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Jock McFadyen, Artist

March 1, 2023
by the gentle author

Jock McFadyen will be displaying paintings at his studio from 18th March – 14th May, each Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm at 4 Helmsley Place, E8 3SB

Aldgate East by Jock McFadyen

Hidden behind an old terrace facing London Fields is a back street with a scrapyard and a car repair garage, and a row of anonymous industrial units where painter Jock McFadyen has his studio. You enter through a narrow alley round the back to discover Jock in his lair, a scrawny Scotsman with freckles, tufts of ginger hair, and beady eyes that look right through you. Yet such is the modesty of his demeanour, he acted more like the caretaker than the owner – concentrating on the coffee and biscuits, and leaving me to gasp at his vast canvasses of landscapes on a scale uncommon in our age.

The works of man appear insubstantial, either dwarfed by the scale of the landscape or partly obscured by meteorological effects in Jock’s paintings. With plain titles such as “Dagenham,” “Looking West,” “Pink Flats,” and “Popular Enclosure,” he evokes the terrain where East London unravels into Essex beneath apocalyptic northern skies, encompassed by an horizon that extends beyond your field of vision when you stand in front of these pictures.

Originating from Paisley, Jock has lived and worked in the East End since 1978, with studios in Butler’s Wharf, Bow and the Truman Brewery before arriving in London Fields more than twenty years ago. Although he has painted a whole series of epic landscapes of the East End, Jock remains ambivalent about its impact upon his work. “It’s difficult to say how much a place affects you because my real influences are other painters like Lowry and Sickert,” he admitted to me with a shrug, “You’re never just painting what’s in front of your nose, you’re aware of the history of painting.”

“When I was a student at Chelsea in the seventies, the previous generation were the pop artists and my work was quite stark and self-referential.” he confessed with a chuckle, breaking into a shy grin, “But when I became Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in 1981, I realised I couldn’t spend my life just making art about art, so I started painting what I saw in the street – What could be less fashionable?”

“Then in 1991, I got commissioned to design a set for the Royal Ballet. They thought, ‘It’s urban despair, let’s get Jock McFadyen!'” he continued, sipping his coffee with relish, “There were no figures in my design, because the dancers were the figures. And that’s when I realised I had been a landscape painter all along – I’d been painting people in places.”

So there we left our conversation – but before I departed his studio, I paused to admire a huge canvas of magnificent old rotting warehouses on the River Lea. It occurred to me that Jock came from Glasgow – a decayed port city with a vibrant working class culture  – and felt at home in the East End, a location with a similar identity. I saw Jock looking at me and I realised he knew what I was thinking. “If you are a landscape painter you can only paint one place at a time,” he said, anticipating my words “So the question is ‘Are you an East End painter or are you just a landscape painter that happens to live here?'”

Jock McFadyen in London Fields

Aldgate East

Three Colts Lane

The New Globe

Turner’s Rd

Bingo Hall, Mare St

Bethnal Green Garden

Looking West


From Beckton Alp


Showcase Cinemas

Tate Moss

Pink Flats

Jock & Horseshoe Jake in front of Popular Enclosure


Roman Rd


Jock McFadyen

Paintings copyright © Jock McFadyen

Portraits copyright © Lucinda Douglas Menzies

Click here to order a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Cherub permalink
    March 1, 2023

    If that’s the New Globe at Mile End I have fond memories of drinking in there when I was a mature student at Queen Mary 30 years ago.

  2. March 1, 2023

    Jock McFadyen is indeed a very good landscape painter — could he otherwise have captured the true landmarks of realistic everyday life so well?

    Love & Peace

  3. Andy permalink
    March 1, 2023

    A very good cause. A very good artist.

  4. Mark permalink
    March 1, 2023

    Hoots mun!
    These, to my gloriously untrained eye are rather wonderful paintings with a dreamscape element. Lots of sky, like what I have in Silly Suffolk. I must get this book one day.

  5. Ursula Whitbread permalink
    March 1, 2023

    Thank you so much for showing us this amazing Artist today. Can’t wait to go to his Exhibition!

  6. March 1, 2023

    What a concept!? — A gifted artist who also has a direct approachable way of speaking about his
    art-making process. ( I cringe when an admired artist dives into their “art-speak” jargon, and I am left to decode the mystery.)

    Wonderful, descriptive paintings that evoke never-visited-but-oddly-familiar places. I so appreciated the push/pull of the deserted spaces that seem so inviting and beckoning. It awakened a long-past and dangerous enjoyment of exploring vacant buildings.

    Thanks for shining a light.

  7. Robin permalink
    March 1, 2023

    Fascinating. Jock has a real eye for structuring the canvas to lead us through his melancholy landscapes. Cool dark colours; relentless geometries of modernity. No urban nostalgia here! They remind me of Edward Hopper, but with the “urban despair” focused on the city rather than the people.

  8. Graeme permalink
    March 2, 2023

    As an exiled east ender Jock’s wonderful paintings whisk me back there in a way that photos don’t.
    The Bingo hall used to be an Odeon. I think there were 3 cinemas in Mare Stree at one time. I used to go to Saturday Morning pictures at the ABC followed by Pie and Mash at Cook’s in Broadway Market and go swimming at Laburnum Baths in the afternoon. Happy days!

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