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 28/04/2019
As with many artists in the 70s and 80s, pub culture used to be a very important aspect of my life. Painting is generally a solitary vocation most effectively carried out alone, at least in my case, so the treat of looking forward to a drink with friends at the end of a working day has often oiled the wheels of productivity and a glass or two of wine loosened the tongue after hours spent in silence.
The Royal Cricketers was off my beaten track and was a forty-minute walk along the canal; also I had no friends who went there. However, sometimes on a long Summer’s evening we would stroll along the tow path past the fishermen, the walkers and the drinkers, with very few cyclists passing by us in those days. It was
on such an evening that I recognised this scene as being right for a painting. As regular readers of my features are aware, twilight is a favourite time of day and the presence of the majestic weeping willow added to the melancholic effect created by the fading light in the dusk. Maybe I thought about the still images of Algernon Newton (dubbed ‘The Canaletto of the Canals) whose elegiac calm I find captivating, and also by way of contrast, Charles Ginner’s slightly thickened impasto, prosaic paintings of industrial buildings flanking the waterways. I was aiming in this picture to achieve something between the two.
I recently researched the history of the Royal Cricketers and discovered it was a pub from about 1850 when it was known as the Horsford Arms. In 2003 it was one of the first East End pubs to be converted into flats. Unlike many that are closed down, it was a busy thriving concern so it was somewhat of a shock when the shutters came and the canal-side patio became overgrown with weeds. Two bedroom apartments in this former pub currently sell for £400.000.
It is also interesting to reflect on the history of the Regent Canal and how its functionality has changed over the years. It was conceived in 1812 to provide a link between Paddington Basin and Limehouse where there was to be a new dock built to transfer cargo from the Thames to barges in order that it could be transported inland. The purpose of this infrastructure was purely functional with no thought for aesthetics or leisurely pursuits. 13 locks were required on an 8.6 mile stretch of canal and the canal opened in 1820, only to see its usefulness soon to be placed under threat by the introduction of railway lines ferrying goods much more quickly.
As early as 1845 the first of many attempted take over bids by a railway company occurred. Get rid of the water and they had a ready-made track available. Happily for those who enjoy its facilities today, all the attempts failed partly, one suspects, on account of the Canal running alongside Regents Park, playground of wealthy government officials and politicians.
These days barges continue to navigate the locks but for pleasure and possibly an alternative accommodation or life-style but not for work. The towpath forms part of National Cycle Route. As a committed pedestrian I find it difficult to enjoy strolling alongside the canal, finding it impossible to muse on account of bicycles whizzing past at an alarming speed in may cases without warning.