Saturday, 11 July 2009

Bill London: They Seek Him Here

Rarekind Gallery
Jul 10 – Aug 1 2009

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

After a fallow period buried beneath the post Banksy tidal sludge of pasted lazer jet print-outs, real painted graffiti has been showing signs of a pulse the last four months or so in Shoreditch. Some spark has triggered an avalanche of graffiti in all its' full glorious letterform manifestations from pissed up tags to Olympic standard wild-style burners. Many sperm have nibbled at the egg to create this fertile explosion of life, one of the most potent seemingly being the arrival of Chrome and Black in the area, the other obviously being the Meeting of Styles event.

Among the various species making up the spectrum of graffiti life, at the top of the food-chain are master writers from RT crew such as Vibes.

Vibes RT

Of course, there is no link between the artist Bill London whose show opened in the Rarekind Gallery beneath Chrome and Black and anyone who would write VIBES RT on walls around London, at least there isn’t in the show flyer, and no one met at the show preview went by the name VIBES (actually, no one I met went by the name Bill London either but there ya go, just one of those evenings where people weren’t wearing lapel badges).

Vibes RT, Parklifers, DasR

First impression of the show was a refreshing sense of restraint, this wasn’t a pile ‘em high sell em cheap “here’s everfink from my black book ‘n stuff the gallerist had out the back” exercise. The gallery walls have been given an illusionist relief jigsaw treatment, providing a background matrix to small number of canvasses spanning themes from urban realism to oriental fantasy landscape.

They Seek Him Here

With the range of styles in the show, Bill London transcends the limited graffiti form. The show can be divided into canvasses with letter forms for folk who like graff content in their wall decoration and art with no particular links to graff. The work ranges from almost realism to abstract and from austere urban to the almost pastoral.

Rising Down

Using classic fades combined with splatters, the charmingly named Chlamydia forms a wild calligraphic exercise in writing letters, in a form recognisable instantly as VIBES, compare with the street pieces photographed above. I’m told that the colouring in the picture is similar to the colour of a pair of skimpies tossed on the bedroom floor in a public information film here in the UK, maybe I just haven’t found the right channel.


One common and somewhat baffling gallery show feature is the part-wall-part-canvas mural, it always seems weird to contemplate taking away a small piece of what is a larger single artwork, They Seek Him Here offers some kind of way round this defect by throwing in a photograph of the complete piece separately with each of the ten canvasses in the mural.


The individual canvasses from this wall piece are going to look fairly abstract, in the example below there is a horrible Andrew McAttee type thing going on (horrible if that’s your reaction to McAttee’s squeaky clean bubbles)

They Seek Him Here (1 of 10 unique canvasses)

Signs of Life takes a macabre eco-doom stance and combines it with a futurist urban landscape, where close scrutiny reveals all is not as it seems. Buildings made of ghetto blasters, grenades and hand signs crowned by a winged spraycan deity form a backdrop to yoots lobbing molotovs across an arena of dead bodies, syringes and pipes like fat doobies leaking toxic waste.

Signs Of Life

If graffiti is art lying in the gutter then Broken Window Theory is a trompe l’oeil looking up at kind of tenement whose rough inner-city appearance condemns the place to become a self fulfilling kind of housing project hatchery breeding crime and attracting crime. Sufficiently flat and cartoonish to avoid looking like an attempt at photorealism (thank god), details like the clothes line emphasize the residential and community use of the building, perhaps appearances can be deceptive.

Broken Window Theory

At the other end of the spectrum from the gritty urban feel of the last two pieces Bill London tends towards a eastern natural minimilism in the trio of tryptichs Bamboo which owe no debt to the alphabet at all.


The rustic theme is maintained in the rural pond scene “Untitled”. The dragonfly which may be about to become fodder for the fish is a motif element which repeats in several places (and had me scanning though old photos of un-attributed graff as this dragon fly has been seen on walls recently if recollection serves).


Take You There (below) follows the countryside theme of the two works above, though if you were to take a stab at where the scene might be, a molten sunrise over the Yangtse Gorge might be a reasonable guess. The cloudscape being scorched away by the rising sun has VIBES wild tag in the formations but the impact is almost subliminal, non-graff heads could be forgiven for not realising that there are any letters at all. So, good one for the parents and other-halves.

Take You There

The usual reaction within the graff community to writers putting work in galleries is to treat them as sell-outs and call them art-fags, Bill London exposes himself to this knuckle minded reaction but shows his work is varied enough and strong enough to make such sentiment pretty irrelevant (not to mention irrational). Curiously, whereas street artists prize an element of roughness, grime and runs in their work when they move indoors, as a writer Vibes seeks to display his incredible refined skills to produce a very clean image and highly proficient collection. Rarekind have done a great job of staging a very interesting show in their utilitarian white space.


More pics from the show here

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