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 23/06/2018
Roundabout, Turners Road
I found the response to last week’s shop parade in the Commercial Road interesting. Confusion arose from concerned readers when it was realised the demolition crew had started work taking down the buildings just as my post was going live; this seems to be a regular occurrence when I paint… finding that alterations being imposed by developers or that the final demise of a subject is actually taking place.
The incident had me reflecting on this drawing of Turners Road. I started it as a record of another disappearance, the corner building in my painting, ‘Turners Road’, mentioned in a previous piece of early April. In this essay I wrote about a van mechanic who wore a grubby trench coat and who lived behind bomb-shattered windows on this very corner. Also mentioned, is the couple living across the road from us, June and Albert, staunch locals of this manor.
On this occasion, June and Albert had taken a holiday with their family to Cyprus, and I had offered to look after Zoey, their Jack Russell terrier, whilst they were away. I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. To begin with, Zoey certainly lived up to her breed's name, by terrorising our mild-mannered tortoise shell cat, Gigi. Zoey didn’t like being left alone either, so I took to painting on June and Albert’s balcony, which kept her quiet for a few hours. When taking her for walks several times a day I crossed this junction, so became very familiar with the scene in various conditions.
At this spot we are looking at piecemeal demolition taking place in order to make way for the reconstruction of Turner’s Road in its entirety during the mid 1990s. One could argue that the elegant four storey houses to the rear of the drawing should have been renovated; they would certainly be extremely desirable today, far more so than the sturdy, functional block that has replaced them. However, the intention was at least honourable: to create affordable housing for those in the community on lower incomes, unable to pay high private rents or get a mortgage, many of whom had large families. There was no selling off of real estate in this instance; mind you the temptation probably wasn’t there as the location then was a little too distant from the Canary Wharf development or the river to be of much interest.
The scene in my drawing was a hot July day in 1990, the colour pitch of the pale blue sky against the bluish steel of the corrugated fence glinting in the sun; the blue of the woman’s dress and the cobalt in the traffic sign really caught my eye as it was off-set by pinkness of the road. I think the mini-roundabout might have been a new feature for Tower Hamlets Council at that time but I can’t be sure, not being a driver.
What I term, ‘naked fireplaces’, a familiar feature all over London up until this period, have been starkly exposed probably courtesy of the German Luftwaffe, and a new, extra billboard poster, closest to us, has been erected where the former building once stood. Such places became oases of urban wildlife whilst they awaited a decision from the borough planning office or the acquisition of sufficient funding for their development, and in the meantime, the new roundabout hopefully awaits the start of new enterprises, seemingly sadly underused. The roundel's arrows whirl around endlessly, rooting one to the centre… but the railway line must lead somewhere!