Saturday, 29 November 2008

Herakut - Dirty Laundry

27th NOV - 7th DEC 2008
22 Wellington Street, London,

As the year draws to a close (how do artists tell when its holidays?), German boy and girl duo Herakut have staged a show of new commissioned art works through Campbarbossa, gallery with no fixed abode. The show is a sumptuous ensemble of the recent fruits of their labour and as nothing is for sale, it’s a pressure-free tribute and worship-fest.

The setting consists of a small white walled space at street level, walls maxed out with the familiar flesh tones of characteristic Herakut canvasses, while the basement becomes a sort of Dickensian upstairs-downstairs kind of maid’s parlour taking the theme of the show’s title, which itself is a title of one of the canvasses. On show are paintings by Herakut, sketches by Hera and installation elements.

Herakut: Dirty Laundry. photo: Wallkandy

Herakut is the blended word identity of the two artists Hera and Akut, and the first lesson in the increasing difficult game of spotting the artist the Herakut template is to notice the photorealistic finish imparted by Akut to eyes, lips, and the more honey skinned flesh. Hera is behind the more dramatic and flowing figurative touches and the pasty monochromatic skin not to mention the surreal blending of humans and animals as well as the slightly bizarre written statements.

At last year’s well received London show “Permission To Paint”, a piece which continues to resonate was called God Loves Ugly, this confidence boosting statement reflects Hera’s ugly ducking syndrome and is key to understanding the sentiment behind a number of the works in the Dirty Laundry show.

God Loves Ugly

A Herakut figure can be incredibly elfin, pert and slender, or with heavy thighs, broad hips and generous midriff. The details may be drawn as if they are ugly, but God isn’t the only one who loves them. Curious to note some seriously over-size feet in a couple of the pictures.


Many of the canvasses continue last years theme of blending human and animal characteristics, through flipping the dynamic Herakut refer to the pet lover’s habit of bestowing human characteristics upon their animals behaviour, Hera and Akut are both keen pet lovers. The pug has been seen in many Herakut pieces over the last 12 months but there is only one in this show and that followed a suggestion from the buyer who commissioned the piece.

Rapacious wolves, rat faces and bunny masks are common through the many of the pieces, and it is a signature characteristic of Herakut that there is an element of melancholy in the sad eyed juvenile faces protruding under the masks. A sexual metaphor is evident in many of the Herakut paintings, none more so than in those pieces featuring a wolf about to dine upon a poor hapless naked victim. Hera highlights the malevolent influence of sex as a root cause of abuse.

She Thought She Was Too Cute

Figures tend to be done with either a rich honey-skinned tone or a deathly, pastey pale, reflecting the hand applied the paint. Most eyecatching are the gorgeous renditions of soft and smooth flesh, usually culminating in a pair of young, firm breasts. That’ll do fine thank you.

For You I’ll Do The Wierdest Shit

Hera and Akut combine photorealism and monochrome figurative elements in a bewitching medley of images. Their unlikely merger of styles now increasingly blend seamlessly, a testimony they say to the growing way they trust each other to develop a piece. Sisters, shown below, has one eye done by Akut and one eye by Hera.

Without Their Arms They Were Sisters

One motif that repeats is several forms is a sad girl bearing a monkey on her back but this monkey has passed away (it is a dead monkey, it has ceased to be). As a linguistic gambit the “monkey on the back” usually refers to a burden to be shifted by making it someone else’s problem. Herakut’s title suggests that perhaps the concept relates to existence and mortality. As usual of course, this could be complete rubbish, it’s just a guess.

Maybe We Are Dead Already

The sketches tucked under the stairs are produced by Hera working on her own, signed under her hand only. Having been trained in the basic tools of art it is no surprise that Hera is capable of these vignettes, finely drawn with incredible economy of line. This illustrates a characteristic of Heras’s art in which her characters have twig like legs and no grounding, capturing a ballerina’s sense of almost weightless floating. Saves addressing the issue of feet which would be handy, guessing here, if your feet weren’t your favourite part of your body.

Real Recognise Real

It is perhaps more of a surprise to find that many of the sketches translate so faithfully onto the larger canvasses, where in contrast to the featherlight pencil lines Hera’s painting style becomes bold, loose and extravagant in execution. Compare this sketch with “She Thought She Was Too Cute” above, it seems the demeanour of the girl has changed dramatically from a challenging and defiant “do you worst” to a meek and submissive surrender to what we suppose to be her fate.

