Sunday, 28 March 2010

Remed, Grems, Zbiok, 3TTman - The New Fantastic 4

Pure Evil Gallery, London
18 March – 5 April

Photos by nolionsinengland except pure evil where stated

Superheroes gain un-human powers and infinite energy from all kinds of sources but rarely do they apply them to a good deeds and art combination. 3ttman (Madrid), Grems (Paris via London), Remed (Lille), and Zbiok (Wroclaw) aren’t just the most impossible combination of alpha-numerics to trot off the tongue, they are the latest artists to arrive at the Pure Evil Gallery, summonsed by Daphne Polski to combat the evil Tacoman.

The evil Tacoman has a dastardly plan to destroy every other street artist in the World, the Fantastic 4 have chosen to accept the mission to fighting back on behalf of spraycan users and art punks everywhere. The combat starts with a chase across the rooftops of London.

London Rooftop – 3TTman, Grems, Remed, Zbiok, Pure Evil

Tacoman eventually lures them back to his hideout where the Fantastic 4 indulge an orgy of wall cartoon art and ...... well, rather than spoil the ending, check out the comic which comes with the show illustrated by the mental pental 4-some. Hardcopy is available from Tacoman’s lair which in your dimensions doubles as Pure Evil’s gallery or download here.

The New Fantastic 4 in Tacoman’s basement

By day, Tacoman turns into comparatively mild mannered Pure Evil, an accidental gallerist whose guiding anti-philosophy might be “no control” and in Daphne Polski he appears to have found a soul sister as curator. Daphne has conceived a theme based around 4 dashing superheroes, though by her own admission “it was just a funny excuse to make them get together because they fit so much together”.

Such prominence as 3TTMan has in the UK will mainly have come from his Bear Gardens building makeover as part of Tate Modern’s 2008 Street Art walking tour.

Tate Modern Street Art (detail) - 3TTman

In this show he presents a cycle of 6 canvasses depicting the stations of the cross, primarily a Catholic cult. Ever the modernist, 3TT has chosen the hardcore more literal progression of the story adopted in 1997 in which the stations are more formally based on the writings in the gospels, rather than the looser more myth embellished version that was followed until John Paul II continued his drive to strip the fun out of religion. 3TT has executed these in his very lurid and anti-classical style combining symbology, cubism’s fragmentation of planes and rough drawn comic-ish characters.

Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemane - 3TTman

The Stations of the cross are typically displayed in chronological order around a church mosh pit to tell the story of Jesus on the cross to a congregation who couldn’t read but knew to fear an inquisition. 3TTman updates the telling of the story reasoning that people have become familiar and jaded with the old conventional renaissance style of telling the story and developed blind-spots to the powerful story being told. He wants to motivate a re-engagement similar to the kind of interest in religious traditions that afflicts visitors to a foreign country.

4 Peter Denies Jesus – 3TTman

In the 4th station, Peter hides in the garden behind a wall where several passers-by accuse him of having knocked around with Jesus, his hands cover his eyes as in one mind he is hiding from his betrayal but in the other knows this is the betrayal and shame Jesus foretold, and as predicted the cock crows three times. That “other mind” comment may seem a bit bizarre but 3TTman often uses multiple heads to represent the spectrum of personalities present in each person, his cartoon alter ego “The Thing” appears in one of the canvasses as a 3 headed brick shitting being (see also the roof battle and the comic).

Brick A brac aka “The Thing” - 3ttman

Super-powers come in many imaginative guises but we shan’t go into the force-of-a-brick-shitter thing.

Remed hangs three gorgeous cubist inspired canvasses conveying the idea of human emotions on the up, a sense of bright positivity with improvements from poor to good or, as in the pair below, from Desire to Fulfilment. In the canvasses Remed blends flat colours into crisply delineated geometric triangles, tubes, eyes and hearts with many of the shapes forming part of more than one feature at the same time. Citing influences such as Picasso, Mattisse, Ferdinand Leger, Basquiat and Carlo Zinelli, Remed uses colour in bold blocks and confident patterns to create sumptuous and fascinating compositions.

