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 17/03/2019
Wright's Grocery Store
On Friday evening I attended a fascinating talk given by BBC Radio London Broadcaster Robert Elms about his recently published book ‘London made us’. He was in conversation at the Wanstead Tap, Forest Gate, with Film critic Jason Solomans. The talk has given me much on which to reflect. Seven years younger than myself, Robert started life in Notting Hill but when still a child, he was shunted out to the Northern outreaches as his home was declared unfit for human habitation, swapping Georgian period accommodation for a council flat. However he always had access to the heart of London thanks to the London Transport system. This mirrored my husband Steve’s experience, whose family headed in the opposite direction from Canning Town east to Hornchurch.
Like myself Elms gained access to a good school, opening up a world of knowledge and culture that was often denied to children of working class parents in the fifties and sixties. In addition he supplemented his formal education with the influence of his ‘streetwise’ elder siblings who opened up the world of contemporary music and youth fashion for him.
What struck me about the evening was his positive attitude and celebration of the multi-cultural richness of contemporary London. This was despite having an acute awareness of current housing and crime issues that casts a shadow over all our lives; also taking into account the words of his mother as she laying dying, lamenting, ‘this is no longer my London’. He says without remorse that his ‘mother never left London; London left her’ in its continual cycle of transformation. He was asked to define ‘what makes a Londoner’, replying that a Londoner is anyone who chooses to be so. This is a statement I fully support.
Here in London, perhaps nowhere is the diversity and accessibility to ‘other lands’ more apparent than in the kinds of food available at any ‘new age’ family run corner shop where one buys phone cards and lottery tickets stacked alongside other staples. According to the area the stores’ produce might be of Turkish, Bangladeshi, Afro-Caribbean or Greek origin. Here in Forest Gate in the twelve years I have lived here I have seen the introduction of several shops selling Polish specialties.
As I grew up in the fifties & sixties in Newcastle-under-Lyme there was one delicatessen issuing delightful exotic smells of spiced salami mixed with the aroma of ground coffee. My mother used to wrinkle her nose in distaste as we hurried past on our way to Liptons, one of the first supermarkets to open right in the middle of the high street where Typhoo tea and Camp coffee were popular purchases. Mothers Pride white sliced bread was the norm, Hovis brown bread was considered rather off the wall despite its’ marketing campaign down South.
The painting on display today is an echo of those times. I painted it in the early eighties whilst living in Paddington but it recalls a corner shop in my hometown. In the background a row of condemned houses awaits demolition and it is apparent the grocery store is not long for this world. The available goods it contains were then typical of what was on offer in any small shop across the country. In my family items such as ready made frozen dinners were looked at with disapproval by my mother, health conscious, decades ahead of her time. Often on a Saturday morning I would be taken secretly by my dad to the local Wimpy Bar where we both indulged in an illicit hamburger which seemed to us an exotic treat as we sat in its modern interior of warm lighting, Formica topped tables breathing in the air of convenience Americana!