ORGAN THING: Trumpet blowing and more blood spilled, another busy art show in a London basement…


Well that was quite an eventful weekend spent over on the edges of Hackney down in a Dalston basement at the foot of the Stoke Newington Road in amongst all the noise and people of N16. We’re in Monday morning recovery mode now and musing on all that went on, that was eventful!  Big thanks to everyone who came to the Debased show, big thanks to all of those who came along for that rather packed opening and thanks to those who made the effort to come explore the exhibition over the long weekend.  I think we can say that was a particularly successful (dare we say significant?) one.  I think we can say that went rather well can’t we?. Big big thanks to all who made the effort to come along and to all the artists who took part (and to those artists who we couldn’t fit in to the show this time). I think that marked five years of doing it the Cultivate way rather well… we’ll start work on the next shows in a minute, let’s get some thoughts about this one committed to (electronic) paper.

Rather pleased with  the artisan flavours we had this time, the cross-pollination of contemporary painters mixing with the graphic sign-writing, the crafted gilding, the hand-printed rolls of wallpaper or the fabric delivered with attitude, rather liked all that hanging next to the big canvas pieces and the brush stokes and the delicate details and the bold abstractions, rather liked the mixing of the performance, the painters, the fine art printmakers and street art flavoured illustrators – cross-pollination was the phrase again this weekend – and, yes, the politics, rather proud to have had that powerful Megan Pickering piece right there in the middle of things demanding attention (more about Megan’s powerful piece later on, it deserves an article all to itself later this week)..  

debased_sept2016It is no secret that Cultivate is an Organ thing and that we here at the now long-running Organ (almost thirty years of Organ) opened Cultivate as a gallery space some five years ago now – all documented over on the Cultivate blog, Cultivate is now nomadic, Cultivate, like Organ, is ever evolving – so yes, we are blowing our own big-mouthed trumpets here again, so what?! The goings on of the last five days deserve some trumpeting and if we don’t do it then who will?

And so five days were spent in a basement art gallery space over in London N16, the opening night was intense (it wasn’t a private view, we open for everyone, we don’t do private view, everyone is welcome at our art shows), the opening was beautiful, and these notes were hammered into a mobile phone in wake during the show over the weekend in between conversations with visitors and…

Marnie Scarlet, post performance, back in the day wear

Marnie Scarlet, post performance, back in the day wear

The cold light of a Dalston Friday almost reaching down in to the BSMT Space basement, the scars of last night almost cleared up, one lone blood-covered piece of slightly mutilated rose left from Amy Kingsmill’s rather challenging piece of performance art.  Never has a packed art gallery been so quiet, so transfixed and fully focused (London art audiences are by habit, loud things). Not a word said in the basement, complete silence for Amy’s half-hour performance save for the noise drifting down from the street, from outside the open door, the busy traffic rushing by, the passing of people getting on with their shopping and their rushing home or their rushing out to a bar or just hanging about up there oblivious.  A gallery almost stunned, silence as Amy Kingsmill’s white dress turned red and her performance twisted people’s expressions.  Of course besides the hundred or so who happened to be in the gallery at the time, no one will really know any of it ever happened, the fadish art press showed their usual lack of interest in what’s really going on week after week right under their noses in spaces like this, the London art maps who never seem to find their way to map these things and such, no sign of the demander of properly written artistic essay either, must have been busy arranging her footnotes and making sure her academic pontificating was all formally correct and that all signs of excitement are removed from the process of (writing about) art, that or she had a headache, she’s being saying she’s too ill to make it this week for five years or so now.  Why is it that the London art media so very very rarely actually gets out and covers the actual art that’s happening? Surely nothing to do with who pays for advertising space and who doesn’t? Surely that cynical Art Map page doesn’t run like that?


Chain of thought broken down in the gallery by Mr Yogi, a passing fortune-teller, I do like this space on the crossroads where Kingsland Road turns into Stoke Newington High Street, just beyond all the colourful noise of mercifully ungentrified Ridley Road Market (catch it while you can people, treasure it, I love walking through there, love buying big bags for fruit for half the price you pay in the supermarket, love the noise, the voices), Mr Yogi is the latest of a stream of colourful characters dropping in today – school kids, construction workers, religious pamphlet pushers, the occasional artist, a passing dry-cleaning delivery man supposedly rushing a dress to a customer, said he couldn’t resist the sign outside and a quick look (see galleries, signs outside, they really do work, much better than hiding behind a locked door and an uninviting bell).  Mr Yogi failed to get anyone in the gallery to cross his palm with a “small financial tribute”, he was very complimentary though, and rightly so, this is, even if I do say so myself, a rather satisfying show.  If last night’s opening was about intensity and attitude, then today has just been about enjoying the art and exploring a whole cross-section of London’s artist-led creative pro-active underground. Sixteen artists hanging on the walls, the art reflecting off the shine of the floor, the art hiding in the beautiful brick alcoves that add so much to this excellent underground art space, sixteen artists who were joined by three performance artists for last night’s rather exciting, rather busy, rather buzzing opening.

