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Dan Jones, Artist

June 14, 2017
by the gentle author

In the third of my series of profiles of artists featured in EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October, I present the joyous vision of Dan Jones. Click here to learn how you can support the publication of EAST END VERNACULAR

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reading as “Sus,” in reference to the “Sus” law that permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion, a law repealed in 1981.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.

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. Club Row was closed after the government banned animal markets

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 Shadwell 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

Click here to preorder a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR for £25

7 Responses leave one →
  1. June 14, 2017

    Dan’s paintings are a joy to see – what talent to show everyday scenes, I felt like I was there. Valerie

  2. June 14, 2017

    I like Dan Jones pics and will call him the ‘peoples’ artist. My favourite one is the cosmopolitan Brick Lane so much history & culture this is the top place in the East End. I hope some of his pics will be included in Friederike and Co.’s forthcoming book East End Vernacular. Another pic I like – shown here is Teddy Bear rampage this would lighten up any good book, specially as the Whitechapel Bell Foundry gets a mention by Dan the Cable St man !trust a bear to be dominant, we all love bears. Poet John PS – I just know the book will sell, it will be the only one of its kind in the world, there is enough material in the East End of London net for a Vol 2.

  3. June 14, 2017

    I first met Dan Jones in 1982. He’s been campaigning against racism and fighting for social justice all his life. He’s very modest when it comes to his work as an artist. I’m really pleased he’s going to be in the book as his work deserves wide recognition. He’s captured the fighting spirit of the east end in a way that is accessible to all. Dan talks about how his work has grown out of his politics in the film ‘From Cable Street to Brick Lane’: https://vimeo.com/51928978

  4. Shawdian permalink
    June 14, 2017

    These are all skilfully painted with an abundance of detail and colour. The tunel vision in ‘Liverpool Station’ quite draws me in (excuse pun) I want to peak through that white centre leading out of the station to see what it there. And of course Big Teddy has to be applauded for his stance at the Bell Foundry. Wonderful !

  5. June 14, 2017

    …..the small boy, in the Hessel Street painting….Notice how he has created an instantaneous
    headdress for himself by poking white goose feathers into a head band. By including such
    cunning details, the artist has invited us into an intricate world of Observation and Memory;
    vibrantly depicted and (dare I say) lovingly created.
    This is a magnificent series. Perhaps the Vernacular project will need to be MANY volumes?
    We can only hope.
    Thanks for this exuberant blast of optimism today.

  6. Michael permalink
    June 14, 2017

    Did the Teddy Bear rampage actually happen? Or is Dan playing with us?

  7. Shirley Murgraff permalink
    July 11, 2017

    Dear Dan

    This looks really great. But before anything else|I’d really like to get in touch with you. Can you give me an email address please? And/or ring/text me?

    I do hope all well with you – it looks as though it absolutely is!

    All best wishes

    Shirley M (remember me???)

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