The Common paintings were begun in spring 2015.
I have lived around the commons of southwest London for most of my life and I’ve always seen something remarkable in these spaces at night – melancholy, beauty, expectation, romance – and although I felt they would be a rich subject for painting, it wasn’t until recently that I could see a way to approach it.
The colours in the skies above the commons are made by the city and the way the city lights illuminate the clouds, the smog and the rain and mist give these colours an incredible depth and complexity. When the cloud cover is very heavy and low, the skies can be a bright, unnatural luminous yellow. Even on a cloudless night, the background pollution can be so dense that, although the sky is patently a deep blue, it is also yellow or orange from the reflected sodium light – like tonic mohair, the dominant colours are simultaneously both indigo and bronze, The challenge was to find a method and a medium that could convey and represent this depth and complexity on a flat surface.
Just as important as the sky in these paintings is the tree line and the lights surrounding the commons. Each common has a signature light pattern depending on the density of the traffic or the frequency of the streetlights and paths. These constellations are unique to each common and, like the sky, they set the mood of the painting.
There are no figures or recognisable buildings in the paintings but the pictures are packed with activity. They reflect the hum and bustle of the capital at night. In the thin bright strip of light under the tree line you sense traffic - cabs taking clubbers to and from excitement or disappointment; drunks and lovers. There is also a sense of the city machine continuing to work through the night; cleaners in offices, terminals trading with terminals on the daylight side of the earth and the industry of the red night-lights on the cranes and construction sites in the distance. They’re very definitely not rural landscapes and anyone who lives in any of the great cities in the world will recognise these things. The skies over Paris or Tokyo or Chicago look like this. As much as these paintings are poems about London, they are paintings about the 21st century city.