A closer look
Canary Wharf seen from Hilly Fields, Brockley.
Oil on canvas, 91.5cm x 91.5cm
Urban landscapes by Canaletto, Vermeer and Mondriaan were my ultimate inspiration for this painting. These great artists taught us that there is beauty in everything if you know how to find it, and that the universal can be revealed by expressing the personal. To a modern artist, the challenge of describing a sense of place in a rapidly changing world can be daunting, but for me the ‘music’ of this scene was a gift that was too tempting to ignore.
The colours of a late winter’s afternoon enhanced the rhythms and harmonies of the buildings. Edwardian roofs and gables echoed the top of Canada Tower. The ‘crushed’ telephoto perspective that I used allowed the patterns and textures of buildings to interact with the intricate tangle of trees, enlivening each with the subtle vibrations of fading light. The poles are playground equipment called ‘steppers and climbers’; I used their regular shapes and spacing to add cross-rhythms to the calming square-ness of the canvas, balancing their simple forms with a bank of cloud.
Apart from the sound of distant traffic there is silence, stillness. In the shadows, someone waits at a bus stop.
This is not a painting about modernity versus tradition; nevertheless, in a sense, it is a painting on the subject of time. Seasons change, buildings change, people change. Experiences turn to memories. Landscape painting is really the art of communicating an emotional response to a specific time and place in a way that can be felt by everyone. An artist’s job is to connect shared experiences.