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In the footsteps of the East London Group

Friday 4th October 2024 – Sunday 22nd December 2024 , 10:00am to 4:00pm

Bow Road, Elwin Hawthorne 1931

Bow Arts is delighted to present an exhibition exploring the past and present of east London, bringing together the historical paintings of the East London Group with their 21st century contemporaries.

Inspired by the East London Group’s scenes of the old East End, 22 painters from the Urban Contemporaries group and invited guests, including David Hepher, Doreen Fletcher, Ben Johnson, Philippa Beale, Timothy Hyman RA and Harriet Mena Hill, have created new works to be shown alongside their historical counterparts.

Exploring the artists’ shared passion for immortalising, celebrating, and unpicking the streets and scenes of east London, the show will explore the city across time – remembering long-demolished buildings, revealing hidden streets, and celebrating communities from the 1920s to the present day. A newly commissioned sound piece, made by an artist local to the Nunnery Gallery, will also provide an atmospheric soundscape to the exhibition.

The historic East London Group began with evening painting classes in Bethnal Green; made up of mostly working-class men and women, the group painted what surrounded them – the East End – capturing their city in a way never previously seen. Taught by painters John Cooper (1894-1943) and Walter Sickert (1860-1942), amongst others, the group became enormously successful despite the class prejudices of the time, exhibiting at Whitechapel Gallery and National Gallery, Millbank (now Tate Britain) and representing Britain in the Venice Biennale in 1936.

Only in recent years has the Group gained the historical recognition it deserves, and this show will present work from artists including Elwin Hawthorne, Cecil Osbourne, Grace Oscroft, Henry Silk and the Steggles brothers, including works never previously seen publicly. Viewers will be able to explore Bow Road, Bethnal Green, and Grove Hall Park (behind the Nunnery Gallery), as well as canals, lumber yards and breweries, witnessing through these fascinating depictions the face of a changing London during the inter-war years.

The accompanying contemporary works explore a city changing at an even faster rate, capturing the buildings that have been dismantled and recreated, and the historic remnants that defiantly remain. Ignited by stories, of the artist’s own memories, ancestry, or research, these paintings are layered urban interpretations and though often personal, are inevitably shared by the others who walk these streets and call them home. With subjects including the brutalist Robin Hood estate before its demolition, the regenerated walkways of east London’s canals, and the ever-growing urban skyline, many of the works will hang next to their historic inspirations, presenting an intriguing comparison between the London of now, and that of nearly 100 years ago.

The exhibition has been curated by Alan Waltham (East London Group) and Ferha Farooqui and Frank Creber (Urban Contemporaries) together with the Nunnery Gallery.

About Urban Contemporaries

The Urban Contemporaries Group was set up in 2019 by Ferha Farooqui and Frank Creber to bring together figurative painters, interested in exploring the urban experience. They curate ambitious responses to subjects, responding with drawing as a starting point, painting as the common medium and individual encounters with urbanised life as the dominant motif. They conceive themed shows that reflect upon the urban condition.

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