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Doreen Fletcher’s New Paintings

June 15, 2022
by the gentle author

Some tickets are available for The Gentle Author’s Tour this weekend, 18th & 19th June

Meanwhile, Doreen Fletcher‘s new exhibition, TRACES opens at Townhouse, Spitalfields, this Saturday 18th June and Doreen will be in the gallery on Saturday to meet guests. Below she introduces a selection of her new and recently completed paintings.

Elvis Holds The Laundrette

It is almost twenty years since I last painted a launderette and this picture would not exist if not for Covid. During the pandemic, I became interested in exploring my neighbourhood, seeking out possible subjects for paintings. At the same time, I was lucky enough to engage in one of the few activities to thrive during lockdown, dog-walking.

In my picture, I depicted two of the characters I often encountered, who live a stone’s throw from the launderette. David sits inside musing whilst Elvis, his dog, stands outside guarding the entrance.

The Cosy Tea Room

For the last decade, I observed the slow decline of this building in Dagenham until I recognised a need to celebrate such a solid, unpretentious edifice. It has a certain dignity, despite its abused and neglected state. I loved the lettering, spelling out ‘The Cosy Tea Room’ on the apex of the building which grew more obscure each time I passed.

Nearby is the latest incarnation of the Ford Motor Factory, a ghost of what it used to be locally. During the fifties and sixties it employed around 50,000 workers and this tea room must have been a lively meeting place then.

The Run

After my painting ‘The Cosy Tea Room’ was completed in 2019, the building was still standing, despite the weeds and fly tipping. By 2021, it looked even more run-down and abandoned, a sofa made an appearance on the forecourt and a mattress lay against a wall – and I realised that another painting was taking shape.

The building was razed in the summer of 2021 and a new development is now rising, so this second depiction of ‘The Cosy Tea Room’ is also my last.

The Beckton Fox

This painting depicts something that happened as we were driving home one winter’s night, when we had to pull up sharply for a fox. The petrol station is more contemporary than my usual subjects but it offered the sense of theatre I hoped to capture. No matter how functional or artificial the structure, nature will always find a way in – creeping from the sidelines in this case.

All The Fun Of …

In my childhood, we used to spend a week each year at the seaside and, ever since, I have been drawn to the bright lights and brilliant colours that offer such a contrast to the greyness of daily life.

I was never attracted to the dare-devil rides designed to inspire terror yet – decades later – I still recall with pleasure the sight of lurid graphics and garish multi-coloured light bulbs, roundabouts spinning and striped horses bobbing up and down.

Until recently, a funfair arrived each year on Wanstead Flats but it often rained and the ground became a sea of mud. Even so,  there was a glimmer of hope in the bright lights, gay colours, offering a promise of better times.

Nail Bar

Nail bars, which were once unknown, have proliferated in recent years.  They are mostly small businesses run by owners who work long hours to keep them going. The pet shop next door had closed its doors earlier, but the nail bar had only just shut at 8pm on a November evening.

My initial interest lay in the challenge posed in portraying a brightly lit interior on a cold wet night, resolving the contrast between the light and warmth, and the surrounding darkness.

As a painter, I have never indulged in nail decoration because that my fingers would look awful again within days. But I must confess that, once a year, I visit a nail bar to have my toenails manicured and polished in preparation for the delights of going barefoot in the summer heat.

Smallholders Pet Shop

When I first moved to Forest Gate, I wondered how long this pet shop and mini garden centre could hang on, and during the following decade I watched the façade fade and become increasingly weather-beaten.

An elderly man in a flat cap used to stand outside guarding the shrubs, bedding plants and vegetables. Every spring I bought plants, receiving detailed advice about their care whether I asked for it or not. After he died, I discovered he had been there since he was fourteen years old and continued as a volunteer beyond retirement until his legs gave out.

Waiting At Five Star Batteries

The A13 possesses a post-industrial faded glory just as the London Docks did in the eighties. I used to wander the Isle of Dogs thirty years ago, when it was on the verge of transition, and I get the same feeling today on this stretch of highway.

