Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Eagle eyes view the English capital

Red House, by Marc Gooderham
You could be forgiven for thinking that developers in London today have fetishised both height and a desire to build the oddest shapes possible, which then demand to be nicknamed.

Not everything created from such a base is bad. ‘The Gherkin’ remains an elegant addition to the City, while the Tate Modern extension is appropriate. But some are simply dire, with particularly dishonourable mentions for One Blackfriars – ‘The Vase’ – and 20 Fenchurch Street – ‘The Walkie-Talkie’. And let’s not mention the thrusting inelegance of ‘The Shard’.

Sadly, chunks of a more human-scale London are being torn away in the name of … well, in the name of corporate profits. Character replaced by a forest of largely characterless glass and steel.

In such times then, it is a particular pleasure to see an exhibition such as London Eye 2 at The Millinery Works in Islington.

Works by 15n artists are on display, all available to buy. The creative talents behind the works span generations and include Sir Peter Blake, the British pop artist still best known for his iconic Beatles Sgt Pepper album cover.

Camden Town Tube, by James McKinnon
Here there are a number of limited edition prints in his distinctive collage style and love of pop culture, including Piccadilly Circus, the Convention of Comic Book Characters, and River Thames, Regatta, with its nod toward a steampunk sensibility.

Several of the artists turn their gaze reflectively on a London that is fast disappearing; in some cases, derelict or covered in graffiti.

This is a large part of Marc Gooderham’s practice. Here, he has five works on display. Acrylic painting Waiting for You and Fill Your Heart (pastel on black paper) both convey a sense of the slightly shabby, while The Rio Cinema, Dalston and The Vogue Cinema (both pastels on black paper) convey dusk and night time scenes devoid of humanity, with a deep sense of loneliness.

Yet in The Red House (pastel on black paper), he also gives us a bright blue sky and a burst of glorious colour. Mounted and framed in black, this is a work that adds light to the room.

If the exhibition as a whole gives us a sense of London on a human scale, Marc is not the only artist whose work conveys a sense of loneliness. We can see it too in the deserted station of Camden Town Tube and the deserted street of Back Lane Hampstead, both by James MacKinnon.

Eric Rimmington’s Above Ground conveys the same sort of mood – and even his Lunchtime, with sunbathers sitting in isolation, has something of the same atmosphere.

Butler's Wharf, Shad Thames
Terry Scales’s Butler’s Wharf, Shad Thames features the striking bridges between wharf buildings near Tower Bridge – again, the absence of people lends a haunting quality.

Giles Winter’s works – four of which show residential streets at dusk, with corners of lit rooms visible, but nobody present, take us in the same direction.

Just one – The Noctambulist – has a solitary, hat-and-coated figure walking away from the viewer, almost out of the canvas, giving us something incredibly Hopperesque. His other work here, Bus Shelter, is an incredible take on rain in the city, brilliantly executed.

Peta Bridle’s etchings continue the decaying, lonely idea, So too, do Eleanor Crow’s human-devoid paintings, though the likes of Near London Fields, Early Afternoon (Deriocte Street, just south of London Fields) to Mornington Terrace, May Evening, 2018.

For me, two artists stand alone in presenting a different view: Nessie Ramm’s The Parakeets of Richmond Park celebrates the spread of ring-necked parakeets across the city, framing them in an antique Victorian frame, against a subdued background of all those towers. It’s clever and charming.

But personally, I admit taking a special delight in Melissa Scott-Miller’s work.

Islington Front Steps is so bright but spot on, and the same can be said of the fabulous Islington Back Gardens in a Heatwave (left). Both are glorious oils that will add light to any room in which they hang.

Back in the early 1970s, I lived in west London, in a fairly typical London town house.

As such, these works by Scott-Miller have a real resonance. They might not portray something I actually saw, but looking at them, I genuinely see something that I recognise.

All in all, this is a superb exhibition. Whether you can buy or not, I seriously recommend it.

Find out more at via @MillineryWorks.

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