Painting & Drawing
Archaeology of urban time: drawing Dalston
The arrival of five huge cranes at Dalston Junction, east London in 2008 signalled massive change to a once familiar area. Time became visible with the stripping away of layers of the city as the area underwent extensive regeneration.
I began drawing from the streets, subsequently becoming artist in residence in theBarratt Homes Dalston Squareconstruction site – an exhilarating experience, literally climbing amongst the tower blocks as they were being built.
New residents, Ben and Jane Collins, moved into a flat on the 17th floor, a space I’d drawn within during the construction phase, and invited me into their home to draw.
The drawings are records of my encounters with transforming spaces. They chart the shifting relationship between building and city, the changing nature of the space as the tower block evolves through time and the emergence of domesticity, perched upon layers of raw construction.
Extracts from my notes and conversations with passers-by, construction workers and residents, became a parallel narrative to the drawings:
8.4.09 – Boleyn Road:
Blazing sun, in a side street, drawing the gap, once a row of independent high street shops and flats, now making way for the train line, in the interim revealing crumbling Georgian terraces and an expanse of pure space. After a few hours a lady with a bun comments that I’m still there, and marvels at how beautiful the development will be when it’s finished, along with the new rose garden that will apparently cover the whole of the road we were standing in. She felt however, this would encourage hobos. Opposite us, she explained, the building used to be a hat factory, was now residential, but for people who paid neither rent nor council tax. This was to be demolished and transformed.
17.12.09 – on site, exterior space between block B and the library:
‘You need thermals. If I’d the time I’d stand here with a board behind ya! I’m 70 next birthday, I’ve got bionic hips, a machine in here (taps his heart). Sometimes I feel alright, but other times…then I think maybe I’ll retire. But then I go home and get nagged and change me mind. Ha ha!’
9.9.10 – 17th floor, The Collins’ flat:
Ben Collins: ‘Before we moved in, a site manager noticed scratches on the window. Each one had to be replaced, each one carried down, it took three men an hour per sheet, they’re incredibly heavy. Efficient though, it’s really warm up here…Shall I leave my bag there? Will there be any foreground?’
27.1.11 – 18th floor – The Collins’ flat:
Looking south, from the bedroom window – sun streaming in, so that I’m in shirt sleeves despite sub zero temperatures outside – it’s the in between spaces, the backs of buildings, the decaying plots between one enterprise and another, that are holding the city together, shaping its character and form.