Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Painted building facade, King's Cross

click photo to enlarge
The UK is pretty reticent when it comes to painting the outside of buildings. Traditionally render has been painted, usually white or cream though sometimes branching out into drab pink, blood red, a shade or two of green, and sometimes blue or yellow. In recent years quite a few new housing developments have been built that make use of colour. There are regions, often highland areas, where farms and isolated houses in the countryside are sometimes painted white to make them more visible. However, the place where colour is most readily accepted on the exterior of a building is the seaside town. Here terraces are frequently colour-washed one or many colours. Blue and white - nautical colours - are favoured, but others can be seen too.

During the last quarter of the twentieth century painted facades with a humorous or artistic intention, sometimes like graffiti writ large, began to proliferate. I have mixed feelings about such buildings. Sometimes they are fun, but too often they are eyesores, a garish flash of colour that detracts from the locality rather than adding to it. Frequently the intention is to prolong the life of a run-down structure, though the fading paint soon contributes to the air of dereliction. The example in today's photograph is near King's Cross railway station in London. The paintwork doesn't acknowledge the building at all, but treats it as a flat canvas with shapes and lines continuing across windows and pilasters as though they didn't exist. This distinguishes it from most such work. It's the sort of treatment that I feel I should dislike but I don't, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is that appeals to me. Perhaps it's because, in its location, it isn't so garish that it demands to be looked at. But more than that, the combination of colours and the strong diagonals are very much to my taste.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Painted Building, King's Cross, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 90mm (180mm - 35mm equiv.) crop
F No: f5.5
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On