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 20/05/2018
The Albion Public House
The Albion Pub in Bow, situated just beside the Railway Arch and entrance to the former path through Mile End Park, was opened in 1881 and demolished in 2006. A block of flats clad in brick and wood stands there now and I wonder if that will be remaining in situ 100 years from now.
In 1983, The Albion was one of the first pubs I visited in the area and I still remember the cosy, friendly atmosphere of the snug containing leather bench seating and the lovingly packed for ancient rectangular tables. The walls were lined with decorative plates and shelves filled with objet d’art, or as we called them, ‘knick-knacks’, polished until they gleamed. The landlady I recall, was very pleasant and welcoming and I frequented the pub for several years until, sometime in the 1990s she told us that her and her husband were moving to Clacton. Then the pub changed hands and after that I stopped going. Sometime later I read with horror of a badly injured man being discovered in the backyard and shortly following this incident the pub was closed permanently. In my view it was a sad end to a once proud establishment.
I decided to paint the pub because to me it was iconic, representative of everything that was worth preserving about the East End. The inclusiveness and welcoming of incomers like myself; the openness of the landlady and the pride she took in keeping her patch spotless; the character of the decor telling its individual story; as did so many in the locality- The Five Bells, Widows Son, Star, The Fish & Ring, Queen’s Head to name but a few.
I thought about how to interpret the pub for some time and eventually chose an oblique angle with the bridge declaiming the ubiquitous graffiti in the background. As I have described, the interior of the Albion was, unlike many contemporary pubs, intimate rather than corporately impersonal but I didn’t want to get too sentimental, so I decided to set it as part of the working community hence the train about to cross the bridge next door.
Of course, the advertising billboards tend to date the painting. In 1992 all advertising were pasted on hoardings using ladders, brushes and a labour of two, possibly three workers none of whom wore fluorescent clothing; cigarette advertising was still the norm although I believe that already, if the imagery of this advert for Lambert & Butler is anything to go by, the glamorisation of smoking was already being fazed out.
From a more personal point of view, the painting has poignancy because it was executed at a time when my father was gravely ill and I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Newcastle-under-Lyme, so the character of the painting for myself contains a sense of a changing time and of transformation. Although in the instance of the Albion itself, another fourteen years of gentle decay were to pass before its final destruction and re-emergence as apartments.