From Desire – Remed

To Fulfillment – Remed

Remed and 3TTman go back a long way, in fact to when Remed was 17 and a conviction philistine who believed colouring in was for girl. Drifting around wondering what to select as an additional course element, the 14 year old 3TTman suggested doing a 1 hour a week art lesson. The scales fell from Remed’s eyes when he chanced on a book of Modigliani pictures and for the first time art spoke to him.

Fusion - Remed

Although all four artists knew eachother before, the only example in this show of prior collaboration is Remed and 3TTman’s ambitious re-working of El Bosco’s (Hieronymous Bosch) fifteenth century Ship of Fools. The original fools in the boat included drunken idiots, a priest and a nun beset by food, wine, lust and simplicity. Remed and 3TTman preserve the form of the original painting but update the temptations to a very internet age set of immoralities including lurid sins of the flesh, drugs, greed and errr fast food set in a violent acid drenching of colour

Ship Of Fools - Remed and 3TTman

Grems is a fascinating multi talented rapper, DJ, graphic artist and graff monster, which makes the illustraterly cityscape drawings rather disappointing. The landscape s appear semi fictional, you’d know Paris because there is that big mast they have been proud of for a long time but the painting captioned “London” appears to have no recognisable landmarks connecting to our metropolis, other than the common elements of buildings and a river. Indeed, detective work reveals two parallel rivers, as if a river had split and was flowing around an island, wonder where the Paris born artist might have got that from?

London - Grems

Zbiok is known to many as a long standing Pictures On Walls artist (you’ve got to laugh at PoW listing the show as “Zbiok and others”). Zbiok has a background in graffiti and punk, he chooses to create a sense of youth culture and youth interaction in his painting. For him the process is as important as the end result and he professes to enjoying the physical combining of paints and creating of layers. True to this, all three paintings are naive or primitive figurative compositions featuring youths hanging out, smoking, skating and seemingly on the edge of creating trouble.

Antifa - Zbiok

Need Some Change - Zbiok

Giving a bunch of boys alcohol and pens inevitably leads to comedy cock sketching and the collaborative sketches worked up in situ would have benefited from a little less genitalia but the sketches do exhibit the artist’s calligraphic skills. Remed and Grems’s debt to the Brazilian graff form Pixacao stands out.

The Reallusionist – Remed, Grems, 3TTman, Zbiok (photo nicked from Pure Evil)

The New Fantastic 4 - Remed, Grems, 3TTman, Zbiok (photo nicked from Pure Evil)

In summary, Remed eye candy and 3TTman story illustrations brighten a show which will remain in the memory for the fun elements based around the accompanying comic and some mightily impressive rooftop mural work.

More photos of art from the show and the outdoor and indoor walls paintings here

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Warped and Pieced - Return to Huncoat (Part 3)

Back in July 2009 I wrote a piece about the graff co-existing with the rubble of the old Huncoat Power Station in Lancashire. Join me for the final return visit and a visual ride into them thar hills...

All photos by shellshock

Quick link to the July 2009 blog……

Quick link to Part 1 of this blog....

Quick link to Part 2 of this blog....

The disused power station at Huncoat (between Accrington and Burnley) is easily the best hidden graff den I’ve ever been to. Rubble and crud are everywhere, right next to stunning pieces from the Trans Pennine Nomads (TPN) crew (and a few others). A visual overload; you don’t know where to look (actually I do know where to look….. look up for graffiti… and look down for that pit full of glass and old shoes that you are about to fall into you spanner….).

In February I finally summoned up some enthusiasm to get out of Manchester and bob back up to Huncoat (see part 2 of this blog). Due to the snow and my own internal GPS system going strangely loco [Pryme later described it as a “schoolboy error” - lol], I didn’t manage to get down to the other spot, so I went back a week later after arranging to hook up with the fabulous Mr Pryme himself.

Pryme had been painting with TeaOne from Preston (check out TeaOne on flickr) the day before, and he wanted to finish off his own piece, so we yakked whilst he tried to perfect his side of the wall.

