Thursday, 25 July 2019

The Start Of The End - ODDO, MCLN, Savant and DaddyStreetFox

ODDO, MCLN, Savant and DaddyStreetFox

Monty's Bar
49 Brick Lane;

11th July - 25th July 2019

ODDO and fellow street artists Savant, MCLN and Daddy Street Fox have a group show at Monty’s Bar and it is fascinating to see what they get up to when freed of some of the “issues” or perhaps limitations of outdoor walls.

Oddo has a particularly varied range of street art styles, mainly all leaning towards the sinister.

ODDO - Shoreditch, 2018
ODDO - Shoreditch, 2018

ODDO - Shoreditch, 2018
ODDO - Shoreditch, 2018

ODDO - Shoreditch
ODDO - Shoreditch, 2018

Indoors Oddo pretty much replicates the breadth of styles but really amps up the dark, warped and bizarre. Introducing the hairy babies! They look spooky on the streets, they are awesome in the rough sculptural creations in this show.

ODDO - My Ball Is Burning (Ring Of Fire)
ODDO - My Ball Is Burning (Ring Of Fire)

ODDO - You called, me lady?
ODDO - You Called, Me lady?

ODDO - Hairy Babies!

ODDO - More Tea Vicar
ODDO - More Tea Vicar

Many facing the Start of The End might be inclined to experience religious awakenings or religious conversions and a lot of Oddo’s characters appear in gloomy hoods, I had often attributed a sinister demeanour to the characters but in the context of this show we read a monk-like appearance.

ODDO - Overview
ODDO - Overview

Framed works on paper serve to underline how faithful the street paste ups are to Oddo’s indoor art.

ODDO - Do I Know Your Name
ODDO - Do I Know Your Name?

ODDO - Pre French War Porn
ODDO - Pre French War Porn

ODDO - Ching Ching
ODDO - Ching Ching

There is a curious symbolism possibly present in the DaddyStreetFox art originating in the gothic religious overtones. The Start Of The End is nigh perhaps?  DSF’s contributions have a direct line from the layered collages in frames in the gallery to the photos of the collages as seen on the streets.

DaddyStreetFox - From The Wood (paste up)
DaddyStreetFox - From The Wood (Brick Lane paste up, 2018)

DaddyStreetFox - From The Wood (collage)
DaddyStreetFox - From The Wood (collage)

The fox frequently appears dressed as a priest or perhaps a choirboy while the stunning colours resemble a church stained glass window. Stained glass windows perform a range of functions beyond merely permitting the entry of muted colourful tones into a church, they denote patronage and wealth, they are a mechanism by which sinners seek favours to turn left on passing through the pearly gates and they promoted the religious indoctrination of a largely illiterate congregation. The ecclesiastical fox appears in stain glass windows from as early as the 14th century and has been interpreted as a criticism or accusation of slyness or hypocrisy in the church. 

DaddyStreetFox - Burning Chapel (collage)
DaddyStreetFox - Burning Chapel (collage)

DaddyStreetFox - Burning Chapel (paste up)
DaddyStreetFox - Burning Chapel (paste up, 2019) (or - "bastard fox got the bins again")

The preaching fox is also to be found on misericords in some old churches, misericords are small lips on the front edge of a hinged church seat which when the seat is raised allows the user to perch partially seated on the lip, a bit like those bum cushions on the Bakerloo line. Some of those old wooden misericords in ancient churches were formed as elaborate decorative friezes and the preacher fox was sometimes there as a kind of jocular warning. DaddyStreetFox’s foxes never look comical or avuncular.

DaddyStreetFox - From The Corpses, Flowers Grow (collage)
From The Corpses, Flowers Grow (collage)

DaddyStreetFox - From The Corpses, Flowers Grow (paste up)
DaddyStreetFox - From The Corpses, Flowers Grow (paste up, Brick Lane 2019)

It’s a “possible” symbolism because there is large probability that this is nothing to do with Daddy Street Fox’s artistic inspiration.

MCLN’s plague doctor has been a charming and occasionally emotionally charged character that has decorated Shoreditch walls for several years now but the artist appears to have embraced other characters this year.

MCLN, Shoreditch 2019
MCLN, Shoreditch 2019

MCLN, Shoreditch 2019
MCLN, Shoreditch 2018

I once made up an interpretation of the changes in the appearance and demeanour of the plague doctor liking it to the possible arc of the plague doctor's love life and by implication, that of the artist. This was complete fiction and bore no resemblance to the artist’s true love life at all!  A new MCLN character has emerged, a battered face rooted to the ground by a pedestal which appears organically to be grow into the head. Dark clouds hover overhead; life, money and religion (again) is symbolised in monuments and various detritus, truly this character does seem to have reached the end.  Mosques, crosses, churches and pyramids all link to Matters Of Meaning.

