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 10/03/2019
The Carlyle Hotel, Bayswater
At the age of 24, I found myself living in the heart of central London, a stone’s throw from Oxford Street, Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine Gallery. Portobello Road with its market and the Electric Cinema were also often frequented by myself. These were heady days for a rather unsophisticated, provincial girl used to small close-knit communities. I embraced wholeheartedly the anonymity of the district, the transient feel of a population passing through, whilst I lived in a huge shared maisonette at the top of a flight of 86 steps. Painter, Gerald Marks with whom who I was living had inhabited the flat since the late forties. The house was part of a Victorian stucco terrace, facing gardens to the front and the back of another terrace at the rear.
I took full opportunity of its proximity to galleries, museums, the park, cinemas, and for the only time in my life, I enjoyed going on a regular basis to restaurants. I met and often argued with Gerald’s sophisticated friends who doubtless considered me a somewhat naïve, working class girl. I remember them describing me as ‘The poet of the council house estate’.
I loved the novelty of wandering about a district comprising large grandiose buildings with pillared entrances, facades painted creamy white, so different from the places I had known as I was growing up. I became enamoured of wandering the streets at dusk, which was perhaps rather unfortunate given the reputation of the area at that time, a place to cruise for illicit activities. I learned to develop a particularly ferocious scowl that was very off putting to sensation seekers.
This part of west London also caught the imagination of poet Vernon Scannell (1922-2007) who in the poem ‘Autumn’, writes of the ‘wind smelling of burnt porridge in Bayswater’ and ‘The big hotel like an anchored liner rides near the park’. These two lines in particular inspired the germ of an idea for this painting, one of the first I tackled after five years in Bayswater.
The location of the picture was at the end of my street- Queen’s Gardens, and the lone figure scurrying past the Carlyle Hotel might be returning from a day’s work to their lonely bedsitter, perhaps with lino on the floor and a belling gas stove that burns the morning’s porridge. I was enchanted by the play of light, the complimentary saturated colour that I sought to enhance. This was achieved with the help of Windsor and Newton Cobalt Violet Dark, the demise of which hue I still mourn after twenty-five years. They still make Cobalt Violet Light but it just isn’t the same.
The painting was purchased by the GLC in 1983 but now lives in the Guildhall Art Collection.
We spent the summers in Southern France, going native and fighting the insects, living in what was virtually a ruin where animals had been kept in past times. Gerald, hopelessly impractical, railed against the incompetence of local builders who couldn’t understand a word he said. My French was good but I was not familiar with technical terms such ‘water course’ and ‘down-pipe’ that seemed to feature a lot in the often heated exchanges.
After a few years in Bayswater, the glamour began to fade and I felt literally like a princess trapped in an ivory tower. I began to feel as though I were absorbing the world through thick frosted glass. There was a community of local people, very friendly, a few of whom still live in the surrounding streets but the construction of the buildings and the way they were divided into flats made it difficult to be sociable on a casual basis. The painting symbolises this phase of my life in the early eighties with loneliness and isolation creeping up on me, high in the sky and so far from my roots. People scurried about to and from work, always in a hurry or wandered about lost peering at maps, asking for directions to the local hotels or Kensington Palace.
By 1983 I had had enough and in May that year breathed a sigh of relief when I walked up out of Mile End Station and encountered the East End. I was back in my own world!