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 27/01/2019
Winter - Sunday afternoon in Plaistow
I found myself drawn to this district line station as I began passing by, travelling on the upper deck of a bus or in the car. It seems to have an elegant simplicity, grand but manageably so, much as I imagine an oriental or Roman bathhouse might have been. Perhaps this is further emphasised by the use of red brick in its construction and its position sitting on top of an incline… hills are a rarity in this part of London. The number of friends and acquaintances familiar with the station also surprises me; they seem to remember it with great affection and a warm smile.
I was lent a book by one of them, ‘Trolley Buses in London’s Docklands’, and I discovered that Plaistow Station was opened in 1858. Looking at photos taken during the fifties you can see that its frontage within the triple arches was home to Finlay’s Newsagents. On the roof of the building there used to be a balustrade made of concrete squares that contained decorative circles. These must have been demolished sometime after 1959, perhaps for reasons of safety. In the old photo the PLAISTOW sign seems over large, unbalancing the design of the frontage and I think I much prefer today’s signage between the two arched doors at either end of the building.
I became most familiar with the station when I undertook a Masters Degree at my local university in East London. I would often pass it travelling on the college bus that would run between the docks and Stratford. As I routinely passed my interest increased, encouraged by the ambiance of this place. One also has to take in another view of another edifice, dominating the local skyline from this stations position… Canary Wharf.
I visited the site a number of times to familiarise myself, taking photographs each time. Following one particular visit, I decided I wanted to set the composition as a scene in winter. The temperament of that season seemed to envelop and enhance the building as a piece of theatre. Then trying various sketched compositions I was well aware for the need of participants, the place being a busy terminus even during the quieter times of a winter’s day.
Right from my early painting days, as in ‘Bus Stop in Mile End’ 1983, I have always enjoyed speculating about people waiting for public transport, their lives suspended in space for a short time between action and thought. These days some of that magic has been lost. Digital devices seem to promote isolation of the individual shielded from strangers, tending to restrict chance meetings… or even glances between one another. Building on this, I realised as I was painting that each participant turns away from those distant towers and all have their backs turned, against the power of the financial district. Maybe this was an oversight at first… or maybe it was subconscious, it could have been but I really don’t know… although once realised, this thread became a focal point for me in completing the painting.