Painting on a street corner near Bethnal Green last December, artist Nicholas Borden was accosted by a passer-by who quietly slipped him a business card. An interview and one month later, Borden was the subject of an adulatory post on the Spitalfields Life blog.
The virtual art community was quick to pick up on the lively colours and distinctive style of Borden’s urban panoramas. Carefully crafted and structured like old masters’ exercises in perspective, these depictions of street life have been his project for the past 18 months.
Whatever the weather or season, Borden goes outside to work, often returning to the same spot at the same hour over five or six days to make sure he gets the light and atmosphere right.
Working from life gives the paintings an immediacy and vibrant palette reminiscent of David Hockney’s recent work.
“I like very dramatic light, but it can change very quickly, so you only have a short window to work in,” Borden says.
“There’s no way you can get the same sensations from a photograph – your visual memory isn’t good enough. You can always tell when someone has worked artificially.”
Originally from the West Country, the curly-haired, soft-spoken painter trained at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art.
After a spell working on newspaper illustrations, he became disillusioned with art and moved back to Devon, where he stopped painting altogether for several years.
“It was quite a low point actually, I didn’t know where I was going with my life,” he recalls. Thankfully he returned to the capital, and a stay in East London re-energised his art.
Borden has lived in Hackney since 2005 and loves its street-life, architecture and people. Viewers from the borough will be able to recognise sights such as the Regent’s Canal, Wick Road and Dalston Junction.
Borden’s taste draws him to the everyday, yet in these settings he finds extraordinary shapes, angles and unusual details – a crooked sign, pedestrians in strange hats, a passing animal. The sense of familiarity and wonky aesthetics gives the works a strong sense of place and character.
The response to the Spitalfields Life blog post has been “quite unexpected and absolutely amazing”, he says.
In addition to interest from press and public, Borden has been approached by various galleries, and ‘An East End View’, his first exhibition of East End paintings and drawings, is due to open on 8 April at Town House as part of the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival.
An East End View
8 – 21 April 2013
5 Fournier Street