Monday, 12 April 2010


Pure Evil Gallery

8 April – 2 May

all photos: nolionsinengland

Autumn last year, London’s walls (and a concertina door) turned into one of the largest scale bestiaries possible and those of us who had been watching the flickr photos of Belgan street art documenter Kreibel knew the moment eagerly awaited for over a year had come. Roa was in town.

Curtain Rd, London

Epic in scale and tackling manifestly damn difficult surfaces to paint, Roa has risen swiftly from painting in derelict building in Belgium to become highly prized in any decent street art collector’s portfolio.

East end, London

His first London solo show has just landed at the Pure Evil gallery in London. The work consists of paintings made directly onto the gallery walls coupled with large pieces on scavenged metal.

In the gallery Roa remains true to his core themes out on the streets – black and white creatures done in either figurative or cross-section. Most of the metal works have had a previous life as a clothes locker door, such as you might find at work, at school or in the changing room. Being locker doors they come hinged ready open and close and been keen on a bit of the lenticular image which looks different depending upon the viewing angle (like those moving pictures on the front covers of books from your childhood), Roa sets up most of the art to be played with with different images being achieved by opening and closing the doors.

Most of the two-way pieces flip between surface fur and anatomical innards. You could have hours of fun selecting different combinations of opened and closed doors to skirt around the old image enuii.

Taken as a whole you might see the whole of nature’s life cycle present in the show, right from conception done as a Beatrix Potteresque piece of squirrel lovin’. Roa has allowed a little bit of ambiguity to soften the rodent porn, are we looking at the inner thigh of the rear squirrel’s right leg in which case oh how cute, two squirrels next to eachother, or is it the outer left thigh of some nubile young squirrel-ette in which case the grinning and gimlet eyed rear squirrel should be allowed to get on with his work un-disturbed.

Therein lies the puzzle with Roa’s work, we are inclined to read human emotions and predicaments into the faces and postures of the various animals. It is fairly ridiculous to imagine we can interpret the equivalent “turning Japanese” look of a squirrel on his money strokes, never mind expecting Roa to be painting from intimate knowledge. Yet that’s exactly what we can’t avoid doing. Every Roa piece is squinted at to determine the basics, alive or dead? Hungry and feral or fully fed and bloated? The two horses on the wall in the gallery basement could be piled up spoils of an equine hunt, or two lazy domesticated nags crashed out after a feed.

After the animal world’s equivalent of wining, dining, jiggy-jiggy and a cigarette, the next stage revealed on found metal assemblage is the embryo gestation.

Some of Roa’s best outdoor pieces have been executed in dank roofless warehouses and ancient brick monoliths, the forgotten spaces surrendered by man back to the elements. Distress and dilapidation is part of the furniture at Pure Evil gallery so the basement is the perfect location for Roa to replicate the sense of nature triumph in the return to decaying beauty.

Brick Lane (ish)

Roa has turned the experience of entering Pure Evil’s cellar into a grim descent to a bizarre and unclean abattoir. Birds and rabbits hang from their legs possibly suggesting, at least in the case of the rabbit, the victim of a hunt being hung out to cure though the birds make you wonder if there is some ritualistic voodoo or occult significance.

Roa’s work might be described as representing the triumph of animals reclaiming the urban landscape though several of the pieces lead you to suspect some of the critters have come a cropper colliding with man the hunter. The basement installations look a bit like someone has gone a bit mad with the chloroform on Monochrome Farm.

Roa’s pallete is ideal for creating the sense of nature becoming grease-coated with the grime found in man’s no longer wanted former industrial era buildings. He teases our imagination with the alive/dead happy/sad un-resolved ambiguity and depends upon us to anthropomorphologize the creatures to give them their charm. Very little of the stuff displayed on metal is going to fit happily over the fireplace in the average home but curiously there are some conventional sized drawings displayed on the Pure Evil website.

Sadly, despite the beauty of the work and the un-paralleled marriage between derelict work and derelict location it has actually proved possible to make a fist of capturing the images, Graffoto commends you to Romanywg’s Roa photos which bring all his skills at photographing shit-holes into the gallery and Ian Wallkandy who just can’t take photos that don’t rock.

post script

Just as Graffoto was about to hit the upload button, we came across a couple of fresh ROA outdoor rooftop pieces. The roof position looks great, the animals are superbly rendered, the location is iconic but in the case of the full bird the sense of marginalisation and squalor is defeated by the presence of a huge commercial banner making the location as spoilt and derelict as an Ikea showroom.