MCLN - Matters Of Meaning
MCLN - Matters Of Meaning

MCLN Expedition Kindred
MCLN - Epedition Kindred

MCLN - The Elmer Room
MCLN - The Elmer Room

Savant is one of Shoreditch’s more prolific street artists with a reputation for complex imagery populated by ghosts, themes of darkness and death in a surreal Dadaist style utilising collages of text and imagery.

Savant, Shoreditch 2019
Savant, Shoreditch 2019

Intriguing and easy to like, Savant’s art translates well into the theme of the show and the company it is keeping.  Thankfully our favourite wasn’t for sale as temptation is notoriously difficult to resist.

Savant - Entropy
Savant - Entropy

Graffoto has always had a penchant for art hosted in rather more distressed locations than the typical art world white box gallery, think Pure Evil Gallery and BSMT Space. This show is hosted by Monty’s bar which has built a reputation over the years as a great bar and an art programme reliably tapping into the more intriguing street artists , that kind of creative energy that thrives below the level of permissioned murals and art collectors flipping the art in the big auction houses which is not uncommon among some “jet set” street artists. The Start of The End taps perfectly the Monty’s Bar ambience and that is a good thing.

Monty's Bar

Monty's Bar

Monty's Bar


ODDO instagram

daddyStreetFox instagram

MCLN instagram

Savant Instagram

Monty's Bar Facebook

all photos: Dave Stuart

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Benjamin Irritant - "Forget You Ever Saw Me"

Atom Gallery
127 Green Lanes, Stoke Newington,
London N16 9DA
18 May – 8 June 2019

Anti consumerism and anti advertising has been a street art staple street art since day dot. In 2017 black and white paste ups started to appear around Shoreditch with fully formed views on these subjects and they looked awesome. The messages were clear, the imagery was clever and witty and the art and locations really ticked all the boxes.

Benjamin Irritant
Shoreditch 2017

Benjamin Irritant
Shoreditch 2017

Benjamin Irritant
Shoreditch 2018

The artist is question was Benjamin Irritant and the art employed surreal collagism to spear establishment privilege, environmental complacency and set a fresh agenda.

Paste up street artists face several challenges when their art moves indoors. Can the ideas that look so thought provoking or stimulating outdoors avoid becoming mere cartoons in a gallery. Can the artist up the production quality to give the art the longevity that simply is not required in the street art arena?

Benjamin Irritant
Shoreditch 2018

In one way, Benjamin – let’s not shorthand him as Irritant, that just wouldn’t be terribly kind – does indoors exactly what he does outdoors, lots of paste ups. The human size bunny headed characters on the gallery wall did a great job of eavesdropping on the any chin stroking art gallery conversations going on.

Benjamin Irritant - Rabbit Rabbit Yak Yak Rabbit
Rabbit Rabbit Yak Yak Rabbit

Benjamin Irritant - It Isn't All that Great
"It Isn't That Great"

The Churchillian hands looked particularly effective in halftone form screen printed onto the gallery window, whether you are in the gallery or outside there is a certain “FUCK YOU” evident and who’s to say that’s not implicit in a lot of Benjamin’s art.

Benjamin Irritant - Forget You Ever Saw Me

Benjamin Irritant - Forget You Ever Saw Me

The Bunny rabbits bring a sense of fun and perhaps absurdity to the party. They could connect to Alice in Wonderland or you might even think a kind of Donnie Darko weirdness is afoot.

Benjamin Irritant - It Isn't All that Great

Benjamin Irritant - Expect A Comedown
Expect A Comedown

The real point of the show though is the actual framed art and the art is both fascinating in content and beautifully executed.

Benjamin Irritant - Anything Is Possible
Anything Is Possible

Benjamin Irritant - You Are Free
You Are Free

Benjamin Irritant - We Are Ungovernable
We Are Ungovernable

Benjamin Irritant - We Have A List
We Have A List

Benjamin Irritant - We've Got Your Walls
We've Got Your Walls

The cacophony of paste ups on the street reached a cacophony in the days leading up to the show and there were two particular pieces which these eyes had not observed on the streets before “We are Ungovernable” and “Social Control – Not Anymore”, which are now both available in the gallery.

