The contrast between the art event explored this Friday evening and last Friday’s almost offensive excesses over at Frieze cannot be ignored. The contrasts at Stour Space, the plight of the artists and designers, the plight of the creative community that has thrived for many years over in Hackney Wick, the contrast between the defiance of Save Yourselves this week and the money, the art dealing and the crass contempt of last week really can’t be ignored.
The spaces and creativity found in places like Hackney Wick are the source, these places and spaces like Hackney Wick are the lifeblood. This is where the art that eventually gets traded, the art that makes so so much money for those high-end international galleries and dealers, the art that eventually creates so much revenue (and indeed taxes for governments to spend on things like community-destroying Olympic stadiums and legacies), this is where that art comes from, this is where the committed artists and their pieces of art are birthed, these are the places where new art thrives. You can’t allow them to kill this, to do so is just so stupidly short-sighted, places like Hackney Wick are the sources, places like Hackney Wick are vital, actually is there anywhere else quite like this place called Hackney Wick?
And so the artists are once again being forced out, the designers are once again being pushed out, much-loved buildings are being torn down, living spaces taken away, studios, galleries and lives destroyed. It already happened to the Vyner Street community and to the dozen or so galleries once found down that world-famous East London street, and you will find it rather difficult now to find much evidence to back up the fact that Redchurch street was once alive with so much creativity, now that that former art street has been swamped with over-priced coffee shops and designer label peddlers. And that big complex of studios over on Cremer Street, the one over by Hoxton railway station, the big studio complex where the artists were forced to sign agreements stating that they would not protest the eventual closure in order to be allowed to hang on in there for an extra year – all the artists gone now and the building standing empty – there are similar stories all over town as almost every once creative space is grabbed by uncaring developers and their (corrupt?) allies on the council planning committees When our own gallery space in the middle of the aforementioned Vyner Street was demolished (at the end of 2014 with very short notice – two weeks to clear out), demolished to make way for yet another overpriced and unobtainable block of flats that all about money and nothing to do with people – when Cultivate was demolished we were assured that the gallery space would be replaced by another similar creative space at the foot of the new development, indeed it was part of the planning permission granted by the same Tower Hamlets council who are now watching Hackney Wick being torn apart. Of course there is no sign of the promised new gallery space at the foot of that ugly new block of badly built flats that now stands where Cultivate and a number of living working thriving art studios once stood – and when the council are questioned about that they show no interest whatsoever..
There wasn’t much of a fight put up for Vyner Street, the art media and the wider art community really didn’t show that much interest – we felt let down over that one. Thankfully the Hackney Wick artists are putting up a bit more of a (united) fight for their right to be arty and last night another defiant art show called Save yourselves happened over in the Wick at Stour Space.
Stour Space itself is thankfully not scheduled for destruction yet, at the moment the complex that houses a gallery space, a thriving art shop, a cafe and a number of artist studios is just about hanging on, their neighbours at Vittoria Wharf are about to feel the wrecking ball come crashing through the wall though, and the big Mother Studios that housed so many artists and designers for so many years are pretty much history now as are so many of the others. Hackney Wick’s creative spaces, galleries, studios and communities all being ripped apart – the Olympic legacy, the uncaring hand of the arrogant property developer and their couldn’t-give-a-shit architects. Do we really need yet another bridge over to the soul-sucking buy-stuff hell that is Westfield and that corrupt football ground that was the Olympic Stadium? Do we need that architect-ego-inflating bridge rather than communities and people’s homes, the work spaces and the lives? is this the Olympic legacy?
Thankfully the artists and designers of Hackney Wick are putting up a bit more of a fight than those of Vyner Street did, and the street artists are naturally out there leading from the front. Aida Wilde’s gathering of artists to re-work the regularly painted and pasted-upon walls of the long-standing street art canvas that was the Lord Napier pub ahead of this summer’s Hackney WickEd was glorious, as we said a couple of days ago, one of the artistic highlights of this year, and last night that same defiant gang of street artists, print makers, pop artists and anarchic paste-up merchants from the Lord Napier gathered once more
The artist line up for Save Yourself ran something like this; MOBSTR, Donk, Zombie Squeegee, Static, Fatherless, Edwin, Mighty Mo, Sweet Toof, Dscreet, Unga, Deso, Malarko, Float, DONE, Gregg Abbott (The Hidden Print), Vesna Parchet, Teddy Baden, John Atherton, Hin, Sony, Darren John, RUN, Ronzo, Rowdy, Neoh, David O’Shaughnessy, Cristina Lina, Brenda Goodchild, Helen Ashton, Jo Hicks, Anna Chilton, Xenz, Busk, Fifth Wall TV, Rosa Romeo, Felicity Taylor, Gina Pellicci, Juliette Stuart, Allie Li, Ego. A. Sowinski, Pang, Tek33, ODC & Nudo de Víboras.
