Thursday, April 07, 2005

No not that London — the other London

I live in London. No not that London, the other London, London Ontario Canada. How many times have I said that in my travels around the world when asked, where do you live. I say London and then must almost immediately point out it’s not the one their thinking of but the other London the one in Canada.
Like the real London, this London has a Thames, a Saint Paul’s, a Covenant Market; it is in the county of Middlesex bordered by Essex, Elgin, Perth, Oxford and Huron counties. We speak English and the general demographic of the 350 thousand peoples who live here is of a W.A.S.P. persuasion. London Ont. has one International Airport and not two like the real London with no Jumbos landing here, let alone a tax-free store. Both London’s have a Town Crier ours is a man named Bill Paul. This London also has boats, which navigate the course of the Thames River. Okay, it’s a small paddle wheeler used in the summer to take tourists on what must truly be the most boring outing of their lives – “To your right is the Greenway Pollution Plant and that odiferous smell is indeed poop being excreted back into the river, right under this vessel.”
Now that I’ve got the cynical thing off my back, with the comparison to the real London, I thought I’d give you a tour of the London Ont. I know using this blog. Over the next months, I will on occasion post images of what startles my eye in this my hometown of London. What better tour guide than an artist who has lived in this city on and off for almost 40 years. I first immigrated here as a boy of 5 as a boat person from the Netherlands with my parents, who still live here. The first memory I have of the town sign coming into the city was population 75,000 and it has grown by 4 fold since. I studied art here at H.B. Beal Technical School, started my career with a downtown studio, moved away and back in the early 80’s to begin a family with my wife Maria. We have raised two children here, Joshua and Nicole. While I have spent much time abroad over the years living in Amsterdam, Cologne, and New York, we have kept our family home here. It is with surety that I can say, “I am a Londoner”, even if I have become somewhat reclusive to my community of friends here.
Over the years, I have come to know this City very well. As a young man in my twenties, I worked as a Taxi driver to save money to leave London and did, but I know the city well enough to take you where you need to go and be paid cash for it. During that time, I have come to know the sites and sounds of this city, which are worth seeing. The stately homes, the interesting sites, the fine historical buildings, the exceptional views, the interesting eye candy, everything, which makes this London unique in its own way. I’d like to share that knowledge with you in the months to come in pictures or in paintings which I have created about this London. Consider it my pay back to a community, which has nurtured and supported me, where my greater family lives, and where I have raised my wonderful children.

Now as this post uses a lot of comparisons to the real London England (51°, 32 N, 0, 5°W, 5:00 pm.) with this London (43° 2' N, 81°, 9' W ,12:00 noon) I’d like to start with two images, one from both Cities. I went to visit the then new Tate Modern Art Museum in London, England and asked a friend (Zhang Hongtu) to take this picture of me standing in the window of the gallery below. It shows the Thames River looking out at St. Paul’s and the core of the city.

London U.K. as seen from the Tate Modern looking over the Thames with myself in the foreground.

London CDN as seen from the Museum London looking over the Thames with myself in the foreground.

I then came back to the other London a few weeks later, to do an exhibition of my work, and took this picture (on a tripod) from the windows of Museum London on the Thames River. It also shows the Thames River looking out from the core to the west of the city. It is an interesting comparison as it shows the similarities in being London’s with Thames Rivers but that is where the similarities stop. The real London shows a bustling metropolis where as the other London shows a sedate almost tranquil vista of forests and parks right outside of the core, even in winter. I always thought of it as an interesting comparative essay in pictures on so many topics: urban verses suburban, Arborists and the modern city, suspension bridges and cantilevers, the pastoral and the city, the mundane and the spectacular, a tale of two cities, etc. I’d like to share these two images with you for you to decide.

A good start I think, as it indeed conveys something intrinsic about this City in Canada and something which it is proud of, even taking it as a moniker: London – The Forest City. London Canada is known as the Forest City. From the highest Sky Scraper all you can see, even from the core looking out, are large trees that obscure the view of the residences underneath them. In the months to come I’ll support this point by showing you some aerial pictures which I took at 3,000 feet above and outside of the city, proving that even from the air it truly is the Forest City. I like living in this type of habitat surrounded by trees and the fresh oxygen they produce.
Hope you enjoy the images and comeback to see what really titillates my eyes about living in this the other London, eh.


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