Tuesday, 31 August 2010

the whitechapel road

This is the Whitechapel Road in East London. I have painted this scene a number of times and i am still drawn to it. A street like this will at first site appear static, unchanging. Though on closer observation you notice it is in constant flux, some changes are subtle, some obvious. There is however a commonality in these refinements. They are forced by necessity.

It would be very unlikely that a change occurs purely for the aesthetic. The windows are renewed because the others were rotten. The signage replaced because the previous business went broke. The walls are painted because their prior shabby state was affecting trade. And ‘Those satellite dishes’ have to go... It’s all cable now’. The rough hands of commerce squeeze hard here. High competition to the right meets low margins to the left. Constant change without ever looking new.

For at least 700 years this road and its human players have been on a permanent ‘Make do and mend’ ticket. This tension creates vibrancy and excitement as living on the edge tends to do. Combine that with the mix and match architecture and you have a unique cocktail. Walk here and you will get wrapped up in the sell and the thrill of the £1 purchase. You can’t help feeling that you HAVE to buy something, ‘Of course I need two kilos of tomatoes and a nylon zip up bag just to keep them in, doesn’t everyone?’

The earnest need for trade also generates a feeling of acceptance, all are welcome here. Consequently the rejected of London are drawn to this place. They come to be with the like minded, to feel normal. It’s most famous outcast being Joseph Merrick (The Elephant man) who allowed himself to be exhibited in the shop second from right and later lived over the road in the Royal London Hospital until his death. If the Whitechapel Road was in need of a saint then beatification would certainly go to this hopeful, charming, wounded man.

No comments:

Post a Comment