Sunday, 6 December 2009

Josh Sutterby (Alfa RT) solo show

Rolling With The Punches

The Print House Gallery
18 Ashwin St, London, E8 3DL
4 Dec 2009 – 10 Jan 2010

Celebrating identity is at the heart of graffiti, which makes Joss Sutterby of RT (RepresenT) crew a bit of a novelty among London’s finest for his avoidance of letter-form self promotion. While Vibes and Towns drop big “my-name-is” burners around the parish, Alfa chips in with lavish but virtually anonymous characters which introduce a cartoonist’s humour into the RT crew’s pieces.

Eating Beef For Breakfast, Alfa RT and Towns RT, West London

The RT crew are not exactly casuals, winning the 2009 European final of the Write4gold battle in Germany coming top in the tagging, throwie and concept sections (sounds like Final Score at 5 O’clock on a Saturday), Alfa produced the two characters in this Sclater Street piece in April 09

Molotow Cocktail, Towns RT, Alfa RT, Sclater St

Joss Sutterby’s first solo show takes place in Dalston, much better known for its rooftop and wall graff than artfag action.

The dominant theme in Sutterby’s canvasses are tattoos, characters with tattoos and straight use of the art of the tattoo. Portraits feature strongly in the collection and nearly all feature tattoos on flesh, tattoo art motifs on clothing and tattoo art in the background. One of the kings of traditional nautical based tattoo art is Sailor Jerry and references to Sailor Jerry appear in several of the works, most notably the Love Thy Neighbour canvas with its sullen and whey faced man with his death heart teeshirt set on a montage of stock Sailor Jerry tattoos.

Love Thy Neighbour

The shows suggests that on canvas Sutterby is pursuing a style with comparatively little reference to his graffiti work, though through the subjects themselves he brings his involvement in the movement the scene indoors such as in Antagonisers, a portrait of a friend in which the title (AnTaGonisers) and the tee suggests a member of the ATG crew. A GP would likely recommend the friend gets to bed a bit earlier.


A gothic darkness runs through most of the art, purple roses and skulls form a bed for the anguished figure in Mother posed in painted version of the classic face obscured crew shot. One puzzling element in this particular canvass is that exposed flash is usually grasped by Sutterby as a base for tattoos but here the left hand is lacking detail, leaving it looking un-finished.


Tattoo art is generally not a big thing for me, other than the work of Dr Lakra which I love with a passion, though his recent London show was fairly poor. The detail of the tats on Ella below brought to mind the way Lakra fills the arms and legs with multiple tat images.


Two images are multi colourway editioned prints, the King of Hearts shown below comes closest to the cartoonish characters Alfa bookends RT pieces with, though the King of Hearts here is a million miles from the bumbling but well intentioned buffoon of Alice Through The Looking Glass. This editioned print is unusual as two different colourways have been displayed alternate ways up, presumably which way up it goes depends upon which which end the artist signs.

King Of Hearts, Blue and Yellow (also available: distressed background)

The second print references Sailor Terry again, with mono-eyed skulls and rotting zombie arms crawling across the print making various death-head style hand gestures.

Sailor Grave

In the hate filled world of graffiti any writer showing art in a gallery really sticks their head above the parapet, Sutterby has focussed on a show which tangentially alludes to his graff mates but in essence doesn’t expose him to haters accusations of selling out his graff.

Rolling With The Punches: more heavy hitting pictures here.

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