Five Star Batteries stands on what was once the main A13 which has been supplanted by a raised dual carriageway to take the increase in traffic. Now a despondent air prevails, in common with the wreck of The Cosy Tea Room nearby.

What appealed to me about Five Star Batteries was the dissonance of colour, such bold orange in a place where the only colour emanates from the signage on car washes, garages and tyre outlets.

The lone man at the bus stop looks marooned, waiting in no man’s land for a bus that might take a long time coming.

Night Patrol

During lockdown, I developed the habit of walking our spaniel Charlie round the block after dark. I called this activity ‘Night Patrol’, acknowledging my desire to check all was well in our patch.

I love imagining lives unfolding behind dimly-lit windows obscured by drawn curtains. Occasionally I struck lucky and glimpsed a view of domestic activities but the reality was generally far less interesting than my imagination.

These Days …

One of the last of my paintings in 2004 was of Brothers’ Fish Shop, situated in a row of small shops on Commercial Rd. So when I took up painting the East End again in 2016, I was surprised to discover this parade still standing. I made two small paintings of the Emporium and the Pharmacy, which retained their dignity even though they were closed by then.

By 2019, these shops had gone but the the taxi cab office was still standing. Its survival against the odds inspired me sufficiently to paint the taxi cab office more than once but, now the entire row has been razed to the ground, there will be no more paintings of this part of Commercial Rd.

Images copyright © Doreen Fletcher

You may also like to take a look at

Doreen Fletcher’s East End

12 Responses leave one →
  1. Cherub permalink
    June 15, 2022

    The night paintings make me think of Edward Hopper.

  2. Maggi healey permalink
    June 15, 2022

    Loved the paintings Doreen . A glimpse into a world fast disappearing. Such beauty captured in urban landscapes with commentary. Great .

  3. rebecca biwdeb permalink
    June 15, 2022

    Love these – especially the ones of Forest Gate.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 15, 2022

    Fabulous work as always Doreen, and a fantastic record of a fast disappearing world.

    And the night time paintings are extra special. The one of the garage reminds me of a journey my mother and I made to see my father who was in a nursing home in Norfolk. We had gone to spend what would be his last Christmas Day with him and it hadn’t occurred to me that the petrol stations would be shut on that one day. And so we were driving home on empty going by many closed forecourts and my mum was getting more and more twitchy when suddenly out of the darkness a lit petrol station appeared in the distance… at the same moment as the Hallelujah chorus was playing on the radio. Hallelujah indeed!

  5. keithb permalink
    June 15, 2022

    The night-time views especially the Beckton fox painting make me wonder if the artist has thought about painting more 1960s buildings.

    Slightly down at heel modernism is something I grew up with and feel comfortable in. Yes, a minority taste!

  6. Greg T permalink
    June 15, 2022

    You need to look at Walthamstow Wood St ?

  7. Sarah Ainslie permalink
    June 15, 2022

    I love these night paintings especially Becton Fox, that magic hour when day and night merge and create something mysterious.

  8. June 15, 2022

    These are fabulous I have her book and like many have said her work is very much Edward Hopper homage,

    may she continue to turn out these beautiful works, there is so much crap generated today it’s always and immense pleasure to see work of this superb quality

  9. June 15, 2022

    Thank-you for this latest body of work, Doreen . Congratulations! I love them!

  10. Neil Anthony Holbrook permalink
    June 15, 2022

    Such beautifully detailed, evocative paintings by Doreen. I totally get her comparison of the abandoned buildings on the A13 to the docklands areas, once the docks had closed…

  11. Mark permalink
    June 15, 2022

    Beautifully melancholic.

  12. Marcia Howard permalink
    June 18, 2022

    I love Doreen Fletcher’s work, and am honoured to have a book of her work. Such a talented artist, and one who has such feeling for social history and scenes fast disappearing. Interesting to learn more of Dagenham too. One of my little friends moved there in the 1950s as her father had a new job at the Ford factory there. I sadly never saw her again. Thank you Gentle Author for sharing this, and thank you Doreen for all your amazing paintings.

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