The Spitalfields Suite by Lucinda Rogers
Commercial St and Spitalfields Market
One of the joys of compiling the book of Spitalfields Life was the opportunity to commission a suite of six large detailed drawings of Spitalfields from Lucinda Rogers to be published as double-page spreads, interspersing my stories with vibrant images of the life of the streets. An exhibition of these magnificent original drawings for the book is at Rough Trade East in the Truman Brewery from now until April 1st and – as an exclusive bonus – anyone that buys a copy from Rough Trade gets a handsome set of six cards of these views included. Three of “The Spitalfields Suite” are reproduced here followed by my original profile of Lucinda Rogers which offers a retrospective of her work in the East End.
Brick Lane with the Brick Lane Mosque Minaret.
Lucinda Rogers’ original drawings of Spitalfields are on display at Rough Trade until April 1st.
Even before I met her, I always admired this view looking West over Spitalfields by Lucinda Rogers that is framed on the wall of the Golden Heart in Commercial St. It is a large drawing executed in vigorous lines placed with superlative confidence, and filled with subtlety and fluent detail to reward the eye. The pale cloud on the horizon high above the City – illuminating the grey Northern light of a London sky – is a phenomenon that anyone in Spitalfields will recognise. What I especially like about this drawing is that there are so few lines, enough to summon the drawing into existence yet without any superfluous gesture. And although there is no pretence to photographic realism, the vivid spatial quality is such that when you gaze into the deep spaces of the composition it can feel almost vertiginous, especially if you have had a few drinks.
The next work of Lucinda’s to impinge upon my consciousness was her portrait of Paul Gardner, which hangs up behind the counter at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St, where his family have traded from the same building since it was built in 1870. Here you see Paul, in his world composed of paper products, at ease behind the counter in a characteristic pose of dreamy contemplation, ever expectant of the next customer to burst through the door demanding paper bags. The crowded symphonic detail of the bags and tags and signs in this masterful portrait manifest the contents of Paul’s extraordinary mind, possessing a natural facility to keep to track of all his stock, as well as working out all the prices, discounts for multiples and VAT percentages with ease.
I do not know what I expected when I met Lucinda Rogers for the first time, but I certainly was not prepared for her alluring poise, as she arrived looking chic in a tweed coat with dramatic long straight copper hair, pale skin and a huge ring with a rectangular stone – with an intensity of glamour as if she had stepped from a Jean Luc Godard movie. As we shook hands and I complimented her on her work, she flashed her hazel eyes with a generous smile, and I was momentarily disarmed to realise that she was looking at me with the same shrewd vision which she demonstrates in her elegant work. Once introductions were accomplished, we enjoyed several hours studying this remarkable set of drawings, which exist collectively as a unique portrait of our neighbourhood as it was in the first decade of this new century.
They were created by Lucinda between 2003 and 2008, for an exhibition at the Prince’s Foundation Gallery in Shoreditch and then for a feature in an Italian design magazine, Case da Abitare, as she explained to me, “I was offered an exhibition, so I decided to make it of the East End - because I had only drawn New York up until then – with the focus on Spitalfields and especially on people working. So not really about the buildings, but about recording the things that go on inside the buildings and how they are changing. Not like a photograph, but more about a particular day, your feelings, and what you choose to leave out or leave in to make the picture. You are making something that’s less factual and more subjective.”
The first drawing Lucinda made was of the B2B building in Usborn St at the bottom of Brick Lane. “The reason I did this drawing was because of the numbers that are cut out of plywood and nailed to the wall to advertise the sound studio where the soundtracks for Bollywood films are recorded. The floor beneath is occupied by the rag trade, the Jewish Monumental Mason is next door, in between is the Italian Coffee Shop, while in the background the Gherkin is being built and in the foreground is an apple core.” she told me, enumerating the diverse elements in her picture that coalesce to define the elusive mutable culture of this location, where today an estate agent occupies the property.
The modest aesthetic of these drawings upon tinted paper with just a few touches of colour is dramatically in contrast to their bold compositions and scale. Lucinda’s work is closer to cinema than photography, because confronted with the physical presence of the works you cannot resist turning your head to scan the extent of these images.“I see the finished drawing in my mind,” Lucinda said to me plainly, revealing an imaginative confidence that permits her to work without preparatory drawings, defining the structure of these pictures with her first deftly-placed bold brushstrokes.
Each was completed in a single session on location in the street or in the workplace, contributing to the spontaneity that all these drawings share. The fragile lines that conjure these images out of ether give them tremendous energy and life, whilst also emphasising their diaphanous transient quality of vision. As Lucinda Rogers admitted to me with philosophical smile and a gentle shrug of perplexity, “Everything that I draw changes…”
Paul Gardner at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen.
Sunday in the Spitalfields Market at Christmas.
Leatherworkers at Hyfact Ltd, Links Yard, Spelman St.
KTP Printing, Princelet St.
Night in the kitchen at the Beigel Bake, looking out towards Brick Lane.
Big John Carter playing Boogie Woogie on Brick Lane.
Saffire furniture shop, Redchurch St.
At the rear of the Nicholls & Clarke building, Norton Folgate.
Columbia Rd Flower Market.
Eugene at North Eastern Motors, Three Colts Lane.
Junction of Middlesex St and Wentworth St, viewed from Petticoat Towers.
Phil at Crown & Leek joinery, Deal St.
B2B Building, Osborn St.
Sunrise wedding services, Hanbury St.
Bishopsgate Goods Yard with Spitalfields and City beyond, viewed from pool deck at Shoreditch House.
Drawings copyright © Lucinda Rogers