‘London, like the paint I use, seems to be in my blood stream. It's always moving – the skies, the streets, the buildings, the people who walk past me when I draw have become part of my life’
(Leon Kossoff, quoted in Leon Kossoff (exh. cat.), Tate, London, 1996, p.36).
Beginning in the 1950s and continuing throughout his long career, Leon Kossoff repeatedly explored the intimate characteristics of his immediate surroundings and focused his gaze upon the ordinary places that form part of his everyday experience. Continually returning to paint and draw the familiar London scenes around his home, the lively stations, flower stalls, churches and the North London railway, Kossoff's work is enlivened by a tangible and wholly unique sense of familiarity with its subject, capturing the private face of long-lived experience in an active metropolis. Although he frequently returned to draw the same scene twice, the changing mood, light, and the passage of the seasons, all of which he was so acutely aware, prevented him from wandering into the realms of repetition.
His well-rehearsed capturing of the hustle and bustle of London life is brilliantly realised in Willesden Junction - part of an on-going series of paintings and drawings begun in the early 1960s which examine a particular vantage point looking down onto the tangled tracks of the north London railway. Kossoff was intimately acquainted with the scene, as his studio was at the time in Willesden Junction and he lived just a few miles from the station. In the present work, most likely captured by Kossoff in the early morning, looking down over the scene from a bridge, the train tracks surge dynamically into the distance leading our eye up to the silhouette of the cooling towers of the Acton Lane power station to the left, which was demolished in 1993, and the Harlesden Baptist Church to the right. The work is a full and mature composition that seems to writhe under the energies of the thickly applied chalk markings that describe it, the paper itself thoroughly worked. Viewed from above, the tracks funnel towards horizon slicing like a river through the urban landscape. Willesden Junction is an exemplary drawing from the series, revealing the best of Kossoff's long term artistic engagement with London’s metropolis.
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