She Thought She Was Too Cute

The downstairs installation element of the show is deliberately under-staged with no great drama or over-bearing artiness. The ambience is something of a “below stairs” servants quarters with a very cosy, clubby relaxation space and an old fashioned almost Dickensian clay tiled “no mod cons” laundry room. The washed drips look like collateral damage from laundry battles past, and form a gorgeous extension of the drips in the paintings.

Hood Rats

While “Mom” does her laundry (it is hard to reconcile the Americanism with such an English set-up), Dad seeks respite from the clinical whiteness of the upstairs area to sink into a deep leather chair next to the fire in a homely though slightly distressed chill out zone.

All the work at this show is effectively pre-sold, and is displayed as a collection, each picture being en route to its final lucky owner. With no direct return on the expense of staging this show, Campbarbossa deserves big props for putting on this show.

Whether your preference is for the richness, drips and intrigue of the canvasses or the sparse cleanliness of the sketches it is a pure joy to be able to see the set of works collected together and showcasing one of the strongest talents emerging from the street art scene today. However, if anyone at the show whispers in your ear “that one is mine”, don’t spare their feelings, apply your cricket bat to maximum effect.

Nine Eleven

A full set of pictures can be seen here though as usual, the low light in some areas challenges the camera (nothing to do with the photographer of course).

In the build up to this show Herakut were generous in their granting time for some conversation, hopefully sometime soon, who knows when - who knows where, there will be a chance to report the fruits of those interviews, you will be the first to know.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cept v. Mike Ballard - One Artist's Group Show

30 Hertford Road
Dalston, London

22 Nov - 30 Nov 2008

Photos: NoLionsInEngland except where stated

A natural separation in graffiti culture requires art fags admiring street art to take their asymmetric haircuts and pink glassless glasses to Shoreditch, while the hard core graff guys get their secret society writer-shall-write-only-for-writer thing up in the provinces, like Hackney, Hounslow and Dalston. One person who metaphorically lives within both worlds is Cept. Actually Cept exists across far more than two worlds. There’s the Cept who has been ruling the streets for over 20 years tagging and writing and generally getting up with TRP crew.

Then there’s the Cept who takes spray can art to the streets

There’s also the Cept who transfers his street persona to canvasses and gallery walls, more of that soon. Finally there’s Mike Ballard, the St Martins graduate artist who inhabits Cept’s body and surfaces from time to time to produce dark and jumbled paintings. Or is it the other way round?

photo: HowAboutNo

To find all these Cepts means orienteering to a labyrinthine and rickety lockup workshop in a dimly lit and nondescript warren of utilitarian housing estate streets behind Kingsland Road. Bang loudly on the corrugated shutter with a number 30 on it!

The ground floor space looks like an artist’s store room, heavy oil paintings are mounted high on coarse brick walls, an illuminated cocktail light box is pushed into a corner, in small dead-end cubicles small screens show looping scratchy multimedia film clips while all around are many relics and wall daubings of former occupants. The roughness of the room mirrors the artist’s determined avoidance of pretentious frippery, a white cube this ain’t.

photo: HowAboutNo

Since impressionism, artists have been preoccupied with battling against the perceived notion of an accepted art, the grand art of landscapes and religon which is displayed to show good taste, worthy subjects and high technique. Cept sees the acceptance of graffiti and its entry into galleries alongside “traditional” art as a battle won, see the diagonal flow of the all conquering graffiti writers coming off the streets in the top right overwhelming the cherubs and fine art of the establishment towards the bottom left.

Throwing The House Out Of The Window

A particular theme is an illustratorly concentration on karma sutra imagery, present in a tryptich of digital prints as well as a series of paste-ups papering the stairway to the upper floor where Cept’s pop art comic aesthetic is displayed. Such images might be found in HowAboutNo's flickr. The perve.

Borrowing images from comics and most obviously from pop art’s high priest Lichtenstein, Cept tells a romantic tale involving the anti hero, a super villain, lets call him Cept for convenience and a pure pop 1950’s ideal of feminine beauty, a girl who admires Cept the super villain both as a concept and as physical specimen. Her love is possibly tragic and un-requited, she cossets a Cept graffiti tag to her cheeks as nowadays the love for graffiti has come in from the cold.

Remember When Graffiti Was Hated (photo: HowAboutNo

Her intrigue with graffiti doesn’t subjugate her need for a man who possesses old fashioned qualities of infallibility, dependability and heroism. She dotes on the super villain but recognises and indeed admires the flaws in his character, awakening within her a fascination for his desire for possession of public space.

