Friday, May 31, 2013

'Insider Gallery' Launch at Curious Duke Gallery, 30th May 2013

I reckon if you live in London, you have a duty to force-feed yourself as much culture as you can possibly stomach.  This can involve venturing to the mysterious outer ends of the Tube network, but occasionally it's as simple a task as walking five minutes down the street from your front door.  I live in Whitecross Street and I love it.  By day there's a famous world food market, by night there's a great fish and chip shop as well as some great Chinese, Turkish, Italian and Japanese restaurants.  To top it off there's two nice pubs, an achingly cool coffee shop, a well stocked Waitrose and a 24 hour off-licence.  At the end of the street is the Barbican Arts Centre! It's a brilliant place to live!

But I've shamefully neglected one important aspect: the art scene.  Although I eagerly look forward to the annual Whitecross Street Party, there are two galleries on the street that I've scarcely set foot in over the four years I've lived here.  The street is developing a minor reputation for street art these days, with an enormous piece by Conor Harington having survived the year, and a huge mural concealing a building site brightening up the centre of the street.  Dotted around are other small graphic-y pieces on walls and bits of street furniture.  

So when I got chatting to Lee Bofkin outside the Curious Duke Gallery I was excited to hear about his plans.  The steel shutters of the restaurants opposite the gallery were to turned into works of art as part of the launch party for an exhibition called 'Insider Art'.  Peeking through the window I saw a decorated axe and hammer suspended in mid-air.  They looked pretty cool, so I made plans to head along last night to see what else they had in store.  I also figured there was a good chance there'd be free booze.

There's always a slight disconnection when you're viewing (what is sort of) street art like this in a gallery space.  Street art gains much of its power from location.  There's an anti-establishment guerilla thrill to seeing, for example, ROA's enormous woodland animals peeking around corners - partially because of sheer graphic impact and partially because they reclaim the world for artistic expression rather than utilitarian functionality.  Place these in a gallery and they become absorbed into an art 'canon', suddenly placed within an establishment.  Curious Duke are obviously aware of this, the title of the show Insider Gallery being a neat bit of wordplay as regards this shift in context.

This change in surroundings has interesting effects on how we perceive the art.  Much of what's on display has a strong graphic design element to it.  A large proportion of the work uses techniques from animation and comic-book art: thick black lines and bright clashing colours, the effect being that the art loudly pops against the white gallery walls.  In its natural habitat the brightness and thick lines are designed attract the eyes of passerbys, but in a busy gallery space you get a sensation of everything fighting for your attention.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, although it can lead to a slight visual exhaustion.  

Ferres - Axe
Even so, some works stand out a mile.  Ferres' decorated hammer and axe hanging in the window gain a palpable power purely in how they're displayed.  Suspending them in mid-air grants them a dangerous potential energy.  The monofilament they dangle on is almost invisible, leaving them in a neverending freefall.  Then there's the tantalising question of what their purpose: are they building tools or murder weapons?  I also very much enjoyed SPZero76's SP Skull, although slightly for slightly less well thought-out reasons. I just think the girl in it looks cool as hell and I love the artist's chunky shading technique.

SPZero76 - SP Skull
One effect of the gallery being packed with this eye-catching work is that the slightly subtler pieces seem that much more delicate. I particularly enjoyed Ben Murphy's pictures of women painted or drawn directly onto panes of glass.  The sharp, confident lines reminded me of Jamie Hernandez' work in Love & Rockets. Placing designs like this on glass gives it a nice fragility that works well in opposition to the strong design.  Similarly monochromatic was Andrew Corlett's Fall 2 Framed, which reminded me of the photographic collages of Alexander Rodchenko.  I was also impressed by The Revelation that Nobody Cared About by Mateus Bailon, which immediately brought to mind faded childhood wallpaper, or illustrations from Victorian children's books.

Andrew Corlett - Fall 2 Framed
Bringing 'outside' art inside has an interesting effect on the people attending.  Throughout the night I observed people moving through the gallery snapping pictures on their phones, systematically moving through the gallery until they'd digitally recorded everything on offer.  Admittedly, I'm as guilty of this as anyone else (in mitigation I do use the pictures to both jog my memory and illustrate these articles).  This process mirrors how people behave around street art when they encounter it in situ.  By snapping a picture of it they're engaged in the process of preservation, which is a way of both complimenting the artist and, in a minor way, contributing to the artistic process by reproducing the work.  After all, some council busybody could have blotted it out by tomorrow and you'll never see it again.

In a gallery the point of walking around snapping photos of everything is slightly less clear.  If you're feeling uncharitable you could suggest that the act of viewing a piece of art has been reduced to merely getting proof that you've been in its presence rather than engaging with it in any thoughtful way.  Then again, given that a lot of this art appears designed to  be explicitly 'cool' looking, maybe these snappers just want to show it off to their friends and in the unconscious hope that some of coolness rubs off on them, or maybe it's as simple as not wanting to forget a nice night.

Anyhows, I had a great time.  I have to pinch myself to remind me how lucky I am to have this sort of thing almost literally on my doorstep.  Many thanks for Lee Bofkin and everybody at Curious Duke for putting together a nicely varied collection of striking art (and also for the free beer).

'Insider Gallery' runs from 28th May to 13th June 2013 at the Curious Duke Gallery, 207 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8QP

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

0 Responses to “'Insider Gallery' Launch at Curious Duke Gallery, 30th May 2013”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights