Saturday, 27 December 2008

Sweet Toof & Martin Lea Brown Shows

Martin Lea Brown: Fools Gold
Upstairs, Sartorial Art, Kings Cross,

Sweet Toof
Downstairs, Sartorial Art,

Both Dec 19-20 2008, Jan 13 – Feb 4 2009

All photos: NoLionsInEngland

Imagine a line between the mean streets of Kings Cross and the regency drawing rooms of Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury, and somewhere along that line physically and spiritually you will find both the Martin Lea Brown show and the raffish rogues populating his paintings.

Two shows, three identities – that’s the Martin Lea Brown show upstairs at Sartorial Art, Sweet Toof showing downstairs and of course, a mere 2 months ago Sweet Toof was a significant part of the Burning Candy crew show at the same venue.

What separates the two rooms is readily identifiable, it’s those teef and gums ever present for Sweet Toof and missing in action for MLB. A hell of a lot unites the two rooms, stylistically and even thematically so you can see a sort of logic in putting these two artists on in parallel.

Martin Lea Brown

Martin Lea Brown: Fools Gold

Every MLB picture in this show is constructed around the tension of a crime prosecuted, the aftermath of a villainous episode or a violent moment captured. Crimes involving bank heists, hostage taking, GBH and extortion are captured in very dynamic freizes. Virtually every picture involves a gun and a perpetrator and some form of disguise.

Cry Wolf

The crims’ disguises range from simple clown’s face paint to animal masks, skull masks and outlandish wigs. Crooks in the MLB world come stylishly dressed in various ensembles including patent black brogues, jackets, white blouses and heavy trench coats. They carry out their nefarious deeds with a stylish panache which calls to mind the Ex-Presidents of Point Break

Sharp Exit (detail)

The subject matter reaches as far as double-crossing and murderous crim-on-crim violence.

Tears Of A Clown

All of the low-life subjects are male and the virility enhancing effect of a hand pistol is most obviously thrust in the viewer’s face in After Math, a picture whose title baffles but punctuation puzzle is as likely a gallery typo as an intended conundrum, in which the cocked pistol becomes a shadow’s cock.

After Math

The MLB painting style is a heavy and rich combination of colours, the thickly applied oil positively glows on the canvas.

Step On It (detail)

Martin Lea Brown - Fools Gold

Sweet Toof

In the other show, Sweet Toof goes hell for leather with the familiar ST motifs, the skull, the gums and the teef. The same luminous oil on canvas technique a la MLB is used to celebrate an underground life, a life of crimes committed, art created and penances paid. Whilst the street artist works in a murky borderline illegal art gallery, Sweet Toof plays merrily with the emergence of the clandestine painter out of such shadows and into the gaze of the art world. In Studio Crits, the dandified painter is grandiously presenting his latest work to a set of critics gathered around a plush velvet armchair, one of whom is evidently not impressed. The tools of the studio lie close to hand, the gallerists grin with avarice whilst the evidence of the artist’s street credentials lies tucked away, discarded perhaps, in the background.

Studio Crit

The characters are all teef and grins, one imagines their shoulders shaking as they snigger like Mutley the dog. Even a painter and his watcher placed in front of an easel executing some kind of bucolic pastoral piece are evidently chuckling with glee at some devilish detail in the landscape they are observing, the canvas they are chuckling at suggests they have perverted some beautiful rural scenery by mashing up with crosses and gravestones.

Paint In Piece

Sweet Toof uses skeletons as the characters in his drawings, drawing on the Mexican Dia De Los Muertos tradition of life after death to symbolise the shady after dark trade of the street artist. One of the most amusing pieces recalls a real life incident of recent times where total power failure in London’s east end had street artists scooting around the streets of Shoreditch with spray cans and delirious grins on their faces as complete darkness provided them with perfect cover and no CCTV surveillance.

Brick Lane Black Out

Sweet Toof’s characters populate thick as thieves gangs, complicit co-conspirators sharing a maverick ne’er-do-well outlaw’s sense of camaraderie, reflecting Sweet Toof’s membership of Burning Candy, one of London’s pre-eminent crews. The sunken haunted eyes of the skull characters gleam with fiendish fun and a relish for illicit adventure, heightening the sense of rascals abroad.

Sleep When Your Dead (sic)

Sweet Toof mythologizes his own myth with several pieces glamorising the street artists’ game, staying one step ahead of the law in work such as Laying Low; then glamorises the potential risk and consequences ranging from a chain gang to an elegant Fsstttt in the electric chair.

Laying Low

High Voltage

The gums and skulls which recur in the street work of the Burning Candy crew are given props in several paintings in the show. The heavy horn-rims of the glasses in Toof Pick may be an element of self-portraiture, the bowl of red liquid on the table may signify the conspirators giving blood for their cause but check the lush looping detail of the background. Gorgeous.

Toof Pick

A challenge in dealing with the two shows is the quantity of work, the similarities in style and even subject matter. Perhaps the application of the paint in Sweet Toof’s work in the skulls, the guns and some of the clothing is a bit flatter and more block-like than the MLB paintings, suggestive of a Manet figurative style. It is amusing to imagine this is a result of the skulls and gums being developed on the streets where speed is more precious than toning and interplays of light and shade

Sweet Toof

These two shows underline the energy, humour, colour and technique in MLB and Sweet Toof’s work , the work bursts away from the narrow definitions of the street art purists. The talent of both will most inevitably rise further, regardless even of the imminent bursting of the “urban art” bubble.

With between 55 and 60 pieces of work displayed over the two shows there is far more than can be showcased here, a visit to the photo collection for MLB and Sweet Toof is commended. Best of all, catch the shows when they re-open at the same location from 16 January to the 31st.

PS - just for fun, compare this study, shown at this Sweet Toof show, with the gorgeous canvas shown at the Burning Candy show earlier in 2008

Sweet Toof: Study For Rolling Candy

Sweet Toof: Rolling Candy

Thursday, 18 December 2008

DScreet - Words Up

Pure Evil Gallery, Basement
13 - 24 Dec 08

photos: NoLionsInEngland except HowAboutNo where stated

Acid-eyed flourescent owls have been roosting around London, night and day, for the last six years or so. Like their more conventional rural cousins, these DScreet painted urban owls can be harder to spot in the daytime, specially when shutters go up.

Photo: HowAboutNo

A lucky tangential glance might catch them on vans alongside Burning Candy and ATG types

When a guy is getting up on walls with the likes of Burning Candy, Kid Acne, and SEKS then you know that a serious talent is afoot.

DScreet can mix it up a bit wildstyle with the letters on the street, as seen here

A rubble filled basement (that’s the crowd – the floor has quite a few loose bricks too) houses DScreet’s first ever gallery show and dayglo owls roost among DScreet’s other letterform art.

A curious feature of the owls is that they always present their left side, so one wonders what they are hiding on their right. They have the most intense 1000 yard stares and sabre-toothed hair-does and, whether they are the cute little baby ones or the big burly adult bastards, they are always armed with “shake-hands-at-your-peril” talons.

Four caged owls hang from beams in the basement space, their dayglo fur actually subdued in comparison to their radioactive eyes which dare you to engage in a retina burnout staring match.

In case the colours are too muted for anyone, DScreet has done one owl in twinkling blue and pink neon light, though for added effect the colour of the eyes manage to cycle through yellow when warming up.

One pair of owls is done as an embroidery piece which the label proudly proclaims to be made of 67,000 beads. That this fact is known is the scariest thing about this one, though the eyes on these owls are gorgeous. Excuse the pic, the rough aesthetic in the Pure Evil dungeon never lends itself to subtle lighting.

About half of the works on show are word pieces rendered in a blocky style with a jarring crash of colour reliefs. The irregularity of the 3D effects on the words ignores the generally accepted rules of the form.

