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 12/08/2018
My first visit on foot to Mile End was for a date in May 1983. I emerged from the station to be confronted by a very different sight to what we see today. The green/yellow Millennium Bridge was 17 years away from being realised and directly opposite the station stood a forlorn looking, once grandiose, 30s building which used to be the cinema. Sitting next to this was a small terrace of square late victorian buildings that looked almost cheerful, even continental, in the fading sunlight of that Spring evening. Their shops consisted of one for men’s clothing, Conlon’s, and the Terminus Restaurant. Both had seen better days.
My spirits lifted further as I approached the corner with the Burdett Road where the nightclub called Benji’s caught my attention. Then, glancing back I noticed a bus stop next to another squat square building, and although I didn’t know at the time, I had found three subjects for paintings in the space of a minute!
A row of dilapidated four storey houses lining the far side of Burdett Road, by the park, was in the process of being demolished and a brand new Public Convenience stood proud and raw where the bridge now begins. The greenery that existed was scrubby, more like wasteland than parkland – with a lot of buddleia not yet in flower.
Earlier this year, thirty-five years following my first encounter, I visited the delightful exhibition of photographs at the Tower Hamlets Archives, entitled ‘The East End in Colour’ by David Granick. The empty building opposite Mile End Station had been the Odeon Cinema opened in 1938. My husband Steve still remembers the excitement of being taken there along with his cousins in the 1960s to see, amongst other movies, ‘The Vikings’ with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. Several of Steve’s aunties occupied flats in the run down tenements to the rear of the station. These were later demolished; a well deserved fate in his opinion!
I have already written about the paintings, Bus Stop and Benji's. Today it is the turn of the Terminus Cafe. In 1984, I returned time and again to consider its possibilities. I went inside for a coffee but never ate a meal there, unlike the artist who now owns the painting; he used to take his children inside for breakfast of a weekend. I completed a pencil drawing of the cafe at night in November with a lone figure illuminated and framed in the doorway. However, for the painting, I eventually settled on a sunny, late afternoon in Spring, which I thought enhanced the faded, genteel grandeur the building must have possessed once, bringing out the qualities of the peeling pale façade, including luminous pinks and lemons. In 1981 I had been gripped by the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Hayward Gallery which gave me the suggestion of the solitary woman sitting at a window table wearing a cloche hat.
Eventually in 1984, the once proud cinema was demolished to make way for the neo-classical/post-modern construction that stands there today, with pillars and a sweeping forecourt... a mix of offices and residential I believe and a portent perhaps of the future. Sometime in the early nineties the cafe changed ownership and was renamed Brunest if I remember correctly. The signage was reformulated in black and white... a changed character forever. Today happily the building still stands but it is of course an Estate Agents and, unless you are very observant and look above the huge shiny, gleaming ground floor window you won’t notice the beautiful curved inlays of the arched windows that are a reminder of its former elegance.