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Artist paints portraits of Canning Town gents in bid to preserve a disappearing community

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:13 12 July 2019

Artist Morgan Penn has painted the portraits of 12 men from Canning Town in a bid to record a disappearing community. Picture: Morgan Penn

Artist Morgan Penn has painted the portraits of 12 men from Canning Town in a bid to record a disappearing community. Picture: Morgan Penn

Archant

A professional artist has painted 12 East End gents' portraits in a bid to record people from a "disappearing" community.

Morgan Penn's exhibition Canning Town Steel: A Disappearing East End is made up of a dozen oil paintings aimed at shining a light on the speed of change in the former Royal Docks neighbourhood.

On what inspired him, Morgan said: "I was shocked when I saw redevelopment of the Docklands expanding and looming over Canning Town.

"Whole communities are disappearing and being swept aside by modern developments. I know people in Canning Town and they are all concerned."

Jeff Turner from the band Cockney Rejects put the 51-year-old in touch with his first sitter whom Morgan met at the Bridgehouse 2 music venue in Bidder Street along with all his sitters.

Morgan Penn. Picture: Fury Phoenix PennMorgan Penn. Picture: Fury Phoenix Penn

The artist set about painting in a style aimed at recalling early Victorian photographs called daguerrotypes and Shoreditch graffiti giving the effect of each man walking through a nightclub.

After his first portrait Morgan, who taught himself to paint, met other sitters nominated by the one before in order to make sure the series reflected one community.

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"These families have been in Canning Town for generations. I wasn't just recording random people. It's a tight community with people who grew up together and look out for each other," Morgan said.

One man called Brian who sat was at South Hallsville School as a child when a Second World War scored a direct hit killing scores of people sheltering in its basement.

"There's a long history in the East End which will disappear. I wanted to record it," Morgan warned.

He added that people were being priced out of Canning Town and their homes replaced by flats in anonymous buildings few people can afford to buy.

"The area is losing its spirit. The traditional East End spirit forged down the years by generations of hardworking people. It's a real shame," he said.

Morgan, who has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, is now preparing to display his striking work at The Venue in Southend on July 21 after they were unveiled at Stratford Circus Arts Centre.

But he is hoping to bring them back the the area soon.

"They need to come back to the East End," he said.

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