Due to lockdown, the commute is something that many of us have no longer been experiencing in our daily lives, and whilst it isn’t always the most enjoyable part of our days, travelling on a tube or a train creates a great opportunity for people watching and allows us time to reflect on our thoughts. Perhaps the following artworks will transport you to the experience of a busy tube or train journey!  

Firstly there is Jackie Clark’s oil painting Train Window, Vauxhall Station. Jackie describes her painting: ‘This was my last day in the office in central London after the lockdown was first introduced in March 2020. By capturing the sun setting through the marked glass, I was able, through light distortion, to emphasise the ambiguity of embarking on a journey into the unknown. The markings on the window also highlighted the idea of disease and contagion amongst us.’

Jackie has vividly captured the experience of looking through a hazy train window, where you can only partially make out the landscape beyond the glass, and this is highly reflective of how we all felt when first entering into the mysteries of lockdown, not being able to make out a clear sense of the future.

Jackie explains how her paintings present ‘a personal narrative of journeys and analogies of inner journeys connecting memories of place, dream and conscious experience.’ She photographically records her journeys, then translates them into paintings, creating ‘fragmented, impressionistic glimpses of a constantly changing environment.’ 

Jackie Clark Train window, Vauxhall station Oil on aluminium 15 x 20 cm £800

The next artwork is Joanna Cohn’s hard ground and aquatint etching, titled Listening. She has depicted someone on the tube with their headphones in, listening to music. Joanna’s print is focused on the power of music; ‘‘Music has the power to transport. I wanted to picture someone alone yet surrounded by people. Someone completely in their own world’.

The man depicted is the focal point of the print, with the other figures around him depicted in much less detail and obscured in the shadows, creating the sense that his mind has been transported to another place whilst he is in physical proximity. 

Joanna Cohn Listening Hard Ground and aquatint etching, edition of 25, 50 x 40 cm framed £500

Next, we have Harriet Gillett’s mixed media piece created with a combination of oil and spray paints. Harriet employs various processes, often bringing together seemingly juxtaposing materials, such as layering murky oil over-acidic spray paint to create a sense of visual tension.

Harriet describes her process of creating this piece: ‘In the most recent January lockdown, my only interaction with the outside world became my taking the tube once a week to go to work. I began drawing people on this commute. This man seemed so at ease in his surroundings, sprawled out and deeply asleep. I only noticed him 5 minutes before my stop whilst glancing up from my book. I sketched him quickly before I got off. It reminded me to stay present.’

The outreached arm and laid back figure reflect the sense of comfort the man has in his environment; he is in a state of reverie, daydreaming and lost in his own thoughts. Harriet regularly works with themes of identity and surveillance, working from a combination of observational drawing and memory, blending past, present, and imagined to create new narratives. 

Harriet Gillett Afternoon Reverie on the Northern Line Oil & spray paint on canvas 10 x 15 cm £600

Following this is Mark Pearson’s oil painting Station Entrance, Aerial Evening View, a beautiful depiction of Peckham Rye station, which has a Victorian exterior, where we can see various figures exiting and entering the station.

Mark has described the painting: ‘The perspective is from one of the waiting room windows. I found it an interesting subject with the strong architectural front of the building and the theatrical lighting coming from within and spilling out into the space. I aim to portray the feeling of movement of the figures juxtaposed with the strong vertical lines of the station architecture. As the light floods through the open doors, it is picked up again in the puddles to the upper left of the composition, guiding the viewer out of the painting.

The palette here is grey greens with a strong yellow floor going into warm orange. I made several small studies at different times and nights to explore what would work best in the composition. Using oil on canvas, going straight in with the brush, I established the architecture first, working out the correct proportions. How the light falls on the buildings form part of the structure, once these elements are established figures are added; they are the drama of the painting, telling its story.’

Mark Pearson’s general practice is as an urban figurative painter, and he uses his paintings to celebrate urban life portraying human figures within urban environments. 

Mark Pearson Station Entrance, Aerial Evening View Oil on canvas 45 x 55 cm £1,800

Lastly, we look at David Piddock’s painting Leda and the Swan - DLR, which combines playful imagery from imagination and observational work.

This painting is part of a series David Piddock has created called ‘Urban Myths’, which present ancient myths within contemporary settings, such as this one, which depicts Leda and the Swan at a Docklands Light Railway station platform.

Leda and the Swan is a story from Greek mythology in which Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces but rapes Leda.

David says: ‘My work is characterised by an enigmatic blend of fact and fiction, past and present that keeps the spectator guessing. I have long felt that there is exciting scope for innovation and technical discovery within the established tradition of figurative painting.’

David Piddock Leda and the Swann - DLR Oil on gesso board 100 x 66 cm £6,750

Article by Hannah Martin

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