Amy kingsmill

Amy kingsmill

This is an important show, for no other reason other than that it opened on Joan Jeff’s birthday, she’d appreciate that Boys Suck piece that threw so many off the scent just when they thought they had worked the artist out.  An important show because down here in this basement, this artist-led coming together of a show represents, once again, where the real energy is in terms of the people, the contemporary creativity and the right-here-right-now – a dozen and a half artists sharing wall space, floor space, energy and ideas. Megan Pickering excited to be showing art next to Emma Harvey and her circles, Emma exited to share walls with Bruce Lovelock‘s large painting – “I imagine him as one of those artists who are discovered later on in life with hundreds of works stored away…I like his work, there is a dark strange edge there, I don’t see anything else out there like his work. It poses questions to me, rather than handing it all on a plate I do ‘feel’ from Bruce’s work…”.  Quiet British Accent, Jane Mutiny and her pumping hearts and herons, a table full of prints, zines – Jane Laurie AKA the street artist known as Mutiny has been painting her hearts and endangered species on the walls if London all summer and this weekend she’s up on the wall next to Ian Bailey‘s deliciously rich hand-printed rebellious wallpapers – dare we say the punk rock William Morris? Love having Ian’s work on the wall, brilliant. .

Emma Harvey

Emma Harvey

These are the people who have recovered from the tedious bindings of art school, the rules and the restrictions, the chains of formality and the “correct” way of doing things (I reckon it takes about five years before an ex art student has got real and thrown off the shackles and started to produce something worth engaging with, either that or given up and become an estate agent vitriolically upping the rents and closing down the art spaces they no longer visit or got to hang work in. Of course the art establishment can’t see beyond the end of term degree shows in terms of looking for the exciting new artists, if the establishment gallery machine doesn’t snap you up the minute you graduate then it ignores you for ever more. The London art scene is a fractured thing, the really exciting artists and events are the ones that come together like this one in space like this one, this is where the spirit of Joshua Compston flows on, a better Woolworths, this is art getting on with it without all the uninviting formality and the cold-hearted footnotes.

Marnie Scarlet

Marnie Scarlet

And so Amy Kingsmill’s needles lay of the floor along with the blood and the silence until the music pieced it all and night moved on and evolved again, before Amy Cultivate regular Marnie Scarlet held centre stage with a performance and a dress made from the make-up encrusted tissue wipes of previous encounters, her white face painted by an audience invited to engage and doing so with delighted enthusiasm in-front of the paintings and a crowd packed in and perched on the stairs, squashed in to corners, elbowing with the camera-snappers and the mobile phones that were sharing it all instantly.

Megan Pickering - Breadline

Megan Pickering – Breadline

Meanwhile Apple Tart is wandering around questioning gender in her dress and people are asking questions about the food lists and the reproduced 80’s miner strike leaflets, those who were around at the time explaining to those who weren’t. Megan Pickering is from the mining community of Durham, her piece on the wall is particularly powerful, it was important to place it right in the middle of the show, a place of prominence, not lost in the noise of the other art. A piece of art called Breadline – a piece we had seen before and particularly wanted in this show, I think we’ve said before Megan is one of our favourite London-based artists, her video piece at last year’s Play show was special, all of her appearances at Cultivate have been (we first got to know of Megan when she came in to curate her own group show and few years back, see, all about the energy of artists doing it themselves). Breadline features the lists compiled by the artist’s grandmother while she was in charge of the food parcels and the donations sent in in support of the striking miners and the communities threatened by Thatcher’s hatred back in her days of government – the list of food supplies is powerful, this is a vital piece of art, a vital piece of social documentation – strong statement, important statement, this piece of work really does deserve far more attention than it will ever get down here in one of our shows.

