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Nicholas Borden’s Lockdown Paintings Exhibition

June 16, 2021
by the gentle author

I am delighted to announce that, following the tremendous response to Nicholas Borden’s recent paintings on Spitalfields Life, these will now be exhibited in a one man show entitled, WISHFUL THINKING, Nicholas Borden’s Lockdown Paintings at Townhouse Spitalfields, opening this Saturday 19th June and running until Sunday 4th July. (Paintings will also be for sale from the website from 19th June.)

Nicholas & I met up for a celebratory chat recently and he talked more about some of his paintings.

“I prefer to work outside but it is something I have only done in recent years, before that decision I think I was lost creatively. I like to observe things and be able to respond spontaneously. I tend to work quickly and not be premeditated.

For me, there is no substitute for working from life even if you have to deal with a lot of curious onlookers, that is why I try to work as early as I can in the day. On the street, you are painting in challenging circumstances and anything can happen but mostly people are encouraging. In future, I would like to simplify my compositions to create visions. Alfred Wallis was a great artist who was able to do that.

I felt cut off in Lockdown, so I listened to the radio a lot. I got by the best I could by being as busy as I could with my painting. I had a structure and a routine, and I worked on several paintings at a time. There were less people about, especially in Central London. I had never seen anything like it, almost apocalyptic. I hope we never live through anything like that again.

Painting helped me get through it and I am very lucky that I experienced no illness. Painting gave me strength and independence, and a new way of looking. During Lockdown, painting became the expression of my emotions. I think it made me a better painter.”

Nicholas Borden

Arnold Circus, Boundary Estate

I could not go home to visit my family in Devon over Christmas because of the Lockdown and it was a pretty lonely experience, so I painted this winter view of Arnold Circus in Shoreditch. It is not grim, it is a beautiful place and there is a lot of colour. I am aware of the campaign to Save Arnold Circus from tearing up the old paving and redesigning it, so I was inspired to paint this. It is a spectacular circular park with the original bandstand dating from 1900.

Wishful Thinking, gardens near Victoria Park

This is a view near where I live. It was hard to finish this painting because people were concerned that I was looking into their back gardens, but it is not against the law is it?

View from St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney

I have to thank St John in Hackney for giving me permission to use St Augustine’s Tower. They gave me the key and I had it for several weeks last summer, but it was exhausting climbing up a hundred steps every day to the roof. This was the first painting I did there, looking north-west towards Upper Clapton. In the foreground is the pedestrianised Narrow Walk and in the left hand corner is part of Marks & Spencer. I found I can compose work better when I am looking from high up.

Getting a bit of fresh air, Church St, Stoke Newington

This is next to Abney Park Cemetery where General Booth who founded the Salvation Army is buried. It is a spectacular cemetery. I painted it in winter and I was attracted to this gothic subject. It was raining but I saw a lot of new mothers walking up and down with their babies, getting a bit of fresh air.

Regent’s Canal at Victoria Park

I used a lot of ochre and Prussian blue in this painting. It was a winter’s day just after Christmas and I remember being very cold. From Victoria Park, I had this view across Regent’s Canal into the back gardens and I liked the composition. You can see into people’s lives. It is all revealed in the busy detail of sheds, washing hanging up and an abandoned greenhouse.

Feeding the pigeons near Mare St

This alleyway with a green area is quite close to where I live and feeding the pigeons became a bit of an issue during Lockdown. There is a rogue character who feeds them obsessively which has drawn controversy locally. I do not have any beef with it, but people who live nearby object and this painting typifies that tension.

St John of Jerusalem, Hackney

Someone chucked some water over me while I was doing this painting, just a sprinkle. I told my neighbour and he said, ‘Let’s go and sort them out,’ but I think it was intended as a joke. I have walked past this church thousands of times but I have never been inside. I have a Samuel Palmeresque feeling about it. He used strong yellows and liked romantic trees. Me and my brother used to be in the choir at our village church and we had to listen to sermons and the priest was completely mad. Maybe that was in the back of my mind when I painted this?

The Lake, Victoria Park

This is a winter scene at the lake. I come from the country originally and I like going for walks, so I think that is why I am constantly drawn back to the park, seeking peace and tranquility in the city.

Well St Common, Hackney

This painting has a domestic quality for me, Well Street Common is just round the corner from my flat in Hackney. I do not have a garden, so during Lockdown I found it relaxing to go there to read books and I always see people out playing ball games. I wanted the gardens to form a backdrop and this was painted in the evening because I wanted the long shadows. I thought it had a timeless quality.

