A father and son art exhibition in Blackheath spans six decades of Greenwich’s history, writes Laura Burgoine…

Christopher and Alexander Pemberton’s paintings and drawings give a visual account of Greenwich and sites in South London over nearly 60 years. Christopher Pemberton settled with his family in the Royal Borough from 1959-1983 and painted there while teaching at Camberwell School of Art. Christopher’s son Alexander Pemberton moved back to Greenwich in 1993.

Christopher’s early paintings show scenes in the Blackheath Standard area, including Greenwich Park and Old Dover Road before the A102 cut through the neighbourhood. Alexander, who has a BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Arts, has been painting in the area since ‘93.

“An aim of this exhibition is to contrast my father’s record of that time with my own record of the present,” Alexander said. “Christopher Pemberton’s early work has an atmosphere of sober grittiness, muted colour, and everyday life lovingly presented. As time went on, the palette lightened and he became quite daring and experimental with colour.”

Christopher only ever worked from real life. “He had to, it was a compulsion and often a source of frustration and real struggle,” Alexander continued. “His sustained effort to create something real did arrive at a kind of beauty – a ‘poetic’ beauty in his struggle to get at the truth.”

As a teenager, Alexander painted beside his father while on holidays. “I remember being impressed by his strange excursions into colour and this is probably the side of his work that I related to best,” he said. “I went to Chelsea school of Art from 1978-81 and worked from observation as he had but I was influenced by a later generation of teachers.”

After living in Spain, Mexico, and then the East End of London, Alexander returned to Greenwich in ’93. “The river has become my main subject matter,” he said. “I work on a series of views which are increasingly a record of the lost industrial shorelines and the new high-rise developments.”

“Like my father, I find a subject with potential and work there over time, sometimes for years, on different versions. The river compels me as a subject; an aim of my work is to define and organise what is fluid and intangible.”

Christopher Pemberton and Alexander Pemberton’s Paintings from Greenwich 1960 – 2018 are at the White Box Gallery, 5 Hare and Billet Road, SE3 0RB, from March 15- 24. Fridays 2pm-6pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11am- 6pm and by appointment ajpemberton@btinternet.com

Photo: Rokas Juozapavičius