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  19/05/2019

Cockburn Arms, Edinburgh

The first ‘big’ city I ever visited was Edinburgh. It was 1957 and I remember travelling to Scotland by steam train from Crewe. I still recall the train’s hissing as it steamed into the station covering my white socks with a smoky film of grey. We clambered up into a compartment which we were lucky to have all to ourselves and I was delighted with the plush velvet benches with the overhanging net luggage racks below which hung black and white photos of mountains. I stuck my head out of the window as we puffed out of the station until my mother sternly told me it would be cut off if I wasn’t careful. So began my first travel adventure.

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I still remember the barren, bleak mountains of the Lake District and the grey sea sweeping across a seemingly endless curved bay at Morecambe as we chugged towards the North and the Scottish Border. I had an aunt who had moved to Galashiels where her husband came from. And our first stop was this small town which was proud of its pretty station yet to be axed in 1969 as a consequence of the Beeching cuts. Another train took us Waverley Station in Edinburgh named after popular novels by Walter Scott who lived in nearby Melrose. My first and lasting impression of the city was of severe austerity- tall buildings comprising huge blocks of grey stone; with splashes of colour provided by the tartan kilts of accordion players around the castle.

 

Fast forward thirty years to another visit, a sojourn in the city and a very different Edinburgh presented itself. This was August and the Fringe Festival was in full swing; wonderful paintings could be viewed at National Gallery of Scotland- Velasquez’s ‘Old Woman frying Eggs’ springs to mind. We were staying in the flat of a friend’s parents in the heart of the old town- cobbled streets lined with higgledy piggledy buildings that came into their own during the hours of darkness when the shadows concealed evidence of the banality of everyday modern life.

 

The flat was situated in Cockburn Street, lined with four storey buildings built in 1856. The intention was to provide a more gentle snake-like descent to the recently built Waverley railway station mentioned earlier, cutting through the steep, medieval closes that had been there for centuries. The street was named after Lord Henry Cockburn, a lawyer and judge worried that the modern build should not ruin the architectural heritage of the city and his involvement. Plus ça change....

 

We stayed on the top floor and had a bird’s eye view down the street but I was particularly attracted to the pub opposite where I had a voyeur’s view of the interior and the comings and goings inside the bar. The atmosphere was intensified by the sounds drifted across the street from the jukebox - I think it was Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody. I did quite a few nocturnal drawings perched on a high stool, and then back in London I eventually developed them into this painting.

 

The painting eventually returned to Scotland, purchased by Fife County Council in the early 1990s.