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  14/07/2019

Spring, Whitfield Avenue

The house where I grew up in Newcastle-under-Lyme, was declared no longer fit for human habitation in 1974. My parents were happy to move into a local authority council property they had been offered being situated just across the road from this one. It was constructed in a similar style and there was a huge garden with two greenhouses where my dad happily grew vegetables in regimented rows, along with tomatoes and chrysanthemums. He was delighted with the move and spent every spare moment outside for many years although my mother was lonely and missed the intimacy of the cramped streets with a shop on every corner, in close proximity to the town centre. This painting was executed shortly after they moved and for me reflects the optimism I felt on visiting them at their new home where the view from the window reflected colour back into the house rather than the fifty shades of grey that permeated the old terraces. Back then, Farrow and Ball Drainpipe Grey was definitely not on the agenda for exterior woodwork. All the front doors in those days were red, yellow or blue and to my mind all the cherry trees looked like those painted by Van Gogh.

 

After the First World War, Newcastle-under-Lyme along with Stoke-on-Trent and Sheffield in particular, benefitted greatly from a very generous building programme designed to reduce the number of slum dwellings and create homes ‘fit for heroes’. The policy was applied with varying degrees of enthusiasm across the country according to the make up of the local authority and the councillors in office. In Newcastle swathes of green fields surrounding the town on the higher land were populated by good sized family homes intended to replace the sometimes infested back-to back-houses of the lower land where smoke gathered and lay like a pall all winter. Around the new housing there was plenty of space and fresh air.

 

The avenue where this house is located was begun by a private builder in the 1920s and contains a variety of different styled fronts and facades. When the builder went bust midway through the build in 1926, as did so many in the construction industry, the company was taken over by the local authority with the result that approximately half the housing stock was privately owned with the other half becoming council housing.

 

We can only hope for such enlightenment in affordable housing today rather than being led by market forces and spreadsheet practices which appear to rule the roost.