TeaOne's piece.....

Pryme in action.....

I probably put Pryme off, because he ended up not liking it and going over it a few days later with a chrome and black number (watch out for a 'Chrome & Black' blog coming soon-ish...)

We then went off to the other spot where back in brassic January Pryme had been doing a lot of work with Burnley writer, Slack - a name I previously didn‘t know. Yes, these pieces (and they genuinely can be called masterpeices!) were all being done outside in the coldest winter for years, when many writers are still hibernating! :-)

Check out Slack on flickr

Check out Pryme on flickr

The whole wall looks great, including this first piece, the most ‘traditional’ of the three, and one that looks extra sweet when cropped down to just the wall itself.

Everyone loves a good chrome and black don’t they (it’s like a friend who makes you smile, or a musician that makes you gasp; it‘s the comfort blanket of graff…) and this is one of the best I’ve seen, with a really effective idea of having two cut-outs of how a colour piece would look.

And last but definitely not least, this peel-back style had writers everywhere wondering why they hadn’t thought of that before.... Genius!!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Matt Small, Zac Walsh – This Is Us joint show

Signal Gallery, London

11 March – 1 April 2009

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

Londoner Matt Small, nominated for the BP Portrait award in 2001 shortly after graduating from the Royal College of Art, has a compact and colourful joint show with Manchester boy Zac Walsh at Signal Gallery in London.

Matt Small has been a darling of the street art aficionados though if it wasn’t for the urban grime suffusing his work that might be a puzzle as he never works on the streets. Over the past three years Matt has shown extensively in the specialist street art galleries, predominantly Black Rat Press and the late lamented Leonard Street Gallery.

In the previous shows the dominant subject has been the human face. Matt is well known for taking his inspiration from the anonymous citizens who shimmer briefly across his vision and through camera lens before passing on with their lives, usually unaware of their subsequent immortalisation in the distinctive riot of colours which give his portraits contour and expression.

Kaz, found car bonnet, BRP show Mar 09.

Back in 2007 Matt Small gave an amazing demonstration of how he works on flat surfaces, mixing oil based and water based paints then dragging the immiscible colours around the canvas, creating beautiful portrait from the violence and chaos of the squirming liquids.

Leonard Street Gallery live painting, Nov 2007.

The key pieces in this Signal Gallery show are undoubtedly the trio of urban landscapes. Paradoxically for someone so strongly linked to portraiture, these micro communities are actually devoid of human beings though not necessarily lacking humanity.

“These landscapes are from my journeys around town. I find there is something beautiful about these estates. You can walk through them and think they look horrible, you never see anyone but in each house there is a drama going on, there are thousands of lives being lived, there is a lot more than just the outer walls.

London Estate 2, Matt Small

In creating these Matt has used basically the same technique to mix and apply the paints on the metal, the effect is a vibrant colour and windswept motion to the essentially static subject. The pock marked surface of buildings seethes with life reflecting the hidden dramas contained within.

London Estate 3, Matt Small

Whilst London Estates 2 and 3 are essentially 2D paintings, in London Estates 1 Matt has transplanted a meccano styled system of layered laminar deconstruction used in creating some of his 2008/09 3D portraits. This creates a sense of depth and perspective and yet at the same time conveys the kind of down to a budget cheap as chips utilitarian contruction found through-out the 50s and 60s council block estates.

London Estate 1, Matt Small

The canted expanse of grey metal at the bottom of the painting gives a phenomenal depth to the tarmac foreground. The side view below illustrates the complexity of the geometric transformations Matt Small has performed to achieve the incredibly convincing relief effect when view head on

London Estate 1 (detail), Matt Small

At Mutoid Waste’s One Foot in The Grove 2009 show under the Westway, Matt Small took advantage of the bleak blasted concrete walls under the fly-over to preview a completely new style, face portraits created in relief on concrete. There portraits are created using a mould to achieve the basic relief form then cutting lines into the cement surface before it sets.

