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 22/04/2018
Leslie's Grocers & Long Bros Upholsterers
One day in 1992, there was a knock and I opened my door to fellow artist Sally Herd, who lived in a house where I had formally squatted in 1983, 29 Turners Road. She had with her a painting signed Fletcher which had been found in her basement, a part of the house I had never ventured into, as so much clutter had been left behind. She asked if the painting were mine as she knew I had squatted in the house previously. The composition consisted of a small, delicate street scene in which a woman with a shopping bag was walking past a grocers’. Unfortunately I confessed, it wasn’t mine and I reluctantly handed it back. At that time I had never heard of the East London
Group of artists or others of their generation. With hindsight I realise it must have been the work of Geoffrey Scowcroft Fletcher (1923-2004), another artist featured in the Gentle Author's book, East End Vernacular. I have tried to find Sally recently but all trace of her seems to have evaporated.
This memory was prompted by a comment I received a few weeks ago in response to my feature on Turners Road, reminding me that Leslie’s Grocers eventually transformed into the Headquarters of the local Squatters’ Association. My first entrance into the Grocers pre-dated its metamorphosis when I was briefly a squatter myself. It was 1983 and I clearly recall painting Bus Stop at Mile End whilst residing (if you can call it that) at 29 Turners Road, working in a
damp back room with peeling wallpaper on the third floor .
Back at the shop, Ray was the bachelor who ran it following the death of his elderly mother. I was dismayed to discover that he sold only a limited range of goods including powdered coffee and bottled camp coffee, white sliced bread and margarine not butter. He moaned a lot about the lack of custom but there was little to entice anyone into the shop.
He spent a lot of time with the upholsterer next door who opened every morning despite never seeming to have any customers and so he would sit on a wicker chair outside on fine days, surrounded by a family of black cats. The chair did little to advertise his upholstery skills as it was falling apart.
I depicted Leslie's in a painting as well as in the drawing above. The painting was sold in the eighties and I have no photograph of it, nor can I recollect who the purchaser was. The drawing however better summarises the atmosphere that one felt on opening the door. I also made a separate coloured drawing of the upholsterers next door also above.
Eventually Ray gave up; his heart was not in the retail business and he moved into a one bedroom, ground floor flat on account of his gammy leg near Chrisp Street. Meanwhile I was relieved to gain some security by moving into an ACME housing association house round the corner and went further afield to buy proper coffee.