Until 18th November there is a fabulous pop-up exhibition called Urban Masters at Factory 7 in Shoreditch (13 Hearn Street, EC2A 3LS). The exhibition, organised by The Opera Gallery, showcases street and urban art by some of the greats, including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, C215, Sweet Toof, ROA and Ron English, to name just a few of the 33 artists involved. Urban Masters attempts to capture the feelings and experience of the artists who were invited to give their personal interpretation on the marks left by art history-makers. Proceeds from the show’s catalogue go to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation.
Here are some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition:
Here’s a video of the exhibition’s installation and opening night:
The big bonus of working in Shoreditch is that I get to pop out to exhibitions in my lunch break. Today I visited The Gallery at 50 Redchurch Street to see the new Ross Watson exhibition.
I have to confess, the main reason I wanted to visit this exhibition was to see one picture – the crowning glory of the exhibition:
The wonderful Stephen Fry is, of course, the star of this picture. The ‘King of Twitter‘ (with 4,822,845 followers at the time of writing), sits clutching his iPad with an intriguing expression on his face. Has he been interrupted while composing a Tweet? Or is he thinking about the scene behind him, in which a young girl receives a letter she most probably had to wait weeks for. In this spectacular picture, Watson makes a comment on today’s technology, and the way in which we are now communicating. Fry, in his eyes alone, adds his own thoughts.
If this had been the only good picture in the exhibition I wouldn’t have minded but, as it turned out, they were all absolutely gorgeous! Here’s a selection:
I do heartily recommend checking out the exhibition for yourself though, if you’re in the area, as the pictures look even better in real life.
Ross Watson was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1962. He has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions since 1984, including important surveys of Australian and international contemporary art at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and in the Toronto and Melbourne International Art Fairs.
You might remember that I wrote earlier this year about the growing trend for attaching locks to bridges to declare one’s love (see here and here) – well today I came across some more love locks. The love locks I found today were attached to a fence near Shoreditch High Street Station. There’s a lot of street art in that area, so I’m not sure if these are all actual declarations of love, or if some are just art, but they’re pretty cool…
When I was a teenager I didn’t fit in. In fact, as soon as I realised that I wasn’t like most of the other kids, I actively tried to do everything I could do be different from “the norm”. I thought other people were sheep, and rebelled against wearing labels or doing anything that was seen as mainstream. I dyed my hair every colour you can imagine, and got quite a lot of piercings. For anyone who’s interested, I looked like this.
My friends and I used to talk about how one day the “freaks” like us would rise up against the rest of the people. I had dreams about people coming up out of the sea like an army of pirates, ready to stand together and do battle against the people who tried to put us down.
I know now that I was just being a teenager, for the most part, but there is still an element of the non-conformist in me.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I really don’t care much for the Olympics. However, I felt that, as I was going to be in the area, I really ought to try to make the effort to be interested and watch the torch go by. It was, after all, probably the only chance I would ever get. I arrived at Great Eastern Street about half an hour before the torch was due, and there were already people lining the streets. I tried to feel their excitement, but couldn’t quite get in the mood. People banged on Coca-Cola sponsored drum things that were being handed out, drank free Coca-Cola and waved flags.
Prior to arriving, I had been at the Whitecross Street Party, dubbed “The Rise of the Non-Conformists”.
I had wandered up and down the street, happily snapping photographs of street art and artists at work, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I chatted with the artist DON about his recent work and watched him stencilling a new piece out on the street.
Then I popped in a gallery and a lovely girl dabbed glitter on my face and took my photo to put on Facebook, and I felt like I belonged.
Standing waiting for the torch, I listened to some people talking next to me. They were full of almost obsessive excitement for the Olympics, and I felt like turning around and just asking them “why?”, but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have understood me any more than I understood them.
When the torch came by, it was all over in a flash and something of an anti-climax. I barely saw the guy who was carrying it, and didn’t have a clue who he was anyway.
So I headed back to Whitecross Street, back to my people. When I got back there, the streets were buzzing with life, colour, good smells and great sounds. Eating a delicious chocolate brownie, I happily mingled with the non-conformists, and watched an artist called INKFETISH painting this somewhat anti-Olympics piece…
And another artist called FETCH painting this:
Enjoy the Olympics if that’s your thing, but these are my people, and this is where I’ll be.
In March I went to an exhibition at Tony’s Gallery in Shoreditch and got two for the price of one. The artist I went to see was OLEK, but I didn’t realise the gallery also had an artist in residence: Malarky.
