Four churches and some street art

Saturday, May 30th 2015

Today’s ramble started in the general area of Whitechapel where we collected some street art. As street art becomes accepted and more and more popular, artists are more inclined to sign their work, to set up Web sites and to give interviews. Such contacts often lead to the commissioning of works. It is now quite common for shopkeepers to commission painters to decorate the shutters that protect the shop when it is closed. Such paintings are often finished with great care, unlike paintings executed in a couple of hours on a wall or the end of a building. On the other hand, I think they often lack the spontaneity and provocative nature of such works ‘in the wild’.

Shop shutter painting
Shop shutter painting
Guido (Guido van Helten)

Paintings signed ‘Guido’ are by Guido van Helten and are usually lifelike portraits in monochrome. His style is uniform and his paintings are therefore immediately recognizable. The same care is evident in all his paintings which possess a photographic quality. Here, the painting seems to have outlived the business that commissioned it.

The Bell
The Bell
Middlesex Street

On a corner of Middlesex Street is a pub called The Bell. Most of its frontage is unadorned but this section hosts a changing display of paintings and some of the well known names of the street art art can be seen here. What follows is just a couple of samples.

AKA Jimmy.C (James Cochran)
AKA Jimmy.C (James Cochran)

Street art paintings are rarely given a title, though they may bear a comment of some sort. Rather that write ‘Untitled’ for such paintings, I will henceforth simply leave the title space blank. This ‘pointillist’ portrait somewhat reminiscent of the style of Georges Seurat, is signed ‘.akajimmyc.’, the pseudonym of James Cochran.

Paul Don Smith
Paul Don Smith

This painting, which looks rather like a poster for a film about the Second World War, is signed by Paul Don Smith. Even if it were not, the two black silhouette ‘tap men’ in the upper corners would give the game away. These are his trade mark and figure is called Banker, though the reasons for this may not be obvious.

Roa
Roa

On the end wall of the pub, a large rodent emerges from a hole in the brickwork. The painting is not signed but doesn’t need to be: this is unmistakably by Roa. His animals are to be found in many countries, singly or in groups, often scaling the sides of tall buildings.

Unknown artist

This shutter painting causes a double take: is it an elflike head wearing a cap or is it… well, what? The floppy ears look like those of a child’s bonnet and yet the face has a cigarette dangling from its lips. The painting is unsigned (I think the scrawls at bottom left and right are intrusive graffiti) and I do not know who the artist is. Intriguing on both counts.

Guido (Guido van Helten)
Guido (Guido van Helten)

This painting is also a shutter painting and is by Guido (Guido van Helten) whom we saw above. What I like about these is that they make no concession to their context but remain individual works of art in their own right.

The Battle of Cable Street Mural
The Battle of Cable Street Mural
Designed and begun by Dave Binnington and completed by Paul Butler, Ray Walker and Desmond Rochfort, 1976-83

We next found ourselves in Cable Street, the scene, on October 4th 1936, of what came to be known as the Battle of Cable Street, when anti-fascist protesters and local residents combined to prevent a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists which was intended to pass through this area to provoke a racist response. For many, this was a uniquely important event in which the ordinary people set aside differences of race and culture to combat a common enemy and the police who were defending the fascists. Inevitably, myths were formed, and counter-myths, and there are many different assessments of the event. All we can do now, 79 years later, is to read the various accounts and make up our own minds. Personally, I have no doubt that it was an important event in the battle against extremists and one of which those who stood firm against the fascists can be justly proud.

The painting of the mural is a story in itself. The project ran into difficulties and took seven years to complete but for those who can interpret it, the mural provides an account of the event and of those who took part.

Newsreel footage of the battle will be found here, and an interesting disquisition (including eye-witness reminiscences) on it here.

Church of St George-in-the-East
Church of St George-in-the-East
Nichloas Hawksmoor, 1729
Rebuilt 1964

We next visited a nearby church, St George-in-the East. The church was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor as part of the plan to built 50 new churches under the 1711 Act of Parliament. From the outside, the church looks as elegant and solid as when it was built but the interior tells a different story.

