Art in Penge
Penge and its environs has always thrived as a centre for artists and artistic activity. This can be traced back to the 1840s if you count the architects who designed the Royal Watermen’s Almshouses and the Royal Naval Asylum as artists—George Porter and Philip Hardwick— as they were in their own right. There is art in the flourishing touches to these buildings: the ornamental ironwork fish on the pump at the almshouses, not to mention the weather vane, sun-dial and the stained glass of the chapel or the tall elaborate Tudoresque chimneys of the asylum.
The Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs of 1854 are more artwork than scientifically-accurate representations by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Here is a 1959 film showing their restoration:
Here Dr Ellinor Michel talks about the artistry of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and why it is necessary to conserve these artworks:
St John the Evangelist Church has beautiful Victorian stained glass-windows, one of them designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris & Co. Penge Congregational Church also has windows in its vestibule designed by the same Studio.
Incidental artwork adorns Penge High Street: the art-deco tiling above Macdonalds; the elegant bas-relief statues above Lidls. The 1980s stainless steel and glass pterodactyl clock on the triangle outside the Crooked Billet is a relatively modern artwork.
Camille Pissarro lived in the area, taking up a brief residence at 2 Chatham Terrace, Anerley, during 1870/71 during his flight from the Franco-Prussian war. He painted various en plein air scenes, some of which are now in the National Gallery. One painting, for some time known as ‘Penge Railway Station’, has now been attributed as ‘Lordship Lane Station’; although, recently, there has been further debate as to whether it is in fact of Penge West station:
Ron Woolley lived in Wordsworth Road and was a prolific artist with a remarkable talent for carefully- detailed and painted scenes of Penge. Many of these paintings hang in various Penge homes.
Penge has its own thriving art group, SE20 Art, which has regular monthly meetings and practice sessions, three full-scale exhibitions per year as well as its own Facebook page and website. For links to these: Facebook Page SE20 Art Group
Its Art Trail during the annual Penge Festival attracts many local artists from outside the group.
Some of these artists have had art school or university training while others are entirely self-taught.
Here Heather Elizabeth Taylor demonstrates a fun painting-technique to transform an older, tired painting:
There is no doubt about their creativity, commitment and talent. Four women artists exhibited at the Tate Modern show Pillow Talk on 23 February, 2018.
The 2019 Art Trail was the fifth of its kind and has grown even bigger with more artists displaying their work in local studios and venues. All kinds of art are on show: sculpture, pottery, mobiles, installations, objet trouvé, watercolour, oils, acrylic…. Many artworks are for sale.
Here Mary Gordon-Smith, Chair of the Group, Chris McShane and Walter Hayn talk about its origins and aims:
Penge has a lively proliferation of Street Art. Various artists paint a variety of scenes on walls or other surfaces. Southey Street and Maple Road seem especially attractive to these artists who also take commissions from private individuals. The art has attracted lively debate on the media as what constitutes the difference between graffiti and art.
See link to overview of street art in Penge: A street art guide to penge
Men in Sheds, presided over by Jon-Paul Mountford, is a group which is involved in creating artworks from wood. There is also, more recently, Women in Sheds, to add to the mix. A striking Father Christmas sleigh was created for Pengemas Day, 2017:
See link: Facebook Page men in sheds Penge
In addition there are many individual unaffiliated artists, many centred round Maple Road which is becoming a sort of artists colony. Here we have the Hatome Studio of Yolanta Gawlick and the exhibition space at the Blue Belle Cafe. Live art drawing classes are regular occurrences at the Bridge House Tavern and in the Crooked Billet public rooms.
As well as fine artists there are actors, novelists, dramatists, poets, stage and film directors, photographers, cinematographers, singers and choreographers, dance groups, some of international stature.
The Penge Poets group has sold-out sessions at the Blue Belle Café. There is also Pet Sounds which assembles at the Alexandra. The new Tension Art Gallery has a programme of new work from an eclectic mix of artists. Long may art in Penge survive and be valued.