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  25/11/2018

Commercial Road in the Snow

Snow-Commercial-Road_edited_edited.jpg

Snow is a rare phenomenon in London and I am always thrilled to wake up to the cool bright light and stillness that signifies it has fallen during the night. One needs to be quick though in order to capture the magic before the brilliant blue/white crystals turn to muddy, grey slush.

 

The snow came in late February 2002 and despite the cold, which I detest, I was out of the door by 8am to survey the scene. The leaden skies of the previous day had cleared and the clouds had sprinkled their contents on the streets of East London to create a crisp, clean landscape. I wandered down the canal, exploring until I reached Limehouse Basin but nothing had really caught my attention for a subject as the cold, fresh light spread its rays all around. I decided to circle back through the streets which were almost devoid of vehicles and on the way I came across this scene at the top of Rotherhithe Tunnel Approach. The sky was a brilliant blue and the snow had transformed the sooty drabness of the beautiful Georgian terraced houses, briefly restoring them to their former elegance.

 

As I set about making studies, I reflected on my impressions of this terrace over the previous two decades. I had frequently walked past them and had even looked through the upper windows curious about who might live there. I was able to do this from the top deck of the number 15 bus during twilight hours. Most of the houses then seemed to be divided into flats and they were places where naked light bulbs lit plain rooms without adornment and where coat hangars could be seen slung on dado rails. All were obviously rented. The sash windows were grimy, exacerbated by the pollution of heavy traffic and the paint was peeling off to reveal perished wood; in fact they looked too lethal to open and lean out of, but who would want to breathe in the toxic fumes?

 

I also wondered who these houses were originally intended for, built in the vicinity of the nearby Hawksmoor Church, St Anne’s which dates from the 1720s. They were not quite so grand as the Georgian town houses of central London, which were five storeys rather than four high, but they were undoubtedly not meant for the unskilled or labourers. I imagine them as homes for middle-ranking merchant classes or maybe seafarers, perhaps put out to grass as old age set in.

 

Today, looking at these houses on property valuation websites, the exteriors appear to have been restored to resemble their former glamour and elegance, and they seem to be beyond the affordability of those who grew up in the area in former days but I guess they always were in terms of ownership. Even in the days when I peered through windows from the top of the 15 bus I had the impression that the inhabitants were just passing through and transient.