As part of the Nunnery Gallery's exhibition The Working Artist: The East London Group, three public artworks have been newly commission on Bow Road, available to see free throughout the show.
The public artworks commemorate the little-known East London Group artists, who played an important part in east London's art history, focussing on member Albert Turpin, who as window-cleaner, fireman, leading member of the anti-fascist movement and Mayor of Bethnal Green, was the ultimate ‘working artist’. Today’s ‘working artists’, Lindsey Mendick, Marcus Orlandi and Maxima Smith, have each taken a different aspect of the Group’s rich history to make new work that outlines their significance to today's audience.
Mendick has commemorated a new park bench in the Group’s memory, installed at the iconic Bow Church and embedded with miniature ceramics that symbolise the quiet moments of now and then – including a Daily Worker newspaper, paint brushes and a crisp packet. A plaque dedicates the bench to the Group's memory with a quote from Albert Turpin's memoirs:
“There is just one escape from oblivion, to change the hate for kindness. To love thy neighbour as thyself...What an important job we have. What a glorious task.”
Orlandi – known for his politically engaged work, as featured in the Art Licks Weekenders and the acclaimed Shuffle Festival – has explored the all too clear parallels between Turpin’s fight against fascism in Cable Street and our own contemporary struggle against extreme views with the banner Ctrl; Alt Rt: Del, installed on Bow Road outside the Bow Bells pub. The importance of Turpin's role in the Battle of Cable Street is embodied in the fascist organisation The Blackshirt's poster, released following the Battle and part of the Nunnery Gallery's exhibition, that reads:
Smith’s new film series Ode to a Window Cleaner subtly remembers Turpin’s day job, filming the mesmerising lines and gestures of contemporary East End window washers at work. Installed in the windows of the People’s Palace at Queen Mary University of London – where remnants of a mural by member Phyllis Bray still stand – the films follow the beauty and difference of the lines and patterns each window cleaner creates, celebrating their technique and quietly probing the painterly qualities of their work.
Visit the The Working Artist’s public artworks
Thinking of You Lindsey Mendick, Bow Church, 230 Bow Road, E3 3AH
Ctrl, Alt, Del Marcus Orlandi, Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road, E3 3AA
Ode to a Window Cleaner Maxima Smith, People’s Palace, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS
With special thanks to Queen Mary University of London, who supported the public artwork series.