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  09/09/2018

The Lino Shop

I am staying with the theme of small businesses in the East End this week although moving the location to Poplar and the period to the early 1980s. My focus is on a painting I didn’t complete until 2002 almost 20 years after I made initial studies for its execution. Like a lot of my subjects, the memory of th shop haunted me for a very long time before I got around to the painting. In hindsight, with the knowledge of its closure in early 1984 and  demolition a few years later, I think it remarkable that the property lasted so long. Even during its existence it appeared to be a throwback to a previous era… a lone outpost selling ‘fancy goods’ alongside ‘lino’ flooring sold in what appeared to be a backwater and unaccompanied by other similar enterprises. Its sole companions were a run-down, little frequented newsagents' and Renes’ Cafe catering for the council workers who were unlikely to be interested in the purchase of ‘fancy goods’ during their lunchtimes. The modern equivalent today would perhaps be the ‘Pound Shop’ but these enterprises are always located in busy thoroughfares.

 

Visually, I found the colour scheme of the paintwork interesting… brown and cream on the shop front complementing the tonality of the brickwork in the background; the carefully handwritten signage and glaring fluorescent poster intended to attract attention. Above the shop sits a bill hoarding with an unlikely invitation to savour the taste of the countryside. A lamppost with the lamp lit like so many were in the area, 24 hours a day. I imagine the wasteland behind the lamppost to be a hangover from the war forty years previously. How time has speeded up since. Impossible to imagine these days that a piece of real estate could lie fallow long enough to grow trees and provide an exciting playground for adventurous young children to explore. Look a bit further down the road and you will see the ubiquitous corrugated fencing, refreshingly free from graffiti. At that time it had not caught on in a big way. References to East End gangs were common but there were no tags by individual graffiti artists wishing to identify themselves.

 

I think the term ‘Lino’ is rather outdated now and it immediately makes me think of the early sixties, of the excitement I felt when my mum and dad purchased some lino for my bedroom- it was light grey with a geometric pattern of darker grey diagonals and red slashes. I thought it most sophisticated at the time. And then there are the quaint words ‘fancy goods’. I couldn’t see any in the window but remember entering the shop once to buy a doormat. There were tall hourglass shaped vases and a few crudely painted pottery figures consisting of elderly characters adopting sad poses. Finally there were statues of goldfish with solid fins swooping hither and thither. These I assume comprised the fancy goods.

 

If you walk past the location of the Lino Shop today, you will see a set of railings behind which is a grassy slope resplendent with wild flowers and low shrubs. It forms part of the Children’s adventure playground that has been there since the nineties. Far worse fates have befallen buildings in Tower Hamlets.