The Return of Joanna Moore
This quiet drawing captures the spirit of one of my favourite places in Spitalfields, Dino’s Cafe in Commercial St next to Christ Church. The location of frequent Spitalfields Life interviews, it boasts the egalitarian distinction of being the cafe with the widest range of clientele – where builders sit at one table with bankers at the next table, all gathered here as equals to enjoy an honest breakfast.
On the basis of Joanna Moore’s drawings of Spitalfields that I published earlier in the year, she was offered an exhibition at the Townhouse in Fournier St, which opened last night. It was the ideal opportunity to catch up, so I went along early to have a chat with Joanna before the crowds arrived, and found her in the empty gallery surrounded by her pictures, accompanied by her dad who had come along to offer moral support. When I first met Joanna in the Summer, she was about to quit her job and pursue drawing full time, and this September she commenced a year’s course at the Prince’s Drawing School in Shoreditch.
“I moved to Wapping in October, I have a studio in the Tea Building on the corner of the Bethnal Green Rd and I work one day a week at the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings in Spital Sq, so my whole life is in the East End now,” Joanna told me, glowing with anticipation for the opening of her first exhibition. “You’re never going to see this show again,” she confided, delighting in the rapid evolution that is taking place in her drawing. “Since I left my job, I had a Summer of drawing, and I drew in the way I have done for the past ten years – capturing London details – but the more I drew the freer I got, and the looser my drawings became.”
The thirty drawings in the exhibition were all done between February and October this year and are remarkable for their exuberant sense of discovery, recording an artist exploring her abilities and pushing the boundaries of her own capability. Joanna is blessed with a natural gift of draughtsmanship and keen sense of proportion – and she has a strong sense of architecture, which was her chosen subject of study for many years – but the developing theme throughout this body of work is the presence of people.
“I used to put people in the background to give a sense of scale to the architecture,” she admitted, explaining that at the drawing school she has been encouraged to go out and draw people at work, at butcher’s shops and in bakeries, at orchestral rehearsals and ballet. “Drawing people feels very new to me, after drawing buildings for ten years,” she revealed, widening her eyes in excitement, “In the old days, I drew buildings because they stayed still. But now my drawings are becoming more populated, with the buildings secondary and the people central.”
We stood in the beautifully proportioned outhouse at the rear of number five Fournier St, that was built in 1820 as a doctor’s surgery, surrounded by Joanna’s handsome drawings lining the walls – a series of visions that are the substance of her year’s achievement. It was the both the end of Joanna’s first term at the drawing school and the opening of the show which begins her career too, incarnating an auspicious moment. Joanna reminded me that it was the inspiration of being in Spitalfields last Winter which formed the catalyst for her to commence drawing seriously, in way that led her to change the direction of her life. And we agreed it completes the year perfectly to have this exhibition in Fournier St now, in celebration of a remarkable formative twelve months and a courageous departure that brought Joanna Moore to live and work in the East End.
You can follow Joanna Moore’s work by reading her blog Town Mouse.
“This was drawn after I moved to Wapping a few months ago. I’d planned to visit two other pubs to choose which would be my local, but once I’d claimed this great people watching spot by the bar at the Captain Kidd, I was sold.”
“Now and then, I like drawing something I feel won’t be there for long and, in this case, these ruins and scaffolding were as beautiful as the surrounding buildings in Commercial Rd, although I’m sure they’ll be replaced by dull flats fairly soon. The street opposite turned out to be a fortunate perch, as I had firemen peeking over my shoulder as they came into work at the firestation behind me.”
“After drawing St Paul’s I was in the mood for something simpler but no less monumental. Drawing straight onto paper in pen was harder than I thought with this subject – it’s so precisely, even coldly formed that it’s important to get the proportions just right.”
“It’s impossible to stand and draw in the middle of the road in a busy market, so tucking myself behind this trader at Columbia Rd seemed to do the trick and I liked this different viewpoint – the flowerseller appears as an actor in front of the audience.”
Joanna Moore’ s exhibition, City Sketches, “Original drawings of London life,” runs at the Townhouse, 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields until 18th December, 11:30 until 5:30 daily.