Sunday, May 29th 2016
We had heard that there was a new street painting by Dank (Dan Kitchener) in Spitalfields and so we went along to take a look. We found it in Hanbury Street on its corner with Spital Street.
Known for his rainy evening cityscapes, Dank produces colourful scenes, brought alive by the movement of people and vehicles amid the dazzle of lights. Though large, this painting is of moderate size for Dank, some of whose works stretch several floors on the sides of tall buildings in cities around the world.
Almost opposite, in the entrance to a yard, we found this intriguing painting by Elle Streetart.
Our next port of call was the Nomadic Community Garden. This interesting space was set up by an organization called Nomadic Community Gardens which describes its activities thus: ‘Nomadic Community Gardens transforms disused spaces into urban gardens where people can grow their own produce, create art, share skill sets, and discover what it means to build their own community from the bottom up’ (see their Facebook entry).
There is always plenty of art on view in and around the garden and today a special annual art event was taking place called Meeting of Styles. Taking place yesterday and today (May 28th-29th) it had attracted a large number of artists, some working individually, others in groups or teams.
Below are a few of the scenes I photographed. I wasn’t always able to identify the artists but have added their names where I know these. Most of the works shown are in progress and therefore not finished.
The above painting is a collaboration between about a dozen artists, contributing individually or in teams. (Confession: I ‘repaired’ the sky over the left half of the wall but the rest is authentic as photographed at the time.)
Airborne Mark and his painting
So much for the first part of the title – Art around Brick Lane – and now for the ‘plus two’. These are buildings that I saw and found interesting on the way home.
The first was Blackman’s Shoe Shop in Cheshire Street. I have never bought shoes here and, to be honest, I did not know the shop even existed until I saw it today. Two features of the shop caught my attention, both of them hand-painted notices. In an age when everyone trades on the Internet, it is unusual to find a company that does not. Blackman’s apparently does not but, far from hiding the fact, boldly state it for all to see: WE DO NOT SELL ONLINE. Take that, Amazon.
I was also amused by the assertion that ‘THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA BUT THE PEOPLE WEAR PLIMSOLES [sic]’. Most of us who went to school in the UK will have encountered ‘plimsolls’, aka ‘gym shoes’, with their canvas uppers and rubber soles. Some will have worn these shoes beyond their school days, even in adult life, perhaps for playing tennis or strolling on the beach. As with all good inventions, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when ‘plimsolls’ did not exist or that they had to be invented. They were first made in about the 1830s as suitable footwear for the new-fangled pastime of going to the beach. They were then known as ‘sand shoes’ and only acquired the name by which they are known today when the rubber sole was extended some way up the side of the shoes to strengthen the bond, making a line that people soon associated with the Plimsoll Line on ships. Whether or not the Devil indulges in fashion footwear, I’m pretty sure that ‘sand shoes’ aka plimsolls will continue in popular use for the foreseeable future.
Spitalfields is known for its streets of roomy terrace dwelling houses, many of them once the homes and factories of Hugenot silk weavers. This house seemed at first sight to be another such but the name engraved above the door suggests a different story. Called St Matthias Church House, it once belonged to the nearby church of the same name which no longer exists. Quite what its purpose was I do not know. Under the gable is a curious relief which might furnish a clue if I knew what it alludes to. It shows three arms, each with a hand at either end, forming a triangle that encloses a golden ball. Is this someone’s coat of arms? I do not know.
A plaque, now eroded and difficult to read, tells us that the foundation stone was laid on Wednesday April 20th 1887 by Princess Christian. Who? You historians probably know the answer to that but I had to look her up and as a result discovered a somewhat romantic tale.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had 9 children, 4 boys and 5 girls. The fifth child and third daughter was Helena (1846-1923). Helena was not a great beauty and because she was a middle child and female to boot, her parents must have wondered where they would find a suitably prestigious marriage match for her. In about 1860, Helena became enamoured of Prince Albert’s librarian, Carl Ruland. Did he reciprocate her passion? We do not know though the love letters the princess wrote to him have survived. When Queen Victoria discovered the relationship, Ruland was hastily packed off back to Germany and a search begun for a suitable husband for Helena. A further complication was that Victoria insisted that even when married, Helena must live nearby and remain on call – something that would not be possible if she married into a foreign royal family. Amazingly, a suitable candidate emerged.
One of the results of the Austro-Prussian War was that Schleswig-Holstein was invaded by the Prussians and integrated into their state. This left the unmarried Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1831-1917) bereft of his home country but also, critically, free from any duties of state normally attached to his position. He was perfectly willing to come to England and live there within call of Buckingham Palace.
The match was not without controversy both because of political issues and because the Prince was 15 years older than the Princess and, in appearance, looked even older. Nonetheless, the marriage was a success and the couple were devoted to one another. The Prince retained his title and his wife therefore came to be known as Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.
In an age when members of the royal family appeared seldom in public, Princess Christian was unusual, supporting good works and charities such as the Red Cross, appearing at public events connected with them. Quite why she came to Chilton Street, Spitalfields, to lay the foundation stone of this building, I do not know. St Matthias Church House must have been intended for some purpose to which she felt she could lend her prestigious name. Whatever that purpose was, it has faded into the past along with story of the Prince and Princess of Schleswig-Holstein.