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 24/02/2019
The Cosy Tea Room
For the last decade I have observed with interest the decline of a building on the old A13 (now the A1306) in Dagenham. We drive past it when visiting Steve’s mother. Originally my observations were purely objective, however when I began painting East London again in 2016, my focus on this building sharpened and I began to photograph it, making various sketches. I felt the need to celebrate this solid, unpretentious edifice that I admire to convey a certain dignity, despite its abused and neglected state. I was particularly struck by the lettering on the smaller apex, The Cosy Tea Room that becomes more obscure with each passing season. Not far away lies the latest, contracted incarnation of the Ford Motor Factory, itself a phantom of what used to be a colossus in the area. Fords’ in its heyday during the fifties and sixties, employed approximately 50.000 workers and as in the docks further downstream, hardly a family was left untouched by having part of its income derive from this enterprise.
The ‘Tea Room’ must have been a lively thriving meeting place at times but now that is all in the past. I don’t know if Ford women car seat machinists gathered here in 1968 when they went on strike for equality of pay but one can always wonder.
I began this painting in 2018 and it is still a work in progress. It is larger than some of the paintings presently on show, I wanted to convey a sense of openness and to exploit the handling of paint in order to better reflect its subject; also I wanted to negate the picturesque and quaintness that smaller works can sometimes evoke. As with all abandoned buildings, even in the midst of cities, one can see nature gradually encroaching onto its structure, eating away at the brick, timber and cement. One wonders how much longer before the developers move in.
Once again, there is the lack of a physical presence in the work, the marks and traces that people leave behind are spread all over, and as surfaces gradually erode, patina reveals time peeling off like layers of wallpaper. The evocation of memory is often conveyed by place or structure lending significance to a scene. At times I might include one or two physical presences to interact but quite often there are no figures to sully memory. For me it is very difficult to recall individual faces or gestures when crowds gather together or wander through a scene, and this to my mind often leans towards transience rather than permanence… the fleeting rather than the monumental.