Concrete Relief Portraits, One Foot In The Grove 2009, Matt Small

The Mutoid editions which were coloured using a simulated tagging (never going to please graffiti writers that one), responding to the space which has legendary status as the UK’s first graffiti hall of fame whilst referencing to the cultural background to the world these kids inhabit. For this show the concrete is sepia toned by the trademark explosion of colour is absent, which seems to emphasize a kind of aboriginal featuring in the portrait which hadn’t really been obvious before.

"I like the surface effect giving the feel of age and texture. I love the idea of materials that you find in the street, cement and metal, it's another way of appropriating what we see in our urban environment"

Unusually, this triptych places the portrait face into a housing estate background.

Jason, Matt Small

The sense with Matt’s larger shows has been an almost intimidating and overwhelming press of faces, crowding in on you from their car bonnets and dismantled freezer carcasses, so many bodies exerting claustrophobic intimidation that you feel you need an escape. This time the increased variety and quality, inversely related to the reduction in quantity has allowed a fresh appreciation of Matt’s work. With a grand total of 5 pieces in this show Matt demonstrates the broader themes and techniques his work is exploring these days and with these has staked a claim to be one of the (few) truly important artists to come out of the urban art scene.

A Matt Small show couldn't be the complete experience without at least one piece looking like a deranged madman was let loose in at scrapyard with tubes of paint

Darnell, Matt Small

Zac Walsh

Zac Walsh and Matt Small have known eachother since Royal College of Art days in the late 90s and as the friends both work in portraiture it isn’t too wild a leap of imagination to see how a joint show can make sense. Stylistically Zac brings a much cleaner and rich finish to his work. The works were created when Walsh was invited by the Holland Park Opera to attend operas, a new experience and to paint a reaction to the dramas. Zac wasn’t a fan of opera but was inspired by the geniuses creating the opera and the complexity of the narrative and staging.

Francesca Da Rimini, Zac Walsh

In Don Giovani, Walsh reacts to the controversial ending where Don Giovanni gets dragged into hell. The figure at the centre of the painting is the artist and the statue of the Commendatore which drags him to hades comprises stone grey coloured photo collages of Walsh’s own forearms. The circles in the middle of the horns are Dante’s map of hell and the drama is set against the background of a crucifix. A lot of the opera’s symbolism gets onto Walsh’s canvas.

Don Giovanni, Zac Walsh

Whilst the characters depicted come from the opera, Walsh has used close friends as the models giving the artwork a personal relevance as well as a lesson in dealing in people’s egos (“my thighs aren’t that big!”).

La Forza Del Destino Zac Walsh

The pictures combine photo collages with a very saturated colouring in the painting, not to mention the occasional bit of spray paint. A knowledge of opera isn’t essential for the interpretation of Zac’s painting, suffice that the evident richness and classical beauty permits the paintings to stand up to the un-snobbish scrutiny of the non-opera buff.

Fidelio, Zac Walsh

Pelleas And Melisande, Zac Walsh

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Eelus - The Colour Out Of Space

Blackall Studios
73a Leonard Street

25 Feb – 6 March 2010

all photos: NoLionsInEngland except where stated

A few years back Eelus was a full time working guy making a valid contribution to society when along came street art to ram an exacto knife right through those wh-Eels. The release of Shat At through Pictures on Walls coupled with a street furniture sticker campaign at the same time as the street art rocket went stratospheric forced Eelus into the radar screens of forum bothering Banksy fans .

His most stunning outdoor piece is a version of his career defining Shat-At done in Bristol in collaboration with Xenz.

Eelus, Xenz

Although he says he has done very little in the past three years outdoors, that’s forgetting the Butterflies And Watching Eyes last year at Cargo, raven haired at One Foot In The Grove and modestly understating his contribution to the collaborative effort with Little Miss NoLions at Cans Festival in 2008.

Cans Festival 2008, photo Paulo_nine_o

Eelus’s influences come from an enduring fascination with astrology, UF-ology, heavy metal, science fiction and mythology. Among a set of strong new images shown for the first time is this super image based around a photo of a boy in the beach throwing stones at the sun transformed by the fragmenting arrival of a UFO, givng the picture its clever punning title.

