Friday, January 1st 2016
Today is the first day of the year 2016 and it offers a holiday and the chance to spend the day exploring with Tigger. Our first stop was in the Caledonian Road where there was a cafe that Tigger wanted to try out. As this was New Year’s Day, we were not too surprised to find it closed. However, on the other side of the road was Journey’s Hostel which was sporting some very striking decor…
On the right of the entrance is the larger ‘canvas’ showing an evening landscape with two people viewing it. Christmas lights fringe it at the top and it is interrupted by a green door on the right. To the left of the entrance is a charming head and shoulders portrait of a young woman, decorated with the artist’s trademark floating coloured globes or bubbles. The artist is James Cochran aka JimmyC. (Click to see larger versions of the images.)
We now took a bus south and crossed the Thames into Southwark and the old borough of Camberwell. An important feature of Camberwell is a large park called Burgess Park after Jessie Burgess, Camberwell’s first woman mayor. What is unusual about this park is that it was not created, as is usually the case, from pre-existing open country but that it was carved out in an area built up with housing and industry and the Grand Surrey Canal (closed in the 1970s). Started in the 1940s, the park is still being developed and there is even some doubt as to its exact boundaries.
Towards the eastern end of the park is the conversation piece pictured above. It is what remains of a lime kiln built by Burtt & Sons in 1816. This burned coal and limestone to make quick lime, an essential component of cement. It continued in service until the 1950s. One of the reasons for its being sited here was the presence of the canal which brought the raw materials and carried away the finished product. The kiln is now a Grade II listed building.
From the park, we had a view of what was once the Church of St George. The foundation stone was laid in 1822 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1824. An apse was added in 1893. St George’s continued in use until the 1970s when it was found to be unsound and was declared redundant. Used briefly (1977-80) by the Celestial Church of Christ, it was damaged by fire. Finally, in 1994, it was sold to developers for conversion to residential use. What’s it like living in an ex-church, I wonder?
Before the front entrance and overlooking the street is a First World War memorial. The curt inscription reads:
The bronze figure represents Christ looking down at (I think) a crown of thorns held in his hand. I do not know who the sculptor was.
The church faces onto Wells Way (though a road called St George’s Way runs beside it) and we walked up this to look at the buildings in it. Thus we came upon this site: an Edwardian era bath house, complete with chimney, decorated with a large tile mosaic of a butterfly. Why is there a butterfly in the end of a washhouse?
This butterfly has become a symbol of Camberwell and an elegant symbol it is too. This might seem curious because this particular butterfly is not a native of the UK, being found here only sporadically. Entomologists identify it by the Latin name Nymphalis antiopa but ordinary folk know it by several friendlier names. In 1766, Moses Harris published a book entitled The Aurelian, in which he mentions two butterflies of this species, caught nearby and which he names ‘The Grand Surprize’ and ‘Camberwell Beauty’. Other specimens were also caught later in the area, cementing the name.
We now roll forward to 1868 when Samuel Jones & Co opened a paper products factory in Camberwell. The business was successful and the factory grew in size. In 1912, to advertise its ability to print colours on its paper products, the company adopted the Camberwell Beauty as its logo and placed an image of it in coloured tiles on the factory façade. The factory was demolished in 1982 but the butterfly emblem was saved and placed here.
While we are talking about names, I might digress slightly and mention that the derivation of the name of Camberwell is disputed. Some believe it derives from words meaning ‘Well of the (Celtic) Britons’, ‘cam’ being seen as cognate with the ‘cum’ of Cymru, Cumberland and Cumbria. Others note that the well in question was supposed to possess medicinal properties of use to invalids and that ‘cam’ could derive from a Celtic word meaning ‘crooked’, giving a sense of ‘well of the cripples’ for what has variously been spelt as Camwell, Camerwell and, more recently, Camberwell.
And here is the pretty building to which the butterfly is currently attached. Rather, it is a pair of buildings sharing the site and housing two important institutions. Or, rather, it did once. Today, the complex is occupied by the Lynn Athletic Club Boxing Gym and The Redeemed Church of God, respectively. Still, I suppose it is better that it be used for such purposes than demolished and, happily, it is Grade II listed.
