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 05/05/2019
The importance of having small shops in people friendly environments was brought home to me during the week when I had occasion to go for routine medical check-up at a health centre situated near Stratford International Station. The surrounding roads were wide and not oriented for pedestrians; there was little of interest for the eye to look at. One trudged along as in an architect’s giant plan and, although there were chunky blocks of apartments soaring skywards, the only shop I spotted was a clinical supermarket express store. True there was a coffee bar and a community hall but they appeared too manufactured and artificial to put one at ease. I felt small walking these streets and almost dehumanised by the giant scale of the infrastructure around me. When I journeyed home and alighted at Forest Gate, it was with great relief that I regarded the grubby streets and shabby shops with affection. I was back in a world with which I could identify.
Once home, my attention turned to reflection on small businesses as I had given an interview earlier in the week to James Madison, the editor of an on-line magazine The Sixty Percent. I came to the realisation that, over the last forty years I have painted many small concerns, almost all now defunct. As I explained to James, primarily I was interested in the abstract compositions offered up by the layout of the shop fronts, the colour of the paintwork and arrangement of goods on sale. All this contributed to a frisson, the awareness of a unique fleeting experience that would soon become just a fading memory. I am afraid Pret A Manger just does not do it for me today!
I painted this work of Chatwins in 1982, ten years after I left Newcastle and five years after I first envisaged it. On visits home I would haunt the shop drawn by the possibilities raised by the formation of the shop windows, the perspective and the highlighted products on display. Chatwins Bakery was a successful family concern typical of the small businesses scattered throughout the UK in the sixties, seventies and eighties prior to the fever of corporate branding and franchises. The difference between this small business and many in London from that era is that Chatwins is alive and thriving today, having expanded from fresh bread baked daily by John Chatwin and sold from a horse drawn vehicle to twenty shops throughout Staffordshire, Cheshire and North Wales. They seem to have kept it relatively local and within the and also, within the family. John Chatwins great grandson, Edward, today oversees it. Simplicity is another vital element.
I was delighted to read the story of the Bakery on their website and also to discover an image of the facade in Newcastle as it is today, still going strong. The colour of the paintwork has changed and the style of the lettering has been updated to reflect a modern interest in nostalgia but the structure remains the same and it is interesting to note the arch under which horses and carts used travel on the way out from Newcastle hasn’t changed a bit. Things were made to last in those days!