How….Why? (photo: HowAboutNo)

Meanwhile Cept the Super Villain is seemingly going through a crisis, split by his comic hero superpowers and the conflicting demands of the old fashioned modern romantic. So he still leaps unscathed from unexplained explosions,

If It Kills Me (photo: HowAboutNo)

he coldly wields control over others’ destinies at the press of a button,

Mr Freeze (photo: HowAboutNo)

and un-swervingly faithful to his inner criminal, he gets his mark up on society’s walls


Privately however, angst nags at him, he senses the futility in endlessly repeating his super villain antics and where we find the super villain away from the women and the heroic deeds, we find canvasses depicting pain, despair and an inner tension.

Tough Love (photo: HowAboutNo)

He Who Was Nothing – Is Nothing Once More (photo: HowAboutNo)

Cept showcases many more themes and styles apart from the comic hero imagery. He blends his skillz with the letter into his pop art imagery to greatest effect in this sharp almost art nouveau styled goddess, tresses of hair cascade down forming twisting into Cept’s letters.


Cept frequently likes to play with concealed images, where possibly random illustrations only reveal the true subject through some chance and close scrutiny.

photo: HowAboutNo

Descending down a second set of great fire of London era wooden stairs, which look like they ought to lead to a den of gin-sozzled, brawling women and opium wrecks, we stoop under a barrier blocking the top half of a doorway and emerge into the highlight of the show. A truly astonishing stark and punchy two-tone walls, floor and ceiling painted room of visual illusion and eyeball defeating trickery..

Cept Room (photo: HowAboutNo)

Your eyes are overwhelmed by the intensity of the contrasting lines, swirls, shapes and objects. Cept creates perspective, plays with it again for fun and creates an illusion of corridors, holes, seascapes blending into room interiors and a selection of characteristic Cept comic book imagery. The floor has wave ripples lapping up to strongly patterned venetian tiled floor, whilst in other parts a series of painted steps disappear down into a painted manhole sinking into the earth’s core.

Two roof columns create fountains of paint erupting from the floor, surging outwards across the ceiling before breaking against the walls. The doting beauty gazes fondly at Cept’s tag, yet nearby the super villain lies out of sight, drained, jaded and semi-comatose in the shallow waters lapping up over his name.

A series of painted steps across the floor leads to a trompe l’oeil image of a cufflinked hand at the end of a corridor clutching the letter C.

Using a deconstructed graff writing form in which the structure of the letters has been totally discarded to leave a residue of wild style elements, the painted structure breaks up into almost abstract swirls, dots and moiré fringes only to reform into regular geometric patterns.

photo: HowAboutNo

It is un-avoidable that cynics will compare this room with D*Face’s dis-orientation room at the BRP Apopcalypse Now show last month but whilst that created a Keith Haring tribute using D*Dog wings and eyes, this Cept installation uses non repeating Cept imagery with not a single line or curve repeated anywhere. All of this was created single-handedly by Cept – no interned paint chuckers here – and took three weeks having been conceived before the D*Face show, though Cept confesses to a sinking heart upon entering the D*Face show and realising the extent of convergence with his work.

photo: HowAboutNo

A curiosity worth mentioning is that from a previous use, apparently the walls of the installation room have a Mode 2 mural directly on the brick, Cept has clad the wall with boards to leave the Mode 2 beneath intact. Respect.

It is worth whizzing up to Dalston just to be overwhelmed by one of the most intense visual experiences this year and one of the most satisfyingly staged shows (we do like our spaces rank and grubby). Bang loudly on that shutter door, but do it fast as the space is only open to the public until Sunday 30th, excluding Wednesday and Friday. Bugger it, check with Stella Dor before travelling!

Taking pictures in such challenging light without safety harness and hard hat contravenes all photographic health and safety regs, so hats off to HowAboutNo – check his pics here

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Krah - Got His Shizzle On Lock Down. . .

The Krah continuing to confuse both art theives and council buff squads, and managing to remain the longest lived pieces on the streets at the moment. Only a matter of time before others follow his lead surely?

Friday, 14 November 2008

K-Guy - Under The Mattress Banking

Northern Rock had a run, house prices fell off the cliff, Lehman Brothers went to the wall and we all suddenly became bank owners as the government miraculously suddenly found billions and billions of quid to bale out the banks. This pisses K-Guy off, and he likes a rant and a rave and taunts hypocrisy, greed and stupidty. A month ago to the day, he set up his shrine “In Loving Memory Of The Great Boom Economy”.

That piece deservedly got global attention but even as he executed that installation he was already developing his next idea and last night, four locations around the City Of London (well, perhaps one or two were just over the edge) acquired new branches of the age old tried and test Sleep Easy Family Bank.

