Christ Church Spitalfields, Spring (1992), etching and aquatint on paper by Leon Kossoff
"Although he roots his art in tireless drawing on the spot, memory also plays a vital part in Kossoff's work. The preocupation with London stretches back to his childhood, and it is no accident that a whole series of images concentrates on a building first seen when he lived in nearby Brick Lane. Hawksmoor's tour de force of sinewy Baroque stone, the indomitable Christ Church in Sipitalfields, still soars triumphantly above its surroundings today. But Kossoff feared for many years that it might soon be dwarfed by redevelopment, and the urgency of his devotion to the building must partly have been powered by a desire to paint Christ Church before it was too late. In some of the earliest images, Hawksmoor's masterpiece seems about to collapse: it buckles and sways, threatening to fall on the pedestrians hurrying anxiously past. In more recent works, though stability is reasserted. The church rears so high above the pavement that Kossoff might be recalling how awesome it appeared to him as a child."
Richard Cork in the Ben Uri exhibition catalogue London Senses and Experiences 4 July - 5 August 2007
Christ Church in Spitalfields (1714-18) was designed by architect of the baroque, Nicholas Hawskmoor. Hawksmoor had been a student of Christopher Wren and assisted with rebuilding the city churches after the Great Fire of London.
In 1711 an Act for building fifty new churches for the growing communities in London, Westminster and suburbs was passed. The churches were to be paid for by a tax on coal entering the City of London. Only twelve were built; Hawksmoor designed six and was involved with two others. The building of Christ Church began in 1715 but the building was not completed until 1729. Around 1725 the design for the church acquired a steeple and portico. The Doric portico features in Kossoff’s Christ Church Spitalfields which is one of Hawksmoor’s Stepney Churches.
"The church looms over the part of East London Kossoff grew up in, and preoccupied him anew when he read Peter Ackroyd's imaginative novel of its construction, Hawksmoor (1985). Along with Iain Sinclair – whose poem Lud Heat (1975) 'directed' him to the subject –, Ackroyd is acutely aware of London psychogeography, and its roots in Situationist artistic thinking of Kossoff's youth. Both writers chart the impact of human presences in the city, and how its spaces, and the memories of these presences, affect future generations."
Leon Kossof 1995 VeniceBiennaleBritishCouncil.org, Tom Overton 2009
In an interview with Andrew Graham Dixon, Kossoff said he was inspired to paint Christchurch, "from reading the first few chapters of Peter Ackroyd's novel, Hawksmoor, which reminded me of my own childhood in Spitalfields. I must have passed the church five or six times a week; it did have a strange, terrifying feel about it, yet at the same time it was marvellous."
AndrewGrahamDixon.com 16 Sep 1988
More information about Leon Kossoff.
Read Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian, 27 April 2013 writing about "Leon Kossoff's love affair with London" previewing his exhibiiton Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes at Annely Juda Fine Art, London W1, 8 May-6 July.
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