlier this week. A coincidence, as I have just started sketches for Plaistow Station close to where I live now.

On viewing Paddington I was transported once more into the 1970s world of tawdry glamour containing a plethora of medium priced hotels, cheek by jowl with a range of run-down bedsits. The streets around the underground and mainline stations were populated by those seeking, ‘special transactions’, which were arranged face to face in those days. It all had a slightly seedy quality to it but being young and very observant at that time, I would file away memories only to revisit them decades later.

 

On deciding to return to a similar theme today although in a different part of London, I wonder as I make my drawing what will prevail in terms of mood in the coming work? Obviously, a different style of architecture is evident but, as I look at my subject, I notice that in the background towers have come to replace cranes of the docks. The development of a new commerce casts its long shadow over local people, some of who might be unaware of its scale. My empathy lies with those who struggle to come to terms with this new world where technology promises the ‘instant fix’ as a solution to many of our problems.