Benjamin Irritant
Shoreditch, 2019

Benjamin Irritant
Brick Lane, 2019

Benjamin Irritant

Benjamin Irritant - Social Control  - Not Any More
Social Control - Not Any More

Check the way the art has been assembled, we suspect the original collages are screenprinted on heavyweight paper, they appear to be mounted on board and then set into deep frames creating depth.

Benjamin Irritant - We Are Ungovernable
We Are Ungovernable

Graffoto has got out of the habit of publishing alcohol fuelled reviews the morning after art show private views but in sympathy with the White Rabbit "Oh dear, oh dear! I shall be too late!" is our perpetual concern. At time of writing there are 3 viewing days open before the show closes its well worth the schlep, hopefully you won’t forget you saw him.

Benjamin Irritant - That's Flawed Folks
That's Flawed Folks

Benjamin Irritant: Instagram
Atom Gallery: website
All Photos: Dave Stuart

Benjamin Irritant - Hysterical Mass Consumerism

Saturday, 25 May 2019

New Old Banksy Street Art In Shoreditch

Banksy street art hidden for many years has been brought out of limbo in Shoreditch, visible at last to the millions of street art fans new to Banksy’s art since it last doused itself under East London rain. Two images, a huge rat and a TV being chucked rock star style out of a window have lain out of sight under protective wooden sheeting for 12 years though they are perhaps among the more “storied” of Banksy’s street artworks.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Not one but TWO Banksy relics

Banksy frequented the legendary Shoreditch art and drinking establishment The Foundry, pincered between Great Eastern St and Old St and was a good friend of the hosts Tracey and Jonathan Moberly. Tracey told Graffoto that from around 2002 Banksy was very active inside, outside and around the Foundry, in that period he painted genuine masterpieces such as the Have A Nice Day helicopter above the chip shop opposite Foundry and the earliest of the Pulp Fiction pieces that faced the Foundry from the tube station building 100 yards away.

Old Street feat Banksy
Old St feat Banksy's 2nd Pulp Fiction

The Foundry was an amazing melting pot bringing together creative, cultural and cool people and stimulated all kinds of interactions. Courier cyclists were a specific sub-species who made a base at the Foundry and some evenings (particularly warm ones!) the pavement outside the foundry would be a crush of grimy bike couriers. It was a group of cyclists who organised the festival in the unlicensed car park to the rear of the Foundry for which Banksy painted the rat and the TV.

Eine & Banksy
Banksy feat remnant of "Last Days Of Shoreditch", Eine, photo 2019

In 2010, Hackney Council had a pretty hostile attitude to graffiti and was equally intolerant of street art, as the Moberly’s witnessed with the council’s repeated buffing of great art that appeared legally with permission outside the Foundry. The council then turned round and made the preservation of the TV and the rat a condition of the planning consent for the demolition of the existing building and its replacement by what was to be an 18 storey hotel but now has permission for 22 storeys. Should these Banksys have been elevated to heritage status?

Eine, Foundry Car Park
Protect that rat 2019 (clue: underneath that wooden wedge)

The TV out the window stencil, a brilliant rock and roll cliché, looked like it was made for that wall, it’s an image that has to be on the side of a windowless building that looks like it ought to have windows. The image wouldn’t work on say a garden wall or a bridge support.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park

Inside the Foundry all kinds of crazy things went on and prominent in the bar was a array of flickering TVs, a TV flying out the window from the Foundry seemed entirely plausible.

Foundry Photo Jonathan Moberly, 2010
Foundry 2010: Graffoto, anonymous street artist, Tracey Moberly and a selection of TVs. Photo courtesy Jonathan Moberly

The TV out the window makes an appearance in Banksy’s 2005 book Wall and Piece but is not the Foundry one, the one in the book was up by Angel and by the time I located it the TV had been buffed (higher up the wall above this image) but Banksy’s tag was still visible and Shepard Fairey had visited.

Banksy tag, Shepard Fairey, 2006
Banksy tag, Shepard Fairey, 2006

Not only is the Foundry TV nicely placed and well executed, it has a Banksy tag next to it and they are increasingly rare out in the wild. In fact including this one I can only think of 3 surviving outdoors in London and we must fear for the existence of one of the other two as there is an artist’s impression of a development which shows the surface the tag is on is earmarked to disappear.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Banksy stencil tag

The rat has always been a bit unsatisfactory, the reasons Graffoto criticised the council’s decision to preserve that rat are as valid today as they were back in 2010. It has never been clear what this rat is about, it rejoices in the nickname “Eat the rich” and is often described as a rat with a knife and fork but if you look carefully that is actually a jigsaw blade not a knife and the fork is more like a harpoon or a pitchfork, forks don’t neck down from the handle then widen into the prongs. We don’t know what the rat is doing, why it belongs at this location nor what the red ring around the eye is about and the technique is a bit sloppy. The things that look like fins are probably meant to be bedraggled fur, at least that’s what they look like on other Banksy rats but on this one it looks like a weird dorsal fin or the conning tower on a submarine.

