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  07/04/2019

Thames Pier

ThamesPier2.jpg

I arrived in the East End in 1983 was two years after Michael Heseltine MP established the London Docklands Development Corporation in order to oversee the development of the Isle of Dogs. This entity lasted for seventeen years, until it was disbanded in 1998. I wandered around the island many times during those years but, never having visited the Docks in their heyday, I had no nostalgic memories about what had been lost; I was simply visually fascinated by the enormity of the reconstruction that was going on at the time. The skyline was punctuated by orange cranes soaring into the sky and a giant building site emerged, containing mountains of grey-brown London clay. In the middle of this maelstrom, the blue bridge on Preston’s Road seemed to me a gateway into another country... the Island.

 

On Boxing Day 1988 we went for a walk through the deserted streets and ended up cold and shivering In the Gun Public House, Coldharbour Lane. The floor boards creaked ominously under ones’ feet as the rain lashed and spattered against the windows. We slid onto worn benches padded with maroon leatherette strewn with burn marks from cigarette butts and breathed in the damp, musty, smoky air with something akin to pleasure. At least it was relatively dry and warm inside. The only other occupants were a young couple and a toddler in a pushchair whom I watched in astonishment, attempting to eat a jacket potato that seemed to fly in all directions to every corner of the bar. The Alsatian dog overseeing the bar also looked at the scene with interest, although I think for different reasons. A few years ago I revisited the pub once more. At least it is still open but now it is a trendy bistro painted in Farrow and Ball drainpipe grey. The tables are laid with placemats and sparkling wine glasses instead of half full ash trays and thick glasses smeared with goodness what! That day of my first visit we were grateful for the shots of revitalising whisky to keep us from the cold before we wandered off into the murky damp afternoon relieved that the rain had ceased.

 

As we approached the blue bridge and the entrance to no-man’s land I noticed a splash of colour to my left. It was a flag pole containing the logo of the LDDC and the nearby building, once probably a harbour master’s office, judging by the length of the pier, had a Christmas tree festooned with lights next to it. Looking at the scene more closely, I saw that it contained everything that typified the river at the time- a gasometer, low lying empty warehouses, dredger, hoisting equipment and cranes; and despite the gloominess of the afternoon there was a strange openness settling over everything.

 

In 2006, I took a tenancy on a flat a little further along on the island. It was situated just off the Manchester Road in a building that could not have been conceived when this work was painted. I spent a year walking to and from the college where I worked, and in my spare time, I loved to roam the walkways along the banks of the river, crisscrossing the island to become familiar with the expanses of now opened docks. The light here could be spectacular in all seasons, especially when away from the main roads and commercial thoroughfares. Even though I was living in a very densely packed community, the same still eerie quality I had experienced before would settle over the place. It almost seemed that sound did not carry through the air too strongly and if I were witnessing events visually separated from other senses.