Like So Many Strange Gods

The effect of the letter shapes and most particularly the colour combinations challenges the observer to ponder if there is some truly kinked inner pallette in DScreet’s mind. There are amusing details not to be missed, check the hara kiri letter O at the end of this piece.

That the irregular shading and inconsistent 3D effects are DScreet’s intentional distortion of the form may be supposed from the words themselves and the titles, most notably this Men Crazed With Shadows.

Men Crazed With Shadows

More twit-twoo from the show can be seen here.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sickboy - Stay Free Show

The Tramshed
Rivington St, London
3 - 10 Dec

All photos NoLionsInEngland except where stated

If Street Art needed a hero, an anonymous posterchild, then Manc rat Sickboy would be your man-with-a-can. For large scale wall lushness all over the world, this artist’s portfolio ranks with the very best and most loved.

Firstly there are the Sickboy temples, those lurid yellowey-orange squashy bubbly mosque looking radio sets, radiating colour all over the place.

Sickboy Temple, 2007

Sickboy Temple 2008

Then there are the block letters, whose colours and composition are always verging on the ramshackle yet Sickboy always delivers a positive message in rough perfection.

Sickboy, feat Word To Mother

In addition to running with the AAGH (Ave A Go Heroes) Crew which may include Sickboy, Otick, Ponk, Phet (TBC!) Sickboy has painted with some of the best, including Burning Candy, Lister and Word To Mother, obliging his comrades to raise their game.

Brick Lane with Burning Candy

Dragon Bar Roof (RIP) with Anthony Lister

It is hard not to love the work Sickboy leaves on walls so it’s no wonder the private viewing of Sickboy’s first solo London show was rammed but let’s recall a few basic characteristics which ensure total respect: all of the graffiti was created in situ, (mostly) without permission and look stunningly gorgeous.

Sickboy love has taken over a spruced up tram shed on the fringe of London’s East End, showcasing Sickboy’s original art, prints and installations. The single cavernous room is lined with paintings on three sides, suspended by wire from the rafters because listed building sensitivities means they can’t make holes in the walls. The core of the space is occupied by a garish red and yellow oversized playhouse, looking like a cross between Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and a Hansel and Gretel Ikea shed. The frontspace surrounding this Stay Free chalet is landscaped with small potted shrubs which close inspection reveals to be Sickboy prints.

A set of large paintings on paper pressed against coloured Perspex box frames dominate the left side of the shed. Thematically, the common denominator is a glimpse into the mind of Sickboy, illustrating its internal mechanisms as it ponders the quandaries of an urban existence. On/vol controls on the classic Sickboy Temples convey the idea of some kind radio device and many of the Sickboy paintings deal with the dilemma of information overload, with small boxes transmitting rays into Sickboy’s mind, mutated TV sets and buttons on everything.

False Hopes And Dreams

TV and Bones

Sickboy’s figurative paintings are reminiscent of the comic strip universe of the Numskulls but just the body with its passageways and linking mechanisms, not the actual Numskulls themselves.

4our Ribs And A Tuning Fork (Detail)

On the opening night, the Stay Free hut echoes the sweet factory in Charlie and The Chocolate factory, within its dark and mysterious heart three balaclaved girls in red one piece jump suit uniforms prepare Sickboy sweets which churn out to the punters on a Sickboy motif converyor belt. The girls seemed happy enough, willing to pout for the cameras and pass out sweets in exchange for swigs of beer, reflecting perhaps the condition of the oompah loompahs who are in essence slaves.

Sickly Sweet Factory – photo: HowAboutNo
A caged inflated heart maintains a dialogue with the hut from an elevated position, the heart is bursting out of its cage but like the slaves it remains tethered to its domain.

Stay Free

Inside the hut, apart from the sweet factory there is a treasure trove of past Sickboy prints and a few small edition and original pieces, believed to be new for this outing.