Banksy Rat - Go Back To Bed, photo 2006
Banksy rat - that's what we call bedraggled, photo 2006, Smithfelds

However Banksy’s street art isn’t diminished by poor execution, they were never meant to be superb specimens of perfectly executed art and indeed evidence of haste is perhaps part of the essence of the way Banksy has to create his street art. Banksy’s relationship with the Foundry and the use by the Foundry of that car park to stage events suggests this rat probably wasn’t subject to the usual tensions of illegality, perhaps it could have been better executed, maybe like the ones in Cargo.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park

More significantly, Banksy hated the rat! Tracey whispered to Graffoto last year that Banksy thought the rat was a piece of shit. Furthermore, when asked to comment on the closure of the Foundry in a 2010 BBC news broadcast, Banksy contributed via one of his classic emails saying

“No one ever went there for the beer-it was always a bit warm and flat. I would appeal to the developers not to keep my graffiti. It’s a bit like demolishing the Tate and preserving the ice cream van out the front.” 
Banksy, Newsnight email 4 Feb 2010”

There you have it, the artist Banksy does not wish the art to be preserved so the council’s 2010 decision is morally dubious to say the least. Note also the explicit confirmation that the artwork is a genuine Banksy, assuming of course that the BBC weren’t being spoofed.

Preservation of these Banksy pieces began before the planning decision though. The protective sheeting enclosing the TV and rat was erected in 2007, perhaps the idea of incorporating the Banksys on the Foundry site into the new hotel had already formed in the owners’ and operator’s minds at that time.  An early painting of that slanting façade was by Burning Candy members Sweet Toof and Cyclops, wittily captioning their creation Rat Trap.

Burning Candy
Sweet Toof, Cyclops BC 2008

The immediate future for the rat and the TV is that metal frames are going to be constructed around them and after separating the wall from the rest of the building structure and dismantling the walls above the art by hand, a massive crane is going to be used to lift the two wall segments separately over the building where they will be stored covered up at the front of the building site. The developers have not made their ultimate intention clear, their obligation is to provide free viewing access to the public of these two Banksys either within the hotel or somewhere else within the Borough. The developer is known to have planned to include 6 other Banksys from the Foundry building within the so-called Art’otel development but none of the other 6 survive.

00456961 optimised extract copy
First, skin your rat

A few weeks ago Graffoto got an exclusive opportunity to watch the sheeting came down and the TV and rat were seen again for the first time in 12 years. As the sheets came off the first thing that appeared was the top parts of the old fire extinguisher ATG tag and it was immediately apparent that he paint had survived in pretty good condition.

ATG Fire Extinguisher Graff; EINE

After barely an hour of watching other people do real work, the TV and the rat were revealed in all their glory

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Banksy Rat (detail) 2019

For the meantime, make the most of the brief period visibility of those two Banksys before they lose whatever sense of context they may have had in their original location and ponder the puzzle of why the council decided to preserve this rubbishy rat against the artist’s own wishes yet remain oblivious to some real masterpieces that appeared on the Foundry building before and since.

Elmo, Tango ATG & Banksy
Elmo lean-over, Tango ATG - and Banksy. You decide!

Elmo, ATG
Elmo ATG, Goldpeg, Sweet Toof & the buff 2011

Elmo, Milo Tchais, Zezao, Tek 33
Elmo, Milo Tchais, Zezao, Tek 33; Feb 2011

ROA, 2011 (okay, it's a different elevation but its too good not to include as art that the council has not protected)

Elmo, Masker, Milo Tchais, Run, Zezao, Gerard Gademann
Elmo, Masker, Milo Tchais, Run, Zezao, Gerard Gademann; May 2011

Elmo, Mr Wany, Masker, Zezao
Elmo, Mr Wany, Masker, Zezao 2012

Mr Wany
Mr Wany, desecrated by an advert, 2012

Jo Peel
Jo Peel animation, 2013

Fintan Magee
Fintan Magee (detail) 2014, also feat Eine, Pez, ALO, Borondo

Phlegm, 2015

Eine last days of shoreditch
Eine, 2016

Related Posts:

2010: Hackney Council insists on rat/TV preservation Graffoto post

2018: Foundry/Red Gallery Building closes Graffoto post

All photos: Dave Stuart except Jonathan Moberly where noted