I’ll start with OLEK’s exhibition, “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone”. This was the first UK solo exhibition by Polish-born, New York-based artist OLEK.
The exhibition or, rather, installation, was basically a knitted room. Everything as far as the eye could see was knitted, crocheted or wrapped in wool. Even the floor. It was unfortunate that it was raining heavily on the day I visited the gallery, but it was nice to take off my wet boots and walk about on the wooly carpet for a while.
I’m not art expert, but I enjoyed the exhibition. It was fun, playful, and certainly unique. I particularly liked the people.
If you’re after some arty blurb, here’s a quote about OLEK’s work from the Tony’s Gallery website:
Both playful and rich in metaphor, the brightly coloured work on display features multiple designs including Olek’s trademark camouflage motif. The omnipresence of explicit messages crocheted into the objects, are statements revealing her position as a female artist in an art world that is inclined to have sexist opinions. These text-based pieces replicate actual missives sent to the artist by SMS text messaging, immortalising intimate details of her past relationships. The viewer thus becomes witness to Olek’s personal history as she continues her exploration of modern day concerns, touching upon the themes of privacy, technology and communication.
The show’s title is a direct quote from “I do not expect”, an appliquéd blanket produced by Tracey Emin in 2002.
I have to say, I prefer OLEK’s work to Emin’s, although I can see that they do both fall into the same camp of “I wouldn’t really want that on my wall”.
As I mentioned earlier, I was also able to see some of Malarky’s work at Tony’s Gallery. Actually, it’s never that hard to see Malarky’s work as he’s a street artist and his pieces are all over Shoreditch. What I liked at Tony’s was the way that his work became incorporated with OLEK’s.
Malarky’s work was also on display downstairs in the gallery:
It was weird to see Malary’s work so small, as it’s usually so big:
There’s been a lot of fuss in the press this week over the new Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern. The media have been labelling his work “con-art” and saying that it s a case of “the emperor’s new clothes”. Art is so subjective – one man’s art is another man’s rubbish – so who’s to say what belongs in galleries? Is Hirst’s work any better or worse than Emin’s, or indeed OLEK’s? Does the fact the Malarky usually paints on walls make his work any less valuable than Hirst’s? What do you think?
Tony’s Gallery: website
Today I had the day off and ended up down the Southbank. It was a glorious day, and something incredibly cool happened. I always stop by the skate park when I’m walking past so I can see the latest graffiti and street art. I have become quite the graffiti hunter over the last few months, and love to find new pieces by my favourite artists. A lot of people think graffiti is just vandalism, but it’s not. I agree that some tagging can just look messy, but have you seen some of the art on the streets of London? Some of it is really incredible.
One of my favourite street artists is Paul DON Smith, and today I was lucky enough to run into him while he was producing a brand new piece of work.
DON’s work, along with a small collection of other street artists, is what I would call “real art”. His work, quite often portraits, is beautiful and full of so much detail. The piece I saw him painting today took about an hour and a half, which I never would have imagined. You always think of graffiti as being something fast, not something which consists of layers and layers of paint applied using different shades of spray paint and different stencils. Details are added in with marker pens and tipex, and it’s so much more than just writing your name on a wall.
Once I realised I was watching DON at work, I had to stick around to the end. The finishing touch was a stencil of the words “queen saved the God”.
When I spoke to DON, he seemed particularly proud of this little twist. He said he’d been thinking about the Queen and religion, and wondering if people in the UK were losing their faith. He said this was a “thinky piece” and it is. I love how he’s used an image of the famous Michelangelo piece and turned it into a comment on the state of religion in the uk.
I spoke to Don briefly after he finished his new piece, and asked him how he could get away with working in broad daylight. He said that it was ok on this particular part of the Southbank (there were two other artists working at the time), and that he usually worked during the day and didn’t “give a fuck” about getting caught. He was off to Shoreditch to paint the same piece there, too, and happily posed for a photo before leaving.
Interestingly, DON seemed keen to get his work in a gallery, but I personally think the streets of London are a better gallery for his work than any four walls could be.
Keep an eye out for Don’s work around London. There’s a lot down at the Southbank skate park, and around Shoreditch, although they do tend to get painted over quite quickly. One you’ll see a lot is his money man – a banker who is just letting all the money run down the drain.
Here are some other pieces by Don, which I think you’ll agree are much more than mindless vandalism.