It did for K-Guy's granny in her time so why shouldn’t it do today? Think of the benefits – it’s highly personal, as Sonia and Mike may testify. In fact, you can make out the fistfuls of cash sticking out of their mattress (K-Guy loves the details).

You can withdraw however much you want, whenever you want, say happy bankers Mike and Trish of City Road – their branch cheekily placed right outside Barclays Bank.

Pause for moment for a little story about the practicalities. Do you have half a dozen mattresses going spare? How do you transport them? Apparently K-Guy was spotted driving up from his reinforced economic bunker with three double mattresses tied to the roof of his car and two single mattresses in the boot. Vigilant PC Plod, in unmarked wheels, pulls him over and enquires “pray tell what is afoot, you looked like a slice of bread surfing a pea as you approached”. Thankfully the explanation that the ensemble is on it's way to Shoreditch to be part of an art installation is entirely satisfactory, indeed almost completely predictable for that area. It’s amazing sometimes how you can get away with it simply by telling the truth.

Another advantage of sticking your wad under the mattress, the interest rate is low according to the Bank of Stef, who obviously owns a bank and keeps other people’s money under his mattress.

Even a small one will hold quite a lot of money beamed little Lewis, age 5, outside Royal Exchange.

Four out of five of the K-Guy pieces had disappeared before lunchtime today making the word ephemera really too elongated for describing the lifecycle of this work. Children – taking rubbish off the streets, stencilling on it and puting it back out on the streets is still going to look like rubbish to 99.9% of the world’s jobsworths with a pick-up.

The current edition of a street art/graphic design mag contains the ludicrous claim that Hush is the only serious contender for the heavyweight belt currently worn by Banksy. Well as long as ideas, wit, placement, attention to detail and satire have anything to do with it, K-Guy is likely if he keeps this up to soon be twirling that belt over his head before throwing it in the bin.

More pictures here

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Little Art Book Group Show

Alphabet Bar
Beak St, London
11 Nov – 24 Dec 08

In a world straddled by the behemoths such as PoW, Souled Out Studios and BRP, comparatively un-sung boutique urban art print operations like Little Art Book come as a more personable and significantly less frantic tonic. For a start, consider the free-at-the-door limited edition show print; if BRP did that you’d have to close Shoreditch High Street and hire Madonna’s bouncers for the queue.

LAB Group Show – Event Print

Shout to The Krah who whether the wall is indoors or outside unfailingly pulls off an inventive, detailed and flowing piece of fantasy art. The main wall piece flows across a canvas, a practise which always strikes me as curious because if you buy the canvas you leave behind on the gallery wall a chunk of the composition many times the size of your painting. Anyway, the painting contains oodles of Krah signature surrealism, acid references, manic faces growing out of twisting organic limbs and a fluid looking being with hair on fire.

The Krah – The Arsonist

The canvas is entitled The Arsonist but check out the detail, psychotic grins and bulging eyes suggest much more powerful pyromaniac demons. The background has a very graphic tapered design which deliberately emphasises the counter flow to the slanting drift of the burning figure’s body.

The Krah – The Arsonist (detail)

Main attraction for buyers was the release of two prints, Minnie and Mickey by Rugman. The prints themselves are not un-pleasant, undeniably technically well done and the hand finished comic book collage provides satisfaction for uniqueness fetishists but, even allowing for a seasonal Halloween uptick, there is no way around the thought that it’s another damn cliché, in fact two clichés, done to death. See what I did there…skull…done to death…oh please yourselves.

Rugman - Minnie

Before looking at a couple other hot prints, an apology for the quality of the photos. They are even more shite than usual as using flash in the Soho drinking den gloom was un-avoidable and meant taking pics stage right.

A new name to this blog and artist responsible for stand-out print is Gabriel Moreno whose “Hard Woman”, a hand pulled two colour screen print rocks. Possibly literally, the prominent female looks a bit like Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) whose wacky and endearing fashion kookiness hadn’t hitherto brought GBH to mind. (to prove how that Id could be a million miles off target – what’s Jimi doing there?)

Gabriel Moreno – Hard Woman

Semi naked skinheads with bondage will undoubtedly grab the Old Compton Street crowd but Vilchez covers all bases by partnering the homo-erotic images with a tattoo’d babe in a bikini.

Vilchez – Tree Of Dreams (photo shamelessly stolen from LittleArtBook)

Special mention to Rourke Van Dal whose Not On Your Nelly print got a warm reception upon release and looks stunningly punk in the flesh, mild surprise to find that it is still available is appropriate. Perhaps it’s the un-forgivable pun in the name that put people off?

Rourke van Dal – Not On Your Nelly

Piss poor pics of most of the other prints from the show here