And the position of the fresh TEK 13 otp portrait which went up the same weekend as the ROA show opens conflicts horribly with the idea that ROA animals are reclaiming a man-free zone. Oh dear.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Alex Young "Portraits Of Alter Egos"

Westbourne Studios
Acklam St, London W10
April 5 – May 10 2010

all photos nolionsinengland

Graffiti artists need a lot of skill to make a successful transformation to canvas. Alex Young’s new outing at the London Miles gallery shows him using not just a completely different non-graff skill set but also strong ideas too.

Tat Escarriot

Young pursues a pointillist impressionism style and skews the composition, adding inverted and blended multiple images.


Dots become drips and dribbles. In this canvas below the drips flow up and down the surface.


Although the subjects have a kind of goth appearance, it isn’t really important to know whether the brief character biogs accompanying the pieces are fictional or real life. Kitty Cutthroat, mild mannered daytime tea-drinker, burlesque glamour model by night; Kitty Peel, circus performing trapeze artist and pharmacist, if they aren’t fictional Young would be guilty of cultivating and showing off trophy cool mates. The clue to the answer lies in the title of the show.

Kitty Peel

These photos don’t do the luscious tones and textured surfaces of the work, don’t be fooled into thinking they have all the life of flat giclee prints. The other photos also fail to convey the size of the paintings, perhaps a few "contextual" gallery shots would have helped but they'd be full of Vyner St First Thursday trendies.

Jane Doe

YT is an un-reformed indie dinosaur with no inkling of scratch or mixing music but the DJ furiously working away on the decks kept up an impressive set of choons. London Miles have found a novel strategy of launch viewing for one night out in the heart of East London’s “First Thursday” circuit then transferring to their Westbourne Studios location off Portobello Road.

Glam, Kitty Cutthroat

A great show with some classy art pieces, how Odd(isy).


All usuable photos taken at the launch viewing are shown in this little write-up, if Graffoto gets the chance to pop along to Westbourne Studios during the show’s run then more photos will possibly appear in the flickr set.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Banksy v Robbo - War Continues

.........Or does it?

Are these latest changes by Banksy or not? Opinion in the Graffoto bunker has been divided. Can’t say that passions rose to anywhere near bloodshedding levels though.

All the changes basically involve buffing the Team Robbo wording, tidying up and re-working the defaced images.

The Waiter rat has changed to this, little more than buffing out the Team Robbo words, which is ironic as Graffoto likes to imagine Team Robbo left the stencil intact because it was pish anyway and sufficient embarrassment to Banksy itself.

"I don't Believe in Global Warming/War" has been buffed and replaced by a well executed roller headed flamingo, witty for the proximity of London Zoo with its well stocked flamingo pond. Is the perpetrator saying any bird brain could have done the Team Robbo effort?

Fishing boy has caught a no fishing sign and the Team Robbo tagging has been removed, ok, so its funny but not brilliant. The stencilled fish has a weird white dot and dribble from its tail, either this was a deliberate bit of the art in which case what the fuck is it, or it is a complete accident and would definitely suggest this wasn’t a Banksy. If this had been done by Banksy, wouldn’t the drips of canal water present in the original fishing boy have re-appeared?

Finally and utterly predictably, the King Robbo painter is now FUCKING ROBBO, a modification forecast on many forums and flickr comments. It’s done well but all of the other modifications have basically eradicated evidence of Robbo/Team Robbo rather than provoke him, its intent doesn’t seem to fit with the pattern of amendments to the other canalside pieces. Also, the tagging has been completely removed from all the other pieces but on this one the “Team Robbo” tags survives.

Perhaps the flamingo and the No Fishing boy might be Banksy but the other two look more like the efforts of some adventurous and over-sensitive disciples of Banksy. But wtf do we know?

If you need to read more about how the story started, it was covered by Graffoto here.

Robbo got the hump for reasons described here and a Team Robbo reaction kicked in with the wallpaper graffiti roller being taken back.

More details on the Team Robbo crusade against Banksy as it progressed were covered here and here.

2014, sadly..  Robbo RIP