Dan Jones’ Paintings
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reading as “Sus,” in reference to the “Sus” law that permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion, a law repealed in 1981.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
Paintings copyright © Dan Jones
Read my original profile of Dan Jones, Rhyme Collector
and Dan Jones’ mother Pearl Binder, Artist & Writer