We Come In Pieces

In Queen of Cydonia, Eelus touches on a UF-ologist’s pet conspiracy theory regarding extra-terrestrial architecture in the face on Mars and various pyramid structures held up as evidence of lost cities, intelligent life, they’re coming to get us, NASA is suppressing the run run. Or a nice semi-mystical painting.

Queen of Cydonia

Eelus’s technique doesn’t allow for any shortcuts, from sketches or photos he works up the artwork on computer using a wackpad. The final result is printed out in its different layers, placed on stencil card and cut by hand. The wackpad allows Eelus to achieve the painterly effect evident for example Lung Mixture and in the arrows on We Are All In The Gutter, close inspection of the nicks and irregularities leave no doubt that the work is painstaking in the detail.

Lung Mixture Detail)

A pair of quite spectacular wall applied stencils are prepared in exactly the same way as the smaller canvasses. Eelus manages at the scale of the Icarus on the back wall to give a real sense of his wings disintegrating in the solar glare.


Lilly Stay Put , sold lock stock and barrel “as is” off the wall, shows clearly the influence of Hipgnosis early 70s heavy metal album covers .

Lily Stay Put

Interestingly, in case anyone one suspects shortcuts such as projection techniques, a comparison of the Icarus wall painting with its small brother on canvas provides compelling differences in the detail, on the wall Eelus has even had to change the aspect of the wings to create a composition that fits properly within the wall and also to avoid a horrible boundary overlap between the wing and the body.

Icarus canvas

Eelus despises the crappy, crudely cut single-layer stencils that thankfully one sees less of on the streets these days, the time taken to create each of his stencil compositions is one of the reasons why he rarely works on outdoor walls these days.

It’s not often one sees urban art furniture so it is novel to find a solid mahogany relief carved chair presented to Eelus as a gift from someone from the East (honestly, the real East, not Hackney Wick).

A recently developed path evident in several pictures is the strong geometric pattern. These are developed in a progressive organic way by creating a stencil for on block, deciding what colour and shape to put next to that and so on, building up the final geometry by intuition and exploration rather than cutting a single layer for each colour. The effect is demonstrated well in Dress Up with the exploding disintegrating technicolour dream frock below and Queen Of Cydonia above.

Dress Up

A stand out piece is the striking and bold We Are All In The Gutter with its hints of glam and metal in the colours and details. Check out the arrows as mentioned earlier for real painterly stencil cutting. This painting follows on from a piece that Eelus did for the Green Day album as seen at the Stolen Space show last year.

We Are All In The Gutter

There are a few things which might be regarded as unfortunate, given that E is seemingly distancing himself from a street art niche which was never a comfortable pigeon hole for his art anyway. A couple of his compositions will remind anyone of Banksy’s NOLA, Eelus shifts uneasily at the similarity being pointed out but says that he had done the images before Banksy’s NOLA came out and had had reservations about including them in the show them for obvious reasons but had been persuaded.

Not Everything Is Black And White

No More Tears comes desperately close to flagrant flogging of a street art cliché in the angels wings though this is developed more from a reference to quasi religious images burned into the retina from childhood, it is hard to dismiss the impression that the bodily secretion looks more like drool than tears.

No More Tears

Downstairs is a retrospective of many of Eelus’s signature pieces, though Raven Haired is, if one recalls correctly, absent.

Retro Eelus

The show highlights the strengthening of Eelus’ palette and a growing development of his signature themes. Eelus has managed to maintain a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of prgoress so its good to see this outing as signifying a great leap forward. This self organised show superbly demonstrates his mastery of the stencil form, is thoroughly pleasing to the eye and by common consent at the launch exceeds the expectations of most of the cliché weary street art fetishists. As a bonus, it is refreshing to see the carcass of The Leonard Street Gallery, that former eye at the centre of London's street art storm, being resurrected by good art and a great opening night crowd.

Apologies for writing this so late in the show’s run but you read this shit so you don’t have to go, don’t you?

More pictures from the show here .