Jock McFadyen’s paintings are often described as gritty. Put this to him, though, and he laughs it off. “I know this is what people say…I think my paintings are realistic. If you wanted to make something grungier you would make it more grey”. He describes his work as an honest reflection of East London in the late 70s and 1980s: he has wanted to paint things he saw. “When people started writing about my work they said it was gritty. It’s not gritty – it’s just what it looked like when you opened the front door”.

Also known for risqué imagery, I ask him if this was a comment on the depravity of the area, “No, I am quite amoral. As soon as you open the door on Salmon Lane or whatever, you know you’re going to see grit.” Born in Glasgow, a six-year stint in England as a child meant that, when his family returned to Scotland, Jock ‘had become English’, to his contemporaries anyway. “I got chucked out and I hadn’t gotten into a degree course like all my pals”. This, along with having a young pregnant bride, led him to get “in the van and drive to London, so I went to art school in 1973 and I’ve been here ever since, 42 years”.

Alluding to his humble background, we discuss the issue of class in England. “Doing art is not hierarchical in the sense that it is not a recognised profession, you can’t be pigeon holed”. I agree with him that artists transcend class barriers. Jock laughs and says “I’ve arrived! Where the fecking chardonnay? I’m here to join in – I’m just like you”.

So what would he have been if he hadn’t been an artist? Cue Frankie Boyle’s comment on Peter Crouch: “If he hadn’t been a footballer he would have been a virgin. In my case, it was too late”.

-By Neesha Badhan

This article can be found in the East2 Insider’s Guide to Bethnal Green Magazine 2015. – See more at: http://issuu.com/walkeast/docs/east_2_2015_issuu_2