Sunday, July 6, 2014

(60) Days of Summer at Curious Duke Gallery

Just a quick report from Curious Duke, my favourite local gallery.  They're on a bit of a winning streak at the moment with their exhibitions, picking punkish young artists with street-honed sensibilities and a drive to reexamine the cityscape.  For the last few months they've exhibited the work of individual artists, but now that the summer's here they've put forward a multitude of works.  Here's some things that caught my eye:

First up was Mark Powell's Needle Craft, a bic biro drawing upon an antique document.  I immediately found this wistful, relaxed picture of Amelia Earhart incredibly sad. The Earhart story of a woman successfully battling against gender boundaries and grasping the infinite freedom of the clear blue sky has a pleasing poetry to it.  Counterbalancing this joy is the tragedy of her mysterious death while trying to fly around the world.  Powell's piece marries much of this into one image, Earhart posing with practical, posed femininity and pausing to look at a plane soaring through the clouds.  

Needle Craft - Mark Powell (sorry for the reflections)
Interposed between the two Powell has inserted one of his trademark birds.  Rendered in scientific, clinical detail its placement has an air of the hallucinogenic to it, as if this is the representation of the thoughts flickering through Earhart's mind at this particular moment.  The bird feels like an omen of her eventual demise and perhaps an indication of the aviatrix forever reincarnated in the the skies.  Exacerbating this sad air is the aged, ragged edges of the magazine, what was once forward looking and futuristic is now slowly being forgotten and destroyed.

Miley Smash Hits - DS
Now, in one unlikely stride we move from Amelia Earhart to Miley Cyrus.  DS's Miley Smash Hits is perhaps one of the most brazenly cheesed up pictures I've ever seen on a gallery. This is the epitome of the ephemeral; a screengrab of Cyrus from the Wrecking Ball video with some crude photoshop filters applied over the top smashing up the Disney logo.  In the corner stands Mickey Mouse, quite understandably glaring in annoyance.  As a visual depiction of Cyrus's metamorphosis from squeaky clean teen queen to crotch rubbing, tongue lashing party bitch it's pretty effective... but why?! It's the kind of image that'd be right at home blaring out from a Camden Market T-Shirt shop; something devoid of class, subtly and taste - but I kind of love it.  I respect the gumption of any artist that exhibits something that waggles a middle finger this hard in the face of bourgeois respectability and aesthetics.

But what most jumped off the walls at me here was Dan Rawling's Building the Den 01 & 02. These are antique wood saws that've been assaulted with a plasma cutter, forestry scenes being carved from the sheet metal of the saws.  First and foremost they are beautiful, intricate objects; the worn sturdiness and weight of the saw contrasting perfectly against the detail of the design upon them.  The minute gaps beetween the leaves of the branches are a sight to behold - organic chaos in flat metal.  But there's also a playful humour in action here - a hall of mirrors effect in which the very thing the saw is meant to destroy is outlined in such beauty.  It's ace.

This is but a small taster - there's a ton of interesting stuff down at Curious Duke.  Much of it I've covered before in these pages - from the satirical microcosms of Roy's People to the stylish fashion dogs of Agnetha Sjögren to Tannaz Oroumchi's warped maps of London to Darragh Powell's apocalyptic, deathy bird populated cityscapes.

With the Whitecross Street Party scant weeks away the street has begun its annual blossoming into a nerve centre of the London art world.  Curious Duke sits at the epicentre of this, and (60) Days of Summer works as a perfect smörgåsbord of what's in store for us over the next few months.  Whet your appetite, check it out and tell 'em London City Nights sent you.

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