A slightly chaotic hang and lots of loud (not too loud) beats, a defiant atmosphere, lots of people, animated conversation and ultimately a rather important art show. The opening feels more like a party than an art exhibition, it doesn’t really matter that the pieces on the walls is almost lost in the darkness and the shadows cast by the bodies and the even bigger shadows cast by the art the hanging up above, it doesn’t matter that there are no clear names on the pieces that aren’t immediately recognisable from their style – of course many of the pieces are instantly recognisable, a Toof here, a Dscreet owl on that door over there along with the poignant lyrics to the Clash classic Guns of Brixton painted on it – When they kick at your front door, How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun – of course street art is able to shout louder than most and street art is best when it really is street art, when it really is really out there on the streets living and breathing, and yes, a street art print is best as a paste-up out there on a wall with those weathered edges, out there fighting with the layers of previous paste-ups and spray paint scars. When you take street art inside and hang it on a gallery wall of course so much of that energy is going to be lost, even in a dark chaotic attitude-fueled show like this one, even is a room alive with hip-hop earfood and the conversation of excited people – the best fanged-toof is viewed on a wall through the filthy window of a train carriage – but this show isn’t really about the art or the hang or the way it works on the gallery wall, this show about the people who live here, the people who make their art here.
This show is about community, this show is about the creative spirit that had evolved here in the Wick for twenty years or more, a community that has thrived when no one else much besides the artists cared about the place. This show is about the people who drank at the Lord Napier, who went to the Speedway track, who worked at the Matchbox toy factory, about the clearing out and the gentrification . Buildings need to have a purpose beyond just accommodation, for a community to live and breathe there needs to be more than just expensive flats and coffee shops – things need to happen, things need to be made, created – things need to be happening for there to be a heart and soul. This show is about defying being told again and again that London is not for the likes of us any more. Save Yourselves is an important art show, a positive show, and yes there is some rather decent art hanging on those Stour Space walls next to the documentation of the neighbourhood and the creativity and the photographs of past adventures. There’s great art in here, great art like the defiantly confrontational humour of Aida Wilde and her hashtagged words, the evolving layers of texture that Donk is exploring with his paste-ups and prints, those little bird boxes alive with mystery should you be curious enough to press the door bell on the side, those Fighting Words, the War Paint, the teeth – lots of good art in here, but Save Yourselves is about so much more than the good art on the busy walls.
Last night Stour Space was an art space alive, a space in tune with the community, a space that welcomes the locals that are still surviving here, a space that is part of the landscape.. Last night art brought together school teachers, we talked to nurses, saw the local postman there – Last night brought together animators, art fans, people who so things, communities coming together, a real community tied together by art, by creativity, by people sharing space and life together. Save Yourselves is an important show, an excellent show, an exciting show, a show alive with creativity, with several shades of altitude and[positive energy, with defiant conformation that the community isn’t going quietly. Last night Stour Space was alive with street art and urban flavours, alive with print and paint and music and laughter, with conversation and people meeting, with friends, with the imperfection of colour, the marks of printed energy…
Don’t be making the mistake of thinking Hackney Wick is all about street art, paste-ups and messy layers of graffiti though, the street art is exciting but that’s only part of the real magic of Hackney Wick – the real magic happens (or once happened) behind the closed doors, the magic happened in the studios, the art spaces and the the print rooms – the space where contemporary painters are working and the textile weavers are weaving, where sculptors and photographers and stop-motion animators and stage set designers are creating, next to the spaces where the car mechanics, the woodworkers, furniture makers and all kinds of crafts men and women were toiling – the creativity and the community working in the spaces that no one else really cared that much about the taxi-menders and the stone masons working next to the artists and the real lives and the people who made the Wick an exciting thriving place to live. .Save Yourselves then, an art show and some artists saving a lot more than just themselves, an important at show and oh and some rather good art to go check out in the daylight as well. (sw)
Save Yourselves is happening at Stour Space, 7 Roach Road, Hackney Wick, E3 2PA. The exhibition will then be open daily until 31st October 9am-5pm, free entry.
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show that includes an Art Drop or two as well as a small taste of the nighttime colour of Hackney Wick…