Church interior
Church interior
St George-in-the-East

In 1941, the church was bombed and the interior destroyed, remarkably leaving the the outer walls and the tower intact.

Altar and apse
Altar and apse
St George-in-the-East

After the war, rebuilding to the original plan by Hawksmoor was not practicable and so the outer walls were restored and a new, smaller church built inside them. This work was completed in 1964.

St Peter;s London Docks
St Peter’s, London Docks
An Anglo-Catholic Mission

Not so very far away in what is now called Wapping Lane but was previously known as Old Gravel Lane, stands the Anglo-Catholic Mission Church of St Peter’s, London Docks. We had wanted to see inside it for some time but had always found it closed. Today the door was open and we needed no further invitation. The church was founded in 1866 in one of the poorest areas of London.

<St Francis St Peter
St Francis and St Peter

Despite the poverty of the neighbourhood when the church was founded, the latter is impressive. Entry from the street is via a small portico with the result that the sheer size of the church comes as a surprise when you enter. Figures of the saints, including St Peter, the church’s patron, are all around, whether in the form of effigies, like St Peter above, or stained glass.

Station of the Cross (number 4)
Station of the Cross (number 4)
Jesus meets His Mother

For the non-initiate, it is difficult to see that this is an Anglican church and not a Catholic one. Around the church are Stations of the Cross, quite nicely made in ceramic. I don’t know the artist or when they were made. The one shown is number 4, ‘Jesus meets his mother’.

After this visit, we took a bus to Limehouse where another church was awaiting us.

St Anne's Limehouse
St Anne’s, Limehouse
Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1727

This church was St Anne’s, Limehouse. One of the reasons why we had come to see it was that it was also designed by Hawksmoor and built under the 1711 Act, and was a sister church to St George-in-the-East. Unlike the latter, it had not been damaged in the war and we hoped to get an idea of what St George’s would have looked like in its prime.

St Anne's
St Anne’s
Firmly locked up

Unfortunately, we found the doors locked and could not go in to take a look. Instead, we wandered around the outside and looked at the few remaining tombs.

First World War Memorial
First World War Memorial
Commemorating the men of Limehouse

The largest structure remaining in the church grounds is the war memorial. This is dedicated ‘in grateful memory of the men of  Limehouse who fell in the Great War 1914 – 1918’. There is a plaque showing a scene of war and on top a figure of Christ. The sculptor was Arthur Walker and the monument is Grade II listed. (In case you are wondering, my photo is straight and it is the memorial that leans!)

Pyramid
Pyramid
‘The Wisdom of Solomon’

One of the more intriguing items in the churchyard is a pyramid, taller than a man, standing beside a tree. The only wording I could find on it is the phrase ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’. I thought at first that the pyramid might be an eccentric tombstone or a monument, but apparently not. According to the church’s own Web page, ‘A distinctive pyramid, originally planned to be put on one of the corners at the east end of the building, now stands in the churchyard and is Grade II listed.’

Looking for a bus home, we encountered our last church of the day, the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Immaculate & St Frederick. Feeling somewhat ‘churched out’ by now, we did not look to see whether it was possible to visit it. I contented myself with photographing the rather unusual crucifix in front of the church.

Crucifix Crucifix
Crucifix
Sean Henry

Not only is the figure of Christ very modern-looking Christ but the crucifix also shows front and back views – something that it counterintuitive and certainly different from any other crucifixes I have seen. It is by sculptor Sean Henry who specializes in very realistic figures, painting them to look all the more lifelike. The crucifix departs from his usual sculptures but I note that he has done something a little similar in a work entitled Journey of Two (1996).

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Freya is unwell

Friday, May 29th 2015

I have just returned from the vet’s where I have had to leave Freya for, I hope, a short while. The reason is that she is unwell but we don’t know what is wrong.

Since her thyroid operation, Freya’s health has greatly improved (see here and click links for the whole story). She has put on weight and her coat has become more lustrous. She seemed cheerful and contented. Her appetite, supposedly one of the indicators of thyroid problems (high intake but loss of weight) did not decline: she emptied her food bowl at every meal.

