An airport is an unusual subject for me, as it is for any painter I suppose. It was the skyline that was the initial attraction, the aircraft looked impermanent and fragile against the monumental Tate & Lyle sugar refinery… an interpretation that turned out to be more prophetic than I realised at the time. I took the decision to start this small work almost two years ago and as so often happens with my paintings… stuff happens. In 2020 the world as we all know it turned topsy-turvy in a big way.
As I worked to realise the image the depiction changed, with the aircraft dissolving into misty light. Most are now grounded, and the skies are still eerily empty… but the Tate & Lyle refinery remains, continuing to issue its vapours skywards as it has for many years. Situated between the former pools of the Royal Docks and the river, the refinery remains one of the last surviving manufacturing sites in the area, when so many others have disappeared …
My partner’s father had the misfortune to be crushed beneath several tons of sugar cane whilst working at the docks. Having nearly lost his leg he had to endure 13 operations and a number of years being unable to walk, before returning there. As it’s possible that the offending cargo was bound for this refinery, ‘Grounded’ seems an appropriate title in more ways than one.
These are the kind of associations that occur to me while a work is ‘on the go’, adding a different dimension and altering the ambiance of a painting. It suits me that I am able to let a work slowly evolve and have never been able to develop the initial layout quickly. The marathon, not the sprint, seems to suit my practice in an age of uncertainty and transition.
Doreen Fletcher 2020
Grounded, City Airport 2020 46 x 66cm (18 x 26”) unframed