The Nunnery Gallery had a hit on its hands five years ago with an exhibition of pre-war streetscapes by the East London Group entitled From Bow To Biennale. This month they're back in similar territory, although the focus has shifted half a century later and all are the works of a single artist. Doreen Fletcher started painting the East End in 1983, kicking off with a bus stop in Mile End, and developed a particular eye for 'the almost gone'. If you like vanished laundrettes, grimy terraces and pre-demolished shops, her work is for you.
Doreen stopped painting the East End in 2004, and her oeuvre might have gone unnoticed had it not been championed a few years ago by The Gentle Author, inspiring her to take up her brushes again. The exhibition therefore mixes works old and new, not that it's always possible to tell which is which without checking the label alongside. That evocative stretch of the Commercial Road turns out to be 1989, the empty cafe in Limehouse 1996 and the dilapidated public conveniences in North Woolwich 2017. At least four of the paintings on display are dated 2019, which is going some for January, including one of a fox beside a petrol station in Beckton.
It's great when you recognise the subject. That's Canary Wharf rising as-yet unsurrounded, that's the front of Plaistow station and that's (ah yes) Benjy's nightclub in Mile End. But you don't need to know where it is to appreciate the subject, because a faded pub on a street corner or a brick arch beneath a railway viaduct instantly drags you back. Doreen's canvases and drawings are brightly coloured, where appropriate, bringing their subjects very much to life. What's particularly valuable is how the collection depicts both what's been lost over the past few decades and what will be lost over the coming years.
Her exhibition's on at the Nunnery Gallery until 24th March, Mondays excepted, and entrance is free. Head up the alleyway off Bow Road and the door to the Nunnery Gallery's on your left. Alight at Bus Stop M and you can't miss it. The main gallery is ringed with canvases, as is the corridor at the back, plus there are a few more on the walls of what used to be the cafe. I reckon there are about 40 altogether. If you're particularly enamoured, a book of Doreen's paintings is available from the table in the alcove doubling up as a small shop. To meet the artist in person, in conversation with The Gentle Author, buy a £5 ticket for the in-house event this Wednesday evening.
If you'd like to see Doreen's work before visiting, or in lieu of turning up, the internet is your friend. The Gentle Author has featured it severaltimes, and a couple of newswebsites have taken an interest since the exhibition launched. I prefer to view the paintings on Doreen's own website, where a single image is blogged every week along with a lengthy anecdote-packed explanation of how it came to be. But her text resonates mainly because I've seen them for real, so if you are in the area over the next couple of months, do drop in.