A few weeks ago, her appetite suddenly declined. I ran round the shops trying to find foods to tempt her, all to no avail. Then, just as suddenly, she was back to normal, eating everything put in front of her. She has done this occasionally before but I thought nothing of it, considering it just a passing phase, perhaps due to an upset stomach. A  couple of weeks ago, her appetite plummeted again. She was eating barely anything, not even her most favourite paté. She also seemed listless and out of spirits.

Last Tuesday (May 26th), I took her to the vet and explained the situation. He examined her and could find nothing obviously wrong. He prescribed pills which are supposed to stimulate the appetite and told us to come back next Tuesday.

I have never been able to give Freya medicine’s by mouth. She fights back and even vets, gung ho at first when I tell them she’s difficult, end up having to sedate her. I therefore tried to get the pills into her by crushing the dose in a small amount of food. You no doubt perceive the flaw in that argument: if she’s not eating, neither is she receiving the medication!

There has been no improvement in her condition since Tuesday. If anything, she seems less well. Occasionally she comes to me and asks for something but I, of course, don’t know what it is she wants. Freya is a rescue cat and I vowed to make her life as happy as I could, to make up for the bad start. When she is ill, I become anxious and stressed and, yes, silly though it may seem, I feel guilty because I am not keeping my side of the bargain.

I phoned the vet’s again first thing this morning and they asked me to bring Freya in for 9 am. It was decided that the only sensible course of action was to take a blood sample for analysis. I knew what would happen. First, they clipped away some fur on Freya’s neck. She objected to this but not too strongly. The vet tapped her throat looking for the vein. Freya grumbled a bit. Then came the insertion of the needle. Freya fought back and growled. The combined efforts of four people were not enough to hold her steady.

The next step was what I expected. I had to sign a consent form for her to be given a sedative to calm her while the blood sample was taken. The sedative was given in my presence and was applied so quickly and expertly that Freya barley reacted to it. I reluctantly left her in their hands on a promise that they would call me in an hour or two.

And that is where we are now: I am at home waiting for the promised phone call and news of what the blood tests reveal.


When I left the vet’s, I was told they would call “in a couple of hours”. The couple of hours came and went, and so did several other couples of hours. I called at 4pm and was told that the blood test showed no result and I that could probably collect Freya at 5:30 but that they would call in half an hour to confirm that.

The expected call came at 4:29 but it was to say that the vet had decided to keep Freya in over the weekend. He wants to dose her with an appetite stimulant. It seems that no real reason for her condition has been found, and nothing resolved. I will phone tomorrow to know how she is and again on Monday.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Trafalgar Square to Angel Court

Monday, May 25th 2015

I had never thought of the art movement called Impressionism as having been “invented” but this is just what is postulated by a current exhibition at the National Gallery entitled Inventing Impressionism. We went along to take a look. I am still not sure that “invention” is the right concept to apply but, by whatever means it happened, Impressionism came into being and remains one of the most important art movements of modern times, not least because the public finds it easier to relate to paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley et al than to those emanating from some of the more modern movements. The exhibition teaches us that a central figure in the development of Impressionism was the Parisian art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel who bought and exhibited works by the soon to be famous painters while they were still young and controversial.

I enjoyed the exhibition and learnt from it – the best combination. It was interesting to see so many famous – and some not-so-famous – works gathered together in one place. I discovered that some of the artists, Monet for example, were more versatile than I had previously understood. We are continually shown their “typical” paintings and do not always have the opportunity of seeing those that do not find their way so easily into the art encyclopaedias. If I have to choose a favourite, it will be a boringly conventional one: Pierre-Auguste Renoir continually surprised and charmed me.

Photography was not allowed, of course, and would in any case have been difficult because the place was crowded, as was to be expected on a bank holiday, and it was not always easy to get a clear view of a painting. It was well worth waiting, however, and the paintings shone in a way that no reproduction in a book ever can.

Traipsing round an exhibition such as this, especially when there is limited seating, can be tiring. Afterwards, we felt as though we had been on a long ramble and our main thought was to find somewhere where we could sit down and refresh ourselves. We walked around Trafalgar Square rather than through it because it was crowded, and found comfy seats in Caffè Nero. Before leaving, I went out and took a picture of Trafalgar Square, London’s famous landmark and always impressive.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square

At bottom left, you can see some road cones. There was some event going on in town that caused some of the roads to be closed. That was quite good for us because it turned those roads into pedestrian areas where we could wander back and forth without worrying about traffic. There were also some drummers making a fearful racket and I never did find out what that was for.

