Thursday, 30 January 2014


St Brides, Fleet Street, linocut (c) artist
St Michaels Paternoster, linocut, (c)artist


Orsomajor is one of two new galleries which have opened in the last few months in Lower Marsh, an aptly named street lying between the River Thames and Bankside, an area drained as late as the 18C. And a few yards away Passionpalette has a display of intriguing paintings in windows attached to a local medical practice. Some expensive areas of London may be losing galleries but elsewhere, including this friendly market street, things are happening.

Janet Brooke's linocut on the right gives the strong sensation of walking though shady narrow streets which suddenly burst out into the bustle of Fleet Street and the Strand. A quiet peaceful stroll bumps into the cacophony of traffic.  Cool shade in the foreground is replaced by sunlight, as if a theatre curtain has been lifted.  And after the restraint of buildings which close in on you,  you suddenly realise that the sky has been there all the time.

St Brides was destroyed in the great Fire of London in 1666, then rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.  In 1940, St Brides fell victim once again to flames as German incendiary bombs reduced the church to a roofless shell. This time 17 years elapsed before rebuilding was complete. Archaeologists uncovered amid the skeletal ruins the foundations of all six  churches previously on the site. 

The painted inn sign  on the left hand picture, close to the walls of St Michael Paternoster Royal (also known as  St Michaels, Cornhill), is a reminder of the secular amid the sacred. So too are the cranes. The church, which once towered over streets and buildings, is now dwarfed by their slender delicate threads which echo the spire, drawing our eye upward  and out into space. This is another church which has had an eventful life: it too was  destroyed by the Great Fire of London of 1666, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, ravaged by the London Blitz in 1940 and later restored.

I featured a very different version of a city church, Christ Church Spitalfields, in Blog 168. Hawksmoor and Pepsi painted by  Jock McFadyen. The artist was living and working in the East End. He writes ‘St Anne’s Limehouse was a 3 minute walk…standing as a counterpoint (to) a landscape of mediocrity I couldn’t resist making a series of paintings to celebrate the contrast'. The painting It was on show at the Royal Academy, when it ceebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of another famous architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1662 –1736).

Janet Brooke is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers ( RE ) and a founder member of East London Printmakers.

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