Technology may be (or maybe isn’t!) the windmill Sickboy mainly tilts his lance at, but one of the favourite London street pieces this year shows Sickboy railing against the acid popping auto-destructive tendencies of the yoof of today.

Woodseer St, London, 2008

That piece contains many details which echo in the new work in this show, the skeleton, the ribs and the internal links between the organs of consumption and the organs of personality, perhaps the clearest link is in the ecstasy symbolism of the smiley eyes in a trio of lurid red and yellow painted and possibly part stencilled spray on coloured Perspex Save The Youth boxes by the back door into the wendy-house.

Save The Youth

The “quilted” word squares (well, they might remind you of those mega quilts made from lots of small pieces sewn together) come to prominence in a set of four spray acrylic and ink canvas productions. The search for words is rewarded with characteristic upbeat Sickboy mantras “Love Saves The Day, Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”, “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow”, “Stay Free and Just Be Yourself, This World Is Yours” and “I Can’t Move Mountains, I Never Said I Could, But I Can Make You Happy”

Just Be Yourself

Free Your Mind

Although many of the messages have the positive power of quasi religious commandments (or have they come from inside Christmas crackers?) many of Sickboy’s figures are mentally wilting under the onslaught of excessive communication overload. However, this doesn’t seem to be where the boy gets the prefix sick from, the work on show just merits the perversely flipped meaning of the work “Sick”, as in “sick work dude!”.

Protect The City

Plenty more pics of gorgeous, sick work from the show here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Mutoid Mechanical Monsters In Action

Back to Mutate Britain show - again - one of those rare shows that sustains repeated visits. All the key sculptural elements familiar from earlier visits (and blog blurgghhhs!) remain in place. Jibbering Arts have an awesome selection of work by street artists from outside London and Auction Sabateur has curated a room, but the main point in writing is to share a couple of camera clips of Larry the mechanoid half Mad Max, half wallace and gommit beast in action, in close up.

This first clip is a slightly wider shot, excuse Lyle the driver while he gets off to lure the hapless camera holder in close then gives him the full fire breathing phenomenon! (turning the vol down for the first 5 seconds - highly recommended; and excuse the first few seconds of camera wobble, it kind of settles down. Kind of.)

Feb 2019: the 2010 html video insert appears to have stopped working, please click HERE to obtain this clip as hosted on flick (forgive the size of this clip, it was on a 2004 camera!)

This second clip shows Lyle rocking those knobs and levers whilst LRRY-1, to give the beast its proper name, seems to decide to do its own thing:

Feb 2019: the 2010 html video insert appears to have stopped working, please click HERE to obtain this clip as hosted on flick (forgive the size of this clip, it was on a 2004 camera!)

Sadly a bunch of pics from two visits seem to have gone missing in the big C drive jpg munching folder, so it seems like another trip back there will be required, happy days!

In case you have missed it, there was an earlier blurggh here from a week or so back looking at sculptural Joe Rush stuff (is my memory correct, was he wearing a pink teddyboy suit last Thursday?).

There are also some photos here.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Stef: French Artist Gets Churchillian On Us

England based French artist Stef (also friend of this blog and LINK DELETED) sends a very Anglo-Saxon message to folk in Shoreditch, London.

On close inspection, the installation appears to be a glazed twice-fired stoneware hand.

The background is the junction of Willow St and Great Eastern Road where a very large group of people queued to buy street art prints at Banksy printers Pictures On Walls. Stef's message addresses a street response to the rapacious appetite of investors seeking street art for investment value rather than the pure love of the streets. Sadly, some value hunter has already made off with the hand, whoever the low-life is will have a piece which eloquently expresses the feelings of real fans of street art towards the thief.

There is irony in the Frenchman's use of this symbol, as flicking the vee originated as an insult aimed by Henry V's longbow archers against the French, after the latter's charming leaning towards amputating the forefinger and middle finger of captured bowmen to prevent them firing bows. And of course, without Churchill inspiring the Brits, German would be language of choice in Paris ;-)