ORGAN THING: Thirteen galleries, several pints, the further exploration of East London’s art – Athena Papadopoulos at Emalin, the Brains & Lip Takeover at Hix, William Mackrell at The Ryder, Elizabeth Magill’s opening night at Wilkinson, Rckay Rax back at Residence…


Thirteen galleries, several pints, this particular Friday afternoon started with another quick look at Jonathan Baldock’s bed over the street at Space . At least someone has made this particular bed and not left their discarded shoes and their empty bottles of vodka from last night all over it (I do prefer an unmade lived-in mess of a bed if a bed is to be a gallery don’t you?). Baldock’s is a neat and tidy bed, a polite bed and the temptation to remove our own shoes is rather easily resisted. And well, still not that sure about what’s actually going on at the frustrating Mare Street art space known as Space, the mysteries are not to be unlocked today, the bed really doesn’t do much more than it did when we wrote about it back at the start of the month, surely everyone who wants to see it has done so by now? Put some energy in to that rather dull space of yours Space, according to your windows and those hashtag slogans that have been up there for ages now, “London Needs Artists”, what we really need is exciting evolving engaging art spaces for the London artists and those who wish to explore the art of the London artists. Apparently the bed stays there for another couple of months yet, and we’re off to the next gallery while we wonder why a polite bed has to take up the space for so so long when so much more could be happening over there….


Jonathan Baldock and an invitation declined

Off down Sheep Lane for one last look at those impressive Hedley Roberts paintings at New Art Projects, it really is (or was, you’ve missed it now), a show to see in the flesh, a show alive with paint and as we said after the opening night, we get to look at those same paintings he talked of via social media and all flat and in all honesty they have no real impact, well not a serious one, they ignite curiosity as they pass by in our news feeds – we get no real sense of them, no feel for the paint, the marks, the scale, we can’t see the life in the eyes, the life in the paint, the painter in the paint, the people he’s painting, not on-line.  And Hedley Roberts is very much a painter and these really are excellent paintings, they really aren’t mere images to view via a flat digital screen on social media (or on websites like this). Other Portraits in a beautifully hung show, work framed and spaced in just the right way, everything with space to breath, details to be explored. And you do need to explore the detail, you do need to look in to those eyes, enjoy those mouths, those beautiful brush marks and that paint – paint all treacle thick and good enough to eat, the personal almost private interaction with the people he’s painted…


Hedley Roberts – Other Portraits…

Oh look, something actually happening by the Canal at Hackney’s Guest Projects, another criminally underused heavily funded art space that tends to mostly be locked, empty, closed and unused,  another art space that tends to frustrate, today we find the gallery actually open  – Laboratory of Dark Matters is a response by artists to scientific investigations into the unknown nature of the universe. Through a programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and discussions it invites everyone driven by curiosity to explore fundamental questions about matter and consciousness –  and really it looks more like a school project that an art event, bits of documentation and diagrams and words and oh let’s make our polite excuses and get the heck out of here.  There’s a bit of a crocodile smile and a bit of a Rowdy and friends on the side of a canal boat over there and we’re three galleries down in terms of this Friday afternoon and the intention to explore East London in a quest for art…


A Friday afternoon exploring new shows that opened last night, shows that are coming to an end, shows that are opening later tonight, explore the art on the walls, the art on streets, maybe even a piece or two to be hung – never dropped, always carefully hung, art carefully hung on the street.

Head over to Rivington Street, passed that dreadful Black and White space and whatever those cowboys from Creative Debuts are doing this week, some ridiculous corporate nonsense sponsored by some energy drink or other, pretty much sums their dubious operation up, still not forgotten how they washed their hands and blamed everyone else in terms of that early closure oh that so-called Revolution show last year.  We’re in Rivington Street and past the Stik and the Pez and the rest, heading for Hix Art and the re-branded space once known at the Cock N Bull gallery underneath the old Tramshed and the much talked up Brains and Lip takeover that opened there last night…


Brains & Lip…

HIX ART is delighted to present Brains & Lip Takeover, showcasing the work of nine female artists.  Ccontroversial, brash and witty, the artworks on view challenge and reclaim what it means to be a woman in contemporary society. The subversive painting, illustration and sculpture that feature in the exhibition explore discourses of identity, sexuality and female empowerment, resisting the restrictive expectations of the elitist, patriarchal art world. Exhibiting artists include its curators and the creative duo behind Brains & Lip, Alice Steffen and Claire Orme, as well as Karina Akopyan, Nicky Carvell, Jess De Wahls, Hells Gibson, Rebecca Mason, Lottie Hughes and Riikka Hyvonen.

Not sure about the “controversial” bit, not sure how “subversive” this is and well, another week, and yet another all female art show.  it might not be that “subversive”but there is some good art to be seen in here – Rikki Hyvonen’s three-dimensional wall piece, is it a kiss or a bruise? And Alice Steffen’s thicket of Barbie shoes stands out a little. The overly slick-looking show does feel like it might be full of lot of things we might have seen somewhere before though. Jess De Wahls embroidered bits of spam can that could easily be from a Lucy Sparrow sex shop and it maybe isn’t as “controversial” as they’d like us to say it is.  Did the hype have us maybe hoping for a little more? It is hard for art to look anything but over-slick in this space, nothing that controversial or indeed that dangerous, well worth a look if you happen to be passing though. Brains and Lip runs at Hix Art, in the basement, under the restaurant, until May 28th.

