why not?


Celebrating public art and Penge.

#ViewReview South London Expo

This week marks the last week of the exhibition #ViewReview at the Paxton Centre, Crystal Palace.

As this is an exhibition I put together, this won't really be a review, but a piece to give a basic overview, and maybe to ask what happens to street-art when it is taken off the street?

The exhibition was set up as a chance to show how varied the creatives are in South East London, and to give a small taste of what is on offer here, a kind of cross section. Street art cannot be ignored, its simply such a big part of the art scene here. There is a huge graffiti community, from this comes some of the street art, although art in this part of London is also fed by other sources: Croydon College of Art and Design, The Horniman museum and Dulwich picture gallery for example. The existence of so many small independent graphic designers, tattoo artists, makers, printers, t-shirt bootleggers, craft fairs and art trails all play their part too.

View Review 3

The artists were approached first off because I had either worked with them or seen their work before, and I admired what they do. Some of these people I'd never met and only talked to through social media and this was a great opportunity for me to meet them and see their work in the flesh, and to show off this work that i loved and admired so much to the local community.

The artists exhibited are: Corali Houlton, Laura Ward, Lara Proctor (photography), Tubecomix (paint), Zoe Hodgson, Bareface (print), Daniel Battams (mixed media) and Dope (stencil art). All of the artists are based in S.E.London and all react to their surroundings in different ways. Bareface, Dope and Battams are all street artists, although their routes to this are very different.

Dope started out in Brixton, had interests in graffiti from a young age, and has travelled from tags and bigger pieces to the stencils he uses today.

Bareface's street presence is in wheat-pastes, images that are pre-printed and put up using the same glue bill posters and advertisement hoardings use. This allows for complex and detailed pieces to be put up in seconds (with practise: i couldn't do it).

Daniel Battams is seen on hoardings and may almost be referred to as a muralist in the old tradition, his stuff is on the streets and can be seen alongside more established street and graffiti artists but has more of an art school feel.

View Review 2

So what do street artists gain from a gallery setting, and what do they lose?

The obvious constraint is one of size, the difference between a 10ft by 30ft street hoarding and a 40cm x 50cm canvas. This is actually self inflicted to a certain extent, there are obviously more traditional 'gallery' artists who work on a huge scale, Pollock and Koons for example. But it seems that this constraint is almost necessary, while its self inflicted its something the majority of street artists do when they make this transition, and in fact this constraint is something that often forces the artist to look at they're technique with more scrutiny.

Having followed Dopes progress over the past couple of years I know that he has been developing to include more stencils per piece, this process is made easier by working on canvas rather than a wall, less wind and rain to interfere. Bareface has gone from digitally manipulated images on posters to screen printing his own posters, creating the screens and hand printing. This cuts down the number of pieces possible in an edition, and adds an element of chance into the whole process. Things can happen that are unexpected and he's exploring the use of spray paint and other things applied to the paper before and after the actual print. Battams already has an illustration and design background, but work now includes photography of his street pieces and this informs his other photographic collages.

And what about the rest of the artists? How does it all come together? Lara Proctor's photography is experimental, modern and definitely informed by her surroundings. The result is a body of work that is often bright and confident and sometimes shouts of its subject matter, subject matter that never really existed in the real world. Laura Ward's photography is more a search for fleeting and hidden beauty, pictures of Crystal Palace park and quiet railway tracks, a calm lake, or a gutter, interrupted by the splash of colour from a dropped punnet of fruit. Corali Houlton's work finds beauty in the city itself, wether that be in New York, Philadelphia or Penge. Tubecomix work is becoming increasingly abstract, a response to abandoned shops and pubs has developed into an obsession with street signs and typefaces and so the theme of the show feeds back into graffiti and the urban landscape. These people have responded to the urban landscape while the street artists could be seen as being a part of it. It wouldn't seem out of place to see one of Barefaces wheat pastes in a photograph by Houlton for example, or for Tubecomix to capture a tag scrawled across a fire exit.

One thing is definitely clear, it is South East London that links all these artists, and whatever the street artists miss from being taken from the street, this has only served to help them develop in different directions. And it doesn't mean they can't then take what they have developed back out onto the street again.

Go along to catch the exhibition and see what you think yourself, its on til the end of May.