A HISTORY OF BLACKFRIARS MILL (1833 – 1912)
The flour mill depicted in this painting was the second mill at this location – Ridout Street south of the Blackfriars Bridge. The first was a small two-storey affair built by Thomas Park in 1833. Park sold it to Dennis O’Brien a year later. A 5’ dam spanned the river south of the bridge, diverting the water down a mill race. The path of this diversion is now marked with a low wooden wall at the bottom of the walking path at the north end of Harris Park.
In 1871, the mill was managed by George Phillips who enlarged it to 6 ½ storeys. The mill was becoming a major business in the city, producing 160 barrels of flour a day. In 1877, Joseph Saunby purchased the mill from Phillips and modernized the operation by changing to rolling mills from the old-fashioned stone-ground method. This enabled the mill to produce up to 300 barrels a day of patented “Ruby” and “Tecumseh” flour.
With technological advancements in the milling industry, Saunby closed his mill and the building was demolished in 1912. Ridout Street was being expanded to accommodate more building and so tons of earth was brought in to extend the hill out into the river flats below. As a result, the only remaining part of the mill, the two-storey stone foundation, was buried under the earth fill.
Today, the only traces of what was a major part of London’s development as a city are the reconstructed mill race and a number of white posts with small metal models of the mill building on top. These markers are found at the entrance and exit of the old mill race along the riverbank and clustered at the bottom of Ridout Hill where the mill wheel once turned.
The painting “Landmark” is meant not only to commemorate a disappeared part of London’s history but to remind the viewer to pay attention to those subtle and sometimes invisible reminders of the city’s past. The banks of the Thames were home to much of London’s early history – the original Carling Brewery at Ann Street, the London Soap Factory (foot of Clarence and South Streets), the site of the Victoria Boat Disaster (near Greenway Park) and the formerly world-famous Sulphur Springs Spa at the Forks.
As far back as she can remember, Bonnie Parkinson was drawing every day. She doesn’t recall the decision to pursue art; it was simply always there and always something she was called to. When she began her studies at Beal in 1955 she was full of excitement about the possibility of a career in art. For several years, Bonnie worked as a fashion artist both at the London Free Press and T. Eaton Co. She enjoyed the work but says she always felt a calling to find more time to paint.
When Bonnie finally left the commercial art world and began painting full-time, she describes herself as bursting with ideas that had been pent up over the years. Bonnie embraced the simplicity of painting on plywood over canvas, a unique approach that set her paintings apart. Using layers of shaped plywood, she allows certain areas of her paintings to break out of the square mold.
A painter for over 50 years, Kevin Bice follows in the artistic legacy of his father; artist, writer, illustrator, and gallery director Clare Bice. Growing up immersed in the arts and brushing shoulders with prominent artists including A. Y. Jackson, it seems a natural conclusion that Kevin would end up in the visual and theatre arts himself.
Bice takes inspiration from historical artists working in a range of mediums and styles as well as from his experiences as an art instructor. Bice’s career as an educator began in Sault Ste. Marie where he was asked to begin an art department. Returning to London in 1976, he was asked to do the same at London Central Secondary School. Over his career, Bice taught at five London high schools and says that the process of fostering creativity in his students was integral to his own artistic development.
Kevin Bice’s work can be found in collections at the McIntosh Gallery at Western University and in corporate and private collections throughout Canada, the US and Europe. Bice and textile artist Lorraine Roy formed the London Artists’ Studio Tour and has participated in it for over 25 years. He was one of 19 artists who participated in The River Project in 2008.
Bonnie and Kevin’s exhibition opens on February 16th at Westland Gallery, and continues until March 6th.
Over his experience of the unprecedented times that the pandemic has presented, Andrew Sookrah has had to learn to find ways to embrace the mandatory and necessary isolation, and the effect of this towards his practice. This has involved changing the way in which Sookrah both thinks about and executes his work, and analyzing the role of the external factors that inform it. On these changes, Sookrah describes that “time seemed to slow down, and with it, my approach to my art; my entire being, my thought process, my brushstrokes seem to slow down too, to match time… I have found that my work has changed ever so slightly as a result of this calmer state of existence…”
Quieting the passionate social commentary often found within his work, Sookrah has focused on landscapes of past expeditions, allowing time for past monologues to quietly grow to bear fruit in the future. Although his work presents a newfound sense of calm and freedom through his imagery, Sookrah’s work is informed by his study of the powerful influence of unquestioning belief over human decisions; sometimes followed by disastrous results.