The right-hand part of the structure, facing west, is the washhouse and baths. The left-hand part faces north, a curious arrangement that was perhaps forced on the architects by the size and shape of the site. I think it works quite well, though. (Or would have done, when the buildings were being used for their proper purposes.)
The north-facing entrance is that of what was in happier times the Passmore Edwards Public Library, the gift of the great philanthropist.
The two buildings were both designed jointly by architects Maurice B. Adams and William Oxtoby. That they were conceived as separate entities, though occupying the same site, is shown by the fact that each has its own foundation stone, both laid on July 25th 1901, but by different people, the baths by Lady Llangattock (whose husband donated the land for both projects), and the library by its donor, John Passmore Edwards Esq. Both were completed in 1902.
Such buildings are treasures, reminding us of a time when buildings were designed to be beautiful as well as convenient and practical and of a human scale. There is hope that their message will remain and eventually rescue us from an era in which beauty and humanity have been sidelined in favour of novelty and the expression of arcane cults of architectural aesthetics that have no relevance to our lives and only serve to degrade our environment.
The bus carried us along Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, and so we decided to get off and explore the street art, to see what changes had occurred since our last visit. Here I show a few of the works we saw. The first is the façade of the Great Eastern Bear gallery which is repainted very frequently. Its last incarnation was a puff for Dr Martens boots (see Five from Shoreditch).
If you are as ignorant of popular music as I am, you may not have encountered the person memorialized in this painting, Stromae. He is a young Belgian singer and the article 9 Incomparable Songs By Stromae may serve to enlighten you. As for the pronunciation on his name, the consensus among French speakers seems to be that the ‘o’ is pronounced as in English ‘show’ or ‘doe’ and the ‘ae’ like English ‘eye’. Alternatively, you can listen to various people pronouncing the name here.
Who is or are the painter(s)? I don’t know but have found a lot of images of Stromae on the Web all tagged, as here, with #colourmestromae. That’s all I can say.
(As usual, I put the title, if there appears to be one, in bold, and the name of the artist, if I know it, in italics. Otherwise I leave those fields blank.)
The Shoreditch Art Wall, which changes as fast as the Great Eastern Bear, today carries a New Year message. (It is virtually impossible to photograph these large-scale works without including street furniture.)
It’s not only street furniture obscuring the view that artists have to cope with but also obstacles on the ‘canvas’ itself. Knowing when such a feature can be painted over and when it should be left alone is a matter for discretion!
Street artists form an international community and artists from many countries visit London and contribute to its art scene. Ador and Semor are French and German, respectively, and work on their own but also frequently collaborate, as here. Who did what? Um, not sure…
Olivier Roubieu is French but is now based in London. His trademark, so to speak, is the portrait with a splash of coloured paint across it, green in this case. This is an intriguing though risky technique. If it works, fine; but if not, then the painting is spoilt.
The works of Mr Cenz are easy to recognize: portraits of women executed with lyrical twirling lines and a bold use of colour. The abstraction does not take away from the realism of the figure but poetically enhances it.
Hunto’s work is characterized by bold saturated colours and solid shapes. As you look at a painting of his, familiar shapes seem to form and then fade away. Is it abstract; is it a visual puzzle? In some ways, I think Hunto could be regarded as the Picasso of the streets.
Street artists are flexible and can adapt themselves to any surface of any size. Amara Por Dios has produced some very large works but here has made a relatively small one, working around the lamp without disturbing it. Her works are always immediately recognizably hers but ever varied.
Stinkfish was born in Mexico but grew up in Colombia. He uses the photos that he takes of people and street scenes as the basis of his paintings.
Art is often described as subversive and it can also be revolutionary or a weapon of dissent. Lapiztola is a collective of Mexican artists who use their art to publicize political abuses and social problems. You might think at first sight that the name, Lapiztola, is a mis-speling of the Spanish words la pistola (the pistol) but it is in fact a pun: the name combines the Spanish words lápiz (‘pencil’) and pistola (‘pistol’) to make a single word that succinctly reflects the meaning of the English phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Street art can charm, amuse and delight us but it can also reveal, publicize and accuse.
Thus began the year 2016. What do the other 365 days (yes, 2016 is a leap year) have in store for us?