Quiet British Accent

Quiet British Accent

And so a show alive with contradictions, the usual street-art crowd who tend to inhabit BSMT Space are grasping it, well the ones who have bothered to show up, alas many of the regulars have opted not to step outside of their comfort zones, “I usually go but it didn’t look like my thing” said one on-line – well yes, the usual game of street art bingo was not on offer tonight, no bad Bowie stencils or conforming skulls or Star Wars clichés that they like to say are “smashing it” in that street art way that does so amuse – oh but there was the flowing black and white style of This One, the strong urban colour of Rosso and there was the heart-felt beauty of Mutiny and her endangered heron and there was that bloke who repeatedly paints those tag-like leaf-things on found pieces of wood and such recycled from the street and them hangs them back out on the street walls, and you would surely have appreciated the meaty substance of Espira’s pop art and Tesco bags and vintage porn and angelic wit, and that painted penny that Quiet British Accent refused to sell (despite the repeated requests) because it wasn’t about the money – painted penny piece was put out on the Dalston street after the show, attached to a wall, there to be taken, that’s “smashing it”.  But then everything must stay in a box and be neatly labeled – this box from the appreciators of contemporary art, that one over for the urban art followers and never the two shall dare to meet and where shall we put Elizabeth Sandford Richardson‘s black and white digital holography in all of this? Her subtle photography, her printmaking, her diffraction that’s evolving, where does that fit in? What is going on here, how dare you cross pollinate like this!  Pretty sure Elizabeth came along with Apple Tart, although I never did see the two of them in the same room at the same time.


yes, this was about cross-pollination, artists uniting and sharing space, contradicting, complimenting, questioning, outside the rules and pigeonholes – the painterly colour, the portraits and the bright (bright) wearable art of Diane Goldie (do like the creative questions Diane constantly throws out),  the ever evolving Matisse-flavoured colour and cut out shape of Swiss artist and music maker Christopher Cachelin (AKA Kidd Feather), the dark mystery (and taxidermy) of Mia-Jane Harris hiding delightfully in the corner arch waiting to be explored, the bold personality and rich colour of Rosso, her punk rock edge there on her big bright canvas, her wearing of everything on her painted metaphorical sleeve. There’s a strong defiant smile to Rosso’s painting, a developing self-awareness, a need to convey her hope, her fear, her excitement, her questions.


And then there’s Deborah Griffin‘s sailing of her pirate ship (was it a pirate ship or was that just me reading that wholesome blackness?), her big self-portrait, the artist as a sailing ship (surely a pirate ship?), do love Deborah’s work, never know what she will bring when invited but it is always rewarding and with a slight gothic undercurrent that it so good to drink in, a painterly style like nobody else, we always delight in asking her back  There’s Lynne Blackburn‘s previously documented craft, her high-end contemporary print making there in the frames hanging on the brickwork, her celebration or mark and colour that is so much more than just mark and colour and glorious texture when you really take the time to look and yes I am blowing trumpets about the artists we invited to take part, of course I am! There’s a lot of time and effort, argument and debate that goes into the selection (and indeed the hang), into the balance of the show, the potential relationships between the pieces on the wall of the gallery, lots and lots of pulling together – there were others we would have loved to ask but would they fit with this particular body of the work and this group of artists in this particular space?   


And so another Cultivate show happened (there’s been about 150 of them now and she’s been too ill this week to make any of them), this time it happened in a basement space in Dalston and a take over of the BSMT Space gallery.  Sixteen artists shared the walls, some performance artists performed on the opening night, lots of people came along, a triumph art show happened – maximalism, cross-pollination, positive contradiction, punk rock,  trumpet blowing – a good time was had, some thought-provoking was thrown out along with the entertainment, the beauty, the darkness, the politics, the creativity and a barb or two.  The man in the red hat didn’t come, neither did anyone of the pontificating speakers from the Art Conference who like to tell us what’s going on, the art-fair art pimps who send out the e.mails telling us how much they “love your work and you can have a couple of inches of badly lit wall space for a couple of days if you part with a couple of hundred notes” (well a lot more actually), non of those art-pimps made it – lots of people did come though, lots of real people made it, lots of art happened, debate took place, smiles on faces, pieces sold, friendly argument on the merits of this and that.

Marnie Scarlet

Marnie Scarlet

Mr Yogi said it was good, Mr Yogi was right, and when a show as good as this one happens then an unashemed trumpet or two is going to be loudly blown. Like we keep saying on these organic pages, shows like this are happening almost every week in this city of ours, as fractured and under threat as we artists are, as difficult as space is to find now, art is still very much alive in the back rooms of London and if you’re willing to get out and engage with it then these are very rewarding time. We had a great time in the basement, we’ve had a great time doing this Cultivate thing over the last five or so years, we like being a thorn in your side (sometimes they do indeed have thorns), thanks everyone, thanks for coming, we’re going to blow our own trumpets, now what shall we do next? (SW)          

Click on an image to enlarge or to run slide show….          .



6 thoughts on “ORGAN THING: Trumpet blowing and more blood spilled, another busy art show in a London basement…

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