Regent’s Canal at Old Ford Rd

Regent’s Canal at Victoria Park

This painting was produced over several days just before spring arrived. I try to go first thing on consecutive mornings at the same time, when it is still quiet. There is so much activity in Victoria Park and it is a long-established park that has not changed in all these years. That is part of its appeal for me. People always enjoy being outside and this was especially important during Lockdown.

St James’s Park, Westminster

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Ever since I first saw Christ Church, I recognised this was a striking piece of architecture. It has been painted by many artists before me, including Leon Kossoff and John Piper. It is an especially challenging subject, structurally and proportionally.

I remember painting this very early last summer, I tried to work quickly and directly because the light changes. You only have a span of around two hours before the light is so different you can no longer work, especially if you have long shadows. For me, the summer plumage of the tree brings joy to this image.

River Lea at Clapton

This was painted from the Lea Bridge. I like John Constable and I was thinking of him and of British landscape painting, although I am aware of the need to find your own vision.

Paintings copyright © Nicholas Borden

You may also like to take a look at

Nicholas Borden’s Latest Paintings

Catching Up With Nicholas Borden

Nicholas Borden, Artist

Nicholas Borden’s East End View

Nicholas Borden’s Winter Paintings

Nicholas Borden’s Spring Paintings

Nicholas Borden’s New Paintings

Nicholas Borden’s Recent Paintings

11 Responses leave one →
  1. saba permalink
    June 16, 2021

    You have pulled together the many bits and pieces of urban life into wonderful compositions with rich, alluring color. You have found your voice as an artist. So, enjoy the fruits during your exhibition!

  2. Jane Jones permalink
    June 16, 2021

    I was exhilarated by these paintings. Unusually, I am hard pressed to pick a favourite – they are all so special and vibrant. What a productive lockdown Nicholas has had.

  3. Peter Hart permalink
    June 16, 2021

    Wonderful paintings. Love the colours. Cheered me no end. Thank you.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 16, 2021

    Yes – a very productive lockdown!

    Fantastic colours and energy in the paintings, and I look forward to seeing them “live”.

  5. June 16, 2021

    Loving the paintings, me and the wife saw you painting in Victoria Park, great to see the finished work. We will come to the exhibition and have a proper look.

  6. Kelly Holman permalink
    June 16, 2021

    I love these paintings and it was so interesting to read about how you worked. Good luck with the exhibition.

  7. Pauline Taylor permalink
    June 16, 2021

    I love these not only because I admire the skill of the artist but there is so much family history tied up in these views for me. My favourite, if I was forced to choose one, would have to be the River Lea at Clapton as my great grandparents had a farm in Spring Lane, Clapton, my grandfather grew up there and rowed and skated and learnt to swim in the river Lea !! I am sure the artist would have loved to have painted it then as it was very rural and my family have several paintings of it showing the bridge at the bottom of Spring Hill, known to me as Coppermill Bridge, and views towards Walthamstow before the reservoirs were built and the river diverted. My great grandfather’s farm is now part of Springfield Park. But that is all by the by, I hope that the artist will have every success with his exhibition, he really deserves it, well done.

  8. June 16, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, kudos to Nicholas Borden for working through the lockdown by painting such wonderful pictures of London in “en plein air” on frosty mornings. I love the bare trees, all the better to see the urban landscape beyond.

    Particular favorites – “St. John of Jerusalem, Hackney,” “Regent’s Canal at Victoria Park,” and “Christ Church, Spitalsfield.” All wonderful!

  9. C. Scofield permalink
    June 16, 2021

    These are filled with life and interest! Lovely to read Nicholas’ his comments about their inspiration.

  10. Amanda permalink
    June 16, 2021

    l do love these vibrant story paintings.
    The tree twinkling on the canal lit by the block of flats is my favourite.

    All l painted during lockdown was the shed ! BUT l did work hard planting + landscaping and Nicholas has inspired me with an idea to take photos and begin to paint my lockdown garden creations before any storms wreak havoc.

    l’ve been to almost all these places and was thrilled to recognise the River Lea and St James’s from paintings without reading the captions.

    Nicholas story about his tree and the mad priest appealed to my sense of humour, recalling similar weary childhood Sundays trying unsuccessfully to surpress uncontrollable giggling.

    Very often when reading Spitalfield’s Life my truly wonderful buried memories are ignited and return with remarkable clarity.
    Thank you GA.

    Under these unimaginable circumstances, living in my imagination and in the vibe of my happy past was the best cure ever.

    Well done Nicholas for finding a way to survive, which has reaped rewards and appreciation for you and enjoyment for many.

  11. Carolyn Hooper permalink
    June 17, 2021

    How wonderful to read Nicholas Borden’s words regarding his painting of these magnificent pieces! His work is so strong in its approach; for me, truly brings the scenes alive.

    Many thanks, gentle author and Nicholas

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