The plan was to rush round the canals from Stratford to Oxford but the drizzly weather broke our morale and we ended up in Banbury for a few days. Just long enough to produce this piece.
I was worried there wouldn't be much to paint apart from the obvious Banbury Cross and especially after missing the Banbury Canal Festival by one day, but then I discovered the strange oasis of boater interest known as 'Tooleys' right in the midst of the generic glitzy soulless shopping centres and car parks that have taken control of Banbury's canals.
Quite a contrast to have a working boatyard in the heart of a shopping mall. A world away from the nearby overpriced fashion stores, the 'Grease Club' occupants of Tooleys' boatyard did not give my paint smudged clothing a second glance, or have a policies on floor covering when setting up an easel and wanting to paint their workshop. Its been long enough on board this tub to feel like an alien in a shopping centre and feel a physical sense of relief when stepping into a workshop where I can be messy. I have certainly have gained a community with this project, lost sex appeal, but gained a community.
I have wanted to paint a dry dock or workshop for a while, the constant required work on the boats is such a large part of the boat life and I was keen to represent it in some form. What better than the oldest dry dock in the country? The dry dock at Tooleys' has been in continuous use since 1790 when it was built to paint the horse drawn barges. Nowadays the original wood beam skeleton of the covering is encased in a greenhouse style glass shed. Shoppers are encouraged to peer in at the creatures that do not shop.
As soon as I began the obvious dramatic perspective and subject of people at work on large machines in workshops, the work of the famous railway painter Terence Cuneo came to mind.
|Progress - Terence Cuneo|
|Castles at Tysley - Terence Cuneo|
You can see a statue of Cuneo on the main concourse at Waterloo station, London.