"Painting is a bit like cooking; you can have complicated ingredients and a simple method, or simple ingredients and a complicated method. You can follow a recipe closely or see what’s in the cupboard and use your knowledge, cooking skills and intuition to make a meal.
The ingredients for these paintings are found images of people that resonate with my memories and emotions, brought together with cityscapes that I have made on location in East London that carry an emotional bank of knowledge.
My painting is a combination of internal and external motivations; the method is to create compositions in a collage technique that is guided more by an internally motivated chem-istry than an externally motivated existing narrative. However the story I want to visualise is about a group of people coming together in a place, maybe with a common purpose, or just brought together by chance; sequential art and murals have influenced the style and making of the work.
'If we imagine what our nation would see as the home of our national character, it would be the small town, not the metropolis, or the wild countryside.' Patrick McCabe, the Irish writer, was in conversation on Radio 3 and this sentence got me thinking about the paintings I was making.
Moving into Bromley by Bow in East London in 1986, and joining a newly formed community project, we ran a summer festival in the first year, and building on the success and the sense ‘that when something is born of the community it needs to be repeated’ - we did it the following year and the next 35 years after that.
I ran a youth arts project for 11 years, every Thursday 7-9pm, we made murals and large papier-mâché sculptures and sometimes trips out across London. On one occasion the minibus took us past St. Pauls Cathedral, I pointed this out - some of the children responded by saying 'do you mean St Paul’s Way School?' (the local primary school). Despite living in London E3, Zone 3 on the tube line, many local children had not been outside their ‘village’ into the west end. I began to realise that London was like a series of small towns.
I think the summer festivals were like a momentary ‘Bubble of Utopia’, a market place for the community, sharing gossip, home made food, creativity and meeting people of different cultures that live on the same street. In fact a healthy community needs gateway experiences that become part of the narrative of neighbourhood life, these events that are like safe spaces create lasting friendships.
Being curious and observing people together socialising or working together I began to notice the characters I was creating in my drawing reflected different kinds of personality traits: (I stumbled across the theory of ‘Big Five’ personality traits) Extroversion, Open-ness to experience, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticisms.
For me painting deals with how I negotiate these preoccupations about community life into pictorial space. Recent months have demonstrated that our health and a healthy life style is clearly connected to being together with people and with our relationships in the community.
Just like the community festival that I experienced being part of over many years, the current paintings in this show are titled after other places, events and moments I have observed: the Comedy Club, Lower Clapton Road Pond, Bow Flyover, By The River Thames, Palm 2 shop, House of Lower Clapton, Coffee at Canary Wharf."
Frank Creber, June 2020
Frank Creber is based at Thames-Side Studios. For more on Frank's work visit www.frankcreber.space