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This Is The Year Of Doreen Fletcher

January 1, 2019
by the gentle author

Please make an entry in your 2019 diary to join us at the Private View of Doreen Fletcher’s RETROSPECTIVE at Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts, on 24th January from 6pm. All are welcome.

This will be a big celebration for the East End and we are seeking a local brewer or distiller to sponsor the event by providing complimentary drinks. If you can help, please get in touch.

I am IN CONVERSATION WITH DOREEN FLETCHER on Wednesday 30th January 7pm at Nunnery Gallery, showing the paintings and telling the stories. Click here for tickets

Salmon Lane in the Rain, Bow, 1987

“It seemed to rain a lot in the eighties. I used to go to Salmon Lane most days since there was a range of shops including a post office, a baker, an off-licence, a butcher, a greengrocers, a dry-cleaner, a laundrette, fruit and veg stall, a pub and two Chinese restaurants – one of which was world famous.

The Good Friends often had Rolls Royces parked outside. I am told Sean Connery, Barbara Streisand and Groucho Marx dined there. Known as The Local Friends, the other Chinese – run by the same family, the Cheungs – was a take-away and it is in my painting. This was excellent so I was never tempted to go to the restaurant, which was not only expensive but the interior was too austere for my taste.”

Corner Shop, Canning Town, 1994

“One Saturday afternoon in June 1991, I visiting an unrewarding jumble sale on the Aberfeldy estate in Poplar. So I decided to explore Canning Town on the other side of the River Lea, ‘the child of the Victoria Docks’ as Dickens termed it.

I followed a black and white collie down him down a street that had been cleared, awaiting redevelopment. The dog turned a corner and had vanished by the time I caught up but I assume he went into the newsagents’ open door. Smelling of firelighters and paraffin, it recalled the corner shops of my childhood in the Potteries,.

This image stayed in my mind so I returned in autumn to buy some sweets in order to view the interior and make some quick sketches, but I was already too late. It was boarded up and I never found out if the dog had gone into the shop.”

Doreen has produced a limited edition print of the Corner Shop available here

Laundrette, Ben Jonson Rd, 2003

“Between 1983 and 1990, when I bought a washing machine, I made the fortnightly trek to the launderette in Salmon Lane. I never had time to sit down and wait for the cycle to run through, so I sometimes paid for the luxury of a service wash. Usually this was when I visited my parents in Stoke.

Two ladies worked in the laundrette. One was more meticulous in her folding technique and I learned to go when she was on duty. Every time I dashed in and out, there was constant chit-chat and the air was blue with the mix of cigarette smoke and steam from the machines. Lil, the good folder, always had a ciggie dangling from the corner of her mouth although I never found any ash on my clothes.

For years I thought about doing a painting, but by the time I got round to it the launderette in Salmon Lane had a face-lift and lost its character. The ladies had retired and the smoky atmosphere had evaporated thanks to red ‘No Smoking’ signs. Then, on a Sunday morning foray to Ben Jonson Road to buy rolls from Wall’s bakery, I spied a couple of legs sticking out from a launderette situated in a parade of shops. I had my subject at last!”

Commercial Rd in the Snow, Limehouse, 2003

“Snow is rare in London and you need to be quick to capture the magic before it turns to slush. When snow fell in late February one year, I was out of the door by eight to survey the crisp, clean landscape. I wandered down the canal until I reached Limehouse Basin but nothing caught my attention. I decided to circle back through the empty streets and I came across this scene at the top of Rotherhithe Tunnel Approach. The sky was a brilliant blue and the snow had transformed the sooty drabness of the Georgian terraced houses to their former elegance.”

Fishmongers, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, 2003

“One clear autumn afternoon, as I was leaving Limehouse Station, I was struck by the sight of the derelict shops in Commercial Rd. I realised this was the site of one of my paintings from thirteen years earlier. I was astonished to find the same parade of shops still standing almost as they were when I depicted them. Back when I painted Brothers the Fishmongers, their sign was still visible and although the building next door was boarded up, the parade of shops was more or less intact. Over several years, squatters moved in and set up a community, making use of the empty space.

I recall painting ‘Fishmongers, Commercial Road’ very clearly because I completed it before I packed away my paints in 2003. I had been teaching part-time for twelve years on special needs and vocational art & design courses. By then, my paintings were no longer shown and, in the prevailing trend, it was difficult to get exposure for my work. When I was offered a full-time post, I decided to accept since I am good at organisation and I enjoyed working with others after so many years alone in my studio.

Two new paintings resulted from my return to Commercial Rd after thirteen years. Both contain the same intense blue sky as ‘Fishmongers,’ a mixture of cerulean and cobalt that you see occasionally in the East End on a fine day. Last year, the squatters were evicted, the parade of buildings was demolished and the site is now a heap of rubble.”

Commercial Rd, 2017

Condemned Shops, 2017





8 Responses leave one →
  1. January 1, 2019

    Wonderful paintings, especially the ones from Commercial road. I walked along there for years on my way to and from school. I remember Brothers the fishmongers well, I used to buy ‘pussy-pieces’ (scraps) there to feed my cat. Valerie

  2. John Barrett permalink
    January 1, 2019

    Lots of nice art from Doreen – Poet John Poetry Soc

  3. Helen Curtis permalink
    January 1, 2019

    Dear GA,
    Happy New Year to you!

  4. Grace permalink
    January 1, 2019

    Happy 2019 to you GA!

  5. Patricia permalink
    January 1, 2019

    Rarely visit London now, would have loved to visit this exhibition. Next best is looking forward to receiving the book when I order it to coincide nearer the Opening later this month. Congratulations to both DF and the GA. What a marvel that these paintings have emerged again, and new work. Wonderfully vibrant historical record of a changing East End.

  6. Derek Smith permalink
    January 1, 2019

    I live in Scotland now. I found your blog a few months back when I spotted a reference to ‘Commercial Road’. Both my parents lived there and I was born there (84 years ago). I remember my Dad walking me down to Shadwell basin and to the city. I remember the Victory parade after the war. I have bought Doreen’s book of nostalgic paintings and will visit London within the next few weeks to walk and remember. Thank you indeed for your blog, the paintings and the revived memories. Derek

  7. Derek Bailey permalink
    January 1, 2019

    I lived at 41 Umberston Street right after WW2 and Doreen’s paintings wonderfully capture the sense I still have of the East End. Kudos Doreen !

  8. Gordon Heyes permalink
    January 2, 2019

    I lived and worked in Stepney for many years, I loved the `Friends` Chinese restaurants around Limehouse, I think there was 5 or 6 of them, The Good Friends was the best one.
    If I am correct, when the Local Friends opened up in Salmon lane, around 1963, it was the first take away Chinese restaurant in UK.
    `Local Friends in Salmon Lane which is known to be the first takeaway in the UK and is still there today.`

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