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Noel Gibson in Bow

August 15, 2014
by the gentle author

Railway footbridge at Poplar

There is a rare chance to see the work of East End painter Noel Gibson (1928-2006) at the Nunnery Gallery in Bow until September 21st. These large paintings need to be seen in the gallery to fully appreciate the quality of impasto, with vivid black lines standing out in relief from the canvas and vigorous textures created with a palette knife, imparting a dramatic presence to these soulful visions.

Born in Glasgow, Gibson originally trained as an opera singer and then became House Manger at the London Opera Centre based in the Troxy Cinema in Commercial Rd. A self-taught artist, he painted in the evenings after work.

“I began as an abstract painter but when I came to Stepney, I found paintings on my doorstep. Though I think there’s still a quiet abstract quality to my paintings. I am trying to express the spirit of the buildings, the strength of them and the people who were there. This is why I don’t put people into my paintings. People turn them into an episode with a background – but I am painting the background! I love these buildings. I walk the dog and I look at them at different times of day and in different weathers, and I keep going back. In a way I am making a record of a changing, I wouldn’t say a dying area, but often I go back to check up on a detail, a colour and a whole street has gone.” Gibson said in an interview in the Times in 1972.

Immensely successful in his day, enjoying acclaim and sell-out shows – one of which at St Botolph’s in Bishopsgate  was opened by Tubby Isaac the jellied eel king – Noel Gibson was featured on BBC’s “Nationwide,” a popular current affairs programme in 1972. In 1974, he moved to South London, working at Morley College and appointed Provost’s Verger at Southwark Cathedral, yet in 1985 he admitted, “I regard Tower Hamlets as the area of inspiration for my work and I will always return to it.”

Hessel St – “If this street were in Paris, everyone would have wanted to paint it.”

Brick Lane, looking north towards the Truman Brewery

St Anne’s, Limehouse

St John’s Tower

Small Red House in Bow

Street Scene in Poplar

The Victory in Poplar

Chilton St, Spitalfields

Tower House, Fieldgate St, Whitechapel

Arbour Sq

Noel Gibson

Images courtesy of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Empty Streets: Noel Gibson’s East London (1967-75) is at the Nunnery Gallery, 181 Bow Road, E3 2SJ until 21st September

8 Responses leave one →
  1. August 15, 2014

    Great paintings. Love his bold style. Glad to see the painting of Arbour Square where I went to school. Valerie

  2. August 15, 2014

    Lovely, thanks

  3. August 15, 2014

    How long was he verger at Southwark Cathedral? There was one verger in about 2000 who was a real character. I’m hoping that was Noel Gibson!

  4. annie permalink
    August 15, 2014

    I really like his style of work – will definitely make the effort to visit the gallery to see it.

  5. August 15, 2014

    I like this forceful and expressive kind of artwork!

    Love & Peace

  6. August 15, 2014

    Wow! Just like Maurice Utrillo. Beautiful paintings.

  7. August 16, 2014

    These are gorgeous – truly a painter’s painter. Thank you for bringing them to our attention.

  8. Linda permalink
    October 10, 2014

    I worked with this great man at The London Opera Centre – he was a fantastic person! Some of his paintings were in the local library too,

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