This is the first painting that I executed of Forest Gate, East London, where I live. I am used to passing this Dental Surgery every evening and noticed over time how the plaster on the facade was crumbling away and the buddleias flourishing in the developing cracks. I asked myself why anyone would want to be a patient and then discovered that my neighbour had been going there for years… she has been quite content with the service provided.
I have revisited the ‘finished’ painting several times. When possible, I like to place a painting away out of sight before returning to it with fresh eyes. Since I started it, the whole of Woodgrange Road has received a facelift, I suppose in preparation for the start of Crossrail. The footpath has been built up and restored in anticipation of the crowds returning home to their new ‘luxury’ flats every evening; facades of buildings have been re-rendered and repainted; the cracked paving slabs replaced with the addition of tasteful cobbles; large tubs containing masses of colourful petunias stand stolidly in the middle of the pavement impeding unaware passers-by.
In the days when I was returning tired from a hard day’s grind, I would look up at the window on a dark winter’s evening and my imagination was refreshed. I wondered at the dental equipment all aglow from the surgery, bathed in the cold blue light and although I never spotted any patients sitting in the chair with a dentist hovering over them Laurence Olivier-like as in the movie ‘Marathon Man’, I reflected on Edward Hopper and his voyeuristic interest in half seen lit rooms. It’s an interest which I share: intrigued by that moment when it is too gloomy to continue without artificial light, but also too early to draw the curtains or blinds. A magic glow lights the interior and mysterious shadows are created externally where anything or nothing may be happening.
Technically night scenes can be quite problematic and I find they take some effort when trying to build up a sense of drama, seeking to achieve both clarity and mystery in the same moment… implying a story although there exists very little in terms of narrative. For me, the work of painters George Bellows, Algernon Newton and Edward Hopper all contain that sense of being caught in that pause, a moment which places itself between thought and potential action and where consequences still lie waiting to be born in the future.
Doreen Fletcher 2020
The Dental Surgery 2020 oil on canvas 61 x 61cm (24 x 24”) unframed