Britain and the Orient
Britain and the Orient
Ernest Gillick, c.1918

From Nero, we walked along Cockspur Street where, at numbers 14-16, is a building that once belonged to the P&O shipping line. Before that company inherited it, the owners had been the Hamburg America Line but this company was deprived of it and possession transferred to P&O as part of war reparations following the 1914-18 conflict. It was P&O who commissioned the elaborate bronze sculpture shown above. The female figures represent Britain (on the right) and the Orient, the two terminal points of P&O’s route.

The Royal Opera Arcade
The Royal Opera Arcade
John Nash, 1818

We walked along Pall Mall and peeped into the Royal Opera Arcade, built in 1818 to a design by John Nash. The Georgians and Victorians enjoyed their arcades and this is one of four in just this area alone (see Four arcades and some portraits).

No traffic in Pall Mall
No traffic in Pall Mall

Enjoying the quiet and the lack of traffic occasioned by closure of the roads, I stepped onto the carriageway of Pall Mall to take this photo. A moment later I essayed another one and was almost hit by a speeding vehicle: the roads were open once more!

Crimea Memorial
Crimea Memorial
With Sidney Herbert and Florence Nightingale

We arrived at Waterloo Place where stands this group of memorials to the Crimean War (1853-6). It consists of the central war memorial by John Bell, and personal memorials to Florence Nightgale, by Arthur George Walker, and Sidney Herbert, by John Henry Foley. Herbert was War Secretary during this conflict and was responsible for, among other things, sending Florence Nightingale to the war zone. Perhaps this is why one of the plaques on his monument shows her visiting wounded troops.

Florence Nightingale Visiting the Wounded
Florence Nightingale Visiting the Wounded
John Henry Foley

As well as arcades, there are many courts and passages in the area, some large and open, others narrow and seedy, but all with a history.

Angel Court
Angel Court
Site of St James’s Theatre

Angel Court is such a one though it might be called a passage rather than a court as it has entrances at either end. At the far end there is a pub whose customers use the end of the passage as a covered place in which to smoke (smoking being banned in pubs and other enclosed public places). It is no longer obvious that a theatre  called St James’s Theatre, once stood here within. Oscar Wilde’s plays Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of being Earnest both received their first performance here. Despite such historical connections, the theatre was demolished, to great protest, in 1957.

Little of interest remains there now among the modern buildings except for some memorial plaques by Edward Bainbridge Copnall. One, the largest, is quite difficult to photograph because access to it is by a narrow entrance. It is not possible to stand in front of it and photograph the whole of it. Forgive me if I bore you by explaining how I overcame the problem.

Oscar Wilde Relief

The only way to photograph the whole relief with a normal camera lens is to stand to one side as in the above picture. This shows the whole thing but subject to uncomfortable perspective effects.

Oscar Wilde Relief

My next attempt was to photograph the relief in parts and then to stitch the photos together later with software. This works but because of the angle at which the photos had to be taken, there is still a perspective effect that I would rather eliminate. For stitching, I use Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor (ICE) which has some limited image manipulation functions.

Oscar Wilde Relief

On a second attempt, I was able to select the rotational mode and rotate the photo to make it seem face-on. There is still some distortion, noticeable for example in the spurious curved top of the plaque but the result is surely better than the previous two efforts. ICE is good but has limited facilities and it is to be hoped that Microsoft will develop it further and turn it into a very useful professional tool.

For more information on the identities of the figures in the relief, see this post on Esoteric London.

Oscar Wilde

In the middle of the panel there is a full-face close-up of the author of A Picture of Dorian Grey.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh
Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh
As Anthony and Cleopatra

At the other end of the court, under an archway, is another relief, this one commemorating the lost St James’s Theatre. To photograph it, you may have to push through the crowd of smokers from the Golden Lion. The plaque shows Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in their famed roles in Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra. They led a hard fought campaign to save the theatre but, sadly, they lost.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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