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Dan Jones’ Paintings

February 6, 2014
by the gentle author

Celebrating Dan Jones’ new exhibition The Singing Playground which opens tonight at Rich Mix in the Bethnal Green Rd, here is a gallery of his work spanning the last forty years.

Click to enlarge Dan Jones’ painting of Brick Lane 1978

In Dan Jones’ exuberant and playful painting, Brick Lane is a stage upon which an epic political drama is enacted. From this vantage point at the corner of the Truman Brewery, we see an Anti-Racist demonstration advancing up Brick Lane, while a bunch of skinheads stand at the junction with Hanbury St outside the fortuitously named “Skin Corner.” Meanwhile, a policeman stops a black boy on the opposite corner in front of a partially visible sign reading as “Sus,” in reference to the “Sus” law that permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion, a law repealed in 1981. And in the foreground of all this action, life goes on – two senior Bengali men embrace, as Dan and his family arrive to join the march, while bystanders of different creeds and colours chat together. More than thirty years since Dan painted this scene, many of the premises on Brick Lane have changed hands, but recent attempted marches by the English Defence League bring the central drama of this picture back into the present tense.

Dan Jones’ mother was the artist Pearl Binder, who came to live in Whitechapel in the nineteen twenties, and since 1967, Dan has lived down in Cable St where he brought up his family in an old terraced house next to the Crown & Dolphin. A prolific painter, Dan has creating many panoramic works – often of political scenes, such as you see here, as well as smaller pictures produced to illustrate two books of Nursery Rhymes, “Inky, Pinky, Ponky” and “Mother Goose comes to Cable St,” both published in the eighties. In recent years, he has undertaken a series of large playground murals portraying school children and the infinite variety of their games and rhymes.

Employed at first in youth work in the Cable St area, and subsequently involved in social work with immigrant families, Dan has been a popular figure in the East End for many years, and his canvases are crammed with affectionate portraits of hundreds of the people that he has come to know through his work and political campaigning. Today Dan works for Amnesty International, and continues to paint and to pursue his lifelong passion for collecting rhymes.

There is a highly personal vision of the East End manifest in Dan Jones’ paintings, which captivate me with the quality of their intricate detail and tender observation. When Dan showed me his work, he pointed out the names of all the people portrayed and told me the story behind every picture. Like the Pipe & Drum Band in Wapping painted by Dan in 1974 – to give but one example – which had been going since the eighteen eighties using the same sheet music. Their performances were a living fossil of the music of those days, until a row closed them down in 1980. “They were good – good flute players and renowned as boxers,” Dan informed me respectfully.

The End of Club Row, 1983. The animal market held in Sclater St and Club Row was closed after protests by Animal Rights’ Campaigners.

Last Supper at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. Rev Malcolm Johnson preaches to the homeless at Easter 1982.

Pipe and Drum Band in Tent St, Wapping, 1974.

The Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921

Parade on the the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Cable St, 1996

Live poultry sold in Hessel St.

Fishing at Limehouse Basin.

Tubby Isaacs in Goulston St, Petticoat Lane.

Palaseum Cinema in Commercial Rd

A Teddy Bear rampages outside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Funeral of a pig in Cable St, Dan Jones and his family come out of their house to watch.

Christ Church School, Brick Lane

Liverpool St Station

Watney Market

Paintings copyright © Dan Jones

Read my original profile of Dan Jones, Rhyme Collector

and Dan Jones’ mother Pearl Binder, Artist & Writer

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Sheila Hillier permalink
    February 6, 2014

    Great to see some samples of Dan Jones’ lively work. You didn’t post one of my favourites, though – the bridge which is, I think near St Paul’s Way in Stepney with its famous slogan ‘G Davis is Innocent – OK’. this refers to the activities of a well-known East End family to have the conviction of one of their number overturned. At one time the slogan was everywhere – I remember it being scrawled into the dust on market vans, painted on walls and railway sidings.
    But the bridge was the most adventurous. I don’t know if the slogan is still there.

    OK?
    Sheila

  2. February 6, 2014

    I remember Dan Jones from the mid 1970s when Newlon Housing Trust bought and refurbished many of the then neat derelict houses in Cable St. His delightful paintings were great then and as you say relevant now.

    I seem to recall that he had an interesting neighbour – was it Dr Clare Bland ? a GP who was in the Communist Party.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  3. February 6, 2014

    What fantastic pictures, so full of life and stories

  4. February 6, 2014

    Beautiful art! — It makes me believe that East London is really the centre of the world ;-)

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  5. February 6, 2014

    Well I remember the horror of the giant teddy bear attack of 1987. No one knew from whence it came, or what it wanted in the Whitechapel Road. But, mercifully, it’s only weakness was the ultra-sonic resonances of large struck bells and it happened to be passing a bell foundry. With a growl of primal pain it ran off in the general direction of Harrods. Let us pray we never see its yellow radioactive fur again.

  6. February 6, 2014

    To Alan: *** LOL! ***

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  7. Roger Lewis permalink
    February 6, 2014

    Thank you GA. Wonderful paintings. My favourite is the depiction of the 1996 Cable Street anniversary.

  8. February 6, 2014

    Exquitise! A cross between Raoul Dufy and Lowry, busy and lots of people and activities. Wonderful sceneries of good old London. I would love one on my wall. How much are they?

  9. February 6, 2014

    These are great paintings.

  10. peter permalink
    February 6, 2014

    Alan, I heard that said teddy was aggressively looking to ‘ave a meat pie.

  11. Tom permalink
    February 6, 2014

    These are quite reminiscent of the paintings by Camberwell based artist Ed Gray, which often use the rich tapestry of London life – and it’s colourful array of characters – as source material for his detailed scenes of urban life.

    Then again, you could say the reverse as he is a more recent artist.

  12. February 7, 2014

    Great paintings by a lovely man.

  13. Cherub permalink
    February 9, 2014

    The painting of Brick Lane in 1978 takes me back. I was visiting my older sister who lived in Goodmayes back then and a friend of her partner offered to take me out on the Sunday. First stop was Brick Lane and we turned the corner into an NF demonstration. Being a 17 year old from a small Scottish backwater I was absolutely terrified, this was not my world at all. 15 years later I was a mature undergraduate at Queen Mary College in Mile End and how I grew to love going down Brick Lane; later on I ended up working in Spitalfields.

    Been back in Scotland 10 years and still miss the old haunts, had a nice visit to them last year.

  14. February 10, 2014

    Dan Jones’ books accompanied my three children through their childhoods, and those same books are now in the possession of the grandchildren. I’m not sure who enjoys them more: the boys themselves; their mother as she relives her childhood; or their grandmother as she remembers happy evenings curled up with one or more of the children, chanting out the rhymes and poring over the illustrations.

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