Sketch for Empty Shops, Hounslow, 2003


Hanging on... May 2007: "A Prime Development Opportunity". 


My twelve year holiday from art came to an end with a move to the outer reaches of West London. Always drawn to the marginal and unfashionable, I pitched up in just the right place. On walks and cycling trips through the suburban, subrural nowhere lands around Heathrow Airport, I took in the atmosphere of eeriness and unrest and wanted to translate that into paint.

The first of these new pictures (Empty Shops, Hounslow and Hounslow Street) were valentines to unlovable buildings, and there was more than a whiff of neglected antiquity to them. The vestiges of my '80s art education kicked in and I worried that I was making exercises in nostalgia. The N Word!*

As things progressed, I saw that it wasn't antiquity that interested me so much as dislocation and otherness. None of the places I paint, even the oldest and most derelict ones, are dead to me. They bristle with mystery and possibilites for adventure (if I'd been born a couple of decades earlier I might have enjoyed having plenty of bombsites to play in). I wanted to capture and preserve the transitory, celebrate the barely noticed and obsolete - and the pace of life now is such that obsolete doesn't have to mean 'old'. In the few years since I began painting again, several of the views I've recorded have vanished or changed beyond recognition - been ironed out. I've got better at capturing possible subjects and always try to carry a sketchbook or camera with me. The flattened Keep Left bollard in Casualty, for example, was replaced by a new, fully tumescent one the day after I noticed it. Some of my paintings come from many visits to a place over time, with changes recorded or ignored as I choose.   

In 2007, circumstances forced me to move from Hounslow and I have an idea how Stanley Spencer felt when exiled from Cookham. Maybe I'll move back west sometime, but for now my creative activities continue to be informed, in spirit at least, by my time under the Heathrow flight paths.


*As it turns out, there does seem to be an ongoing dialogue with the past in many of my artworks. Not to worry - as Eduardo Paolozzi said, nostalgia can be a powerful creative force. Also, I like the way art makes time travel possible.

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