Off to Emalin via a quick look at Jealous and the Sara Pope solo show that also opened last night, a whole load of her very very slick lips and her pop art mouths and – ccontemporary artist Sara Pope is well-known for her bold, seductive paintings of voluptuous lips. Taking inspiration from Haute Couture fashion and beauty trends, she captures the glamour and power conveyed by the lips and mouth, raising questions of ideals of beauty and femininity.- or so says the gallery blurb, and once again things are all a little too slick and stylised and coffee table Top Of The Pops Magpie annual 1973 and we’ll politely leave it and move on to the next space  On to Emalin gallery via the back streets of Shoreditch and the latest bits of street art before the walls are all gone and the new construction completed and everything is glass fronted, enjoy it while you can, all going fast…


Shoreditch, last Friday…

A new Athena Papadopoulos solo show, The Smurfette, opened at the always interesting Emalin gallery last night, not that you’d know there was a new art show or indeed a gallery hiding behind the unsigned not very obvious door the Emalin space is well and truly hidden behind.  If that is a door then it looks like the private side door of a factory or maybe the sidedoor fire escape exit to some industrial warehouse and there’s no way that can it be the front entry to an art gallery can it?  If you hadn’t already been to the place for an opening night when the rather obtuse door is actually open there’s no way you’d have any kind of clue Emalin was here, why? Why!? Why do art galleries hide themselves?  Why do they go out their way to make you feel so unwelcome? Like they don’t want you to find them? Why do they go so out of their way to give off such an elitist this-isn’t-for-the-likes-of you kind of vibe? Would a tiny sign or hint hurt that much or would the notion of some interaction with the public just be a touch too uncool? is it really just about the dealers ans the monied collectors, are the rest of us such as inconvenience?

Athena Papadopoulos is an exciting artist, an intriguing artist, the Canadian born twenty-something is currently based in London, she’s been exhibiting her rather striking work all over the globe for the last few years, she ‘s an artist who excites, been rather looking forward to this show.  Not so flesh coloured this time, instantly engaging once you do work out how to get inside (and shift the smoking chefs of the doorstep so we can get in, they had no idea the door was in use or that there was an art gallery there either).


Athena Papadopoulos, The Smurfette

Utilizing a list of cosmetic, medicinal, and edible ingredients, Athena Papadopoulos typically stains layers of cotton bedsheets with red wine, lipstick, hair dyes, Pepto Bismol, and self-tanner. Connoting the practice of self-augmentation – of ‘dolling oneself up’ – these intense hues draw attention to how such commodified materials are marketed towards certain consumer archetypes. These archetypes then appear in drawings and photographs of women layered into dense collages: Papadopoulos chemically transfers, cuts, and stitches her own photographs into and alongside imagery gleaned from literature, art history, and popular culture.
By flattening these biographical images against a variety of cultural ones, they become materially homogenized. The compositional gesture assumes posture. Papadopoulos’ action of sampling and recombining images therefore becomes a way of thinking about the construction of femininity. Within this, autobiography functions as a point of departure for thinking through the patriarchal power structures underpinning both the visual experiences and social relations performed by Papadopoulos’ characters. As such, the artist’s sculptures and paintings function as saturated explorations of the constructed nature of subjectivity that reimagines the limits of autobiography through complex materiality.

Athena Papadopoulos, The Smurfette

Like loose pages torn from a journal, the ‘paintings’ on view are encrusted with lascivious catcalls, terms of endearment, drunken pejorative slurs, and teenage slang. Resin letters draped across the sculptures spell out double entendres and innuendos: TAPPED, BATTERED, BRUISED, SPIT OUT. Onomatopoeia assumes materiality throughout. This body of work refocuses our attention: if previous assemblages reveal how quotidian materials are implicated in a particular type of socialization, here the focus shifts to language’s culpability in these constructions.

The Athena Papadopoulos show is exciting, it is challenging, it does reclaim, her stained layers, the bedsheets, the drunken pejorative (and the quoting of the press release), the materials, the materiality, her assemblage of bruises and stains, of tears and things peeled back, the underwear and outer wear, this really is an exciting show (you can view it until June 3rd at Emalin – if you can work out where the door is and how to get in that is – Find it at Unit 4 Huntingdon Estate, Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6JU, right over the street from Boxpark and the overground station).  Athena Papadopoulos excites,  her “paintings” excite, her layers intrigue, her use space, her skins that peel back, Athena Papadopoulos is an exciting artist and this is a show that it doesn’t disappoint, this is another great show at the Emalin space, they’re on a good run at the moment.

Friday’s exploring goes on and art must be dropped, although never actually “dropped”, always carefully hung, leaves painting on things discarded, old pieces of unwanted wood picked up off the street, when things are left on the street leaves will grow on them, fresh growth, new layers –  left there for people to take should they wish to…


A leaf left hanging there…

Drops droped and we’re off again, more art needed, they’ll start closing soon, off to the Roman Road,  pass by the closed Espacio Gallery (even though their website promised they were open) up to the Roman Road Gallery via a swift pint in the Salmon and Ball, we’re back in Bethnal Green now and Roman Road is pleased to present MDAM, a duo exhibition by Mia Dudek and Alix Marie, two recent graduates from the Royal College of Art.   I don’t know, “recent graduates really is a term to set off alarm bells, and there is an argument that says all art students should be ignored for five years while they get the art school experience out of their systems, if they’re still standing and still committed to their art after five years then we’ll take a more serious look at what they’re doing with their art out here in the real world.


MDAM at Roman Road…

Do like the Roman Road Gallery but what is actually going on here?  Apparently the exhibition addresses themes of postgenderism and considers how humans are progressively losing contact with the physical body through the increasing automation of sexual pleasure –  existential encounters of the body and the alienation of the individual so it seems, building materials? Urban dehumanisation? Explorations and notions of architecture and the body?  oh well, if we’re quick we can still grab another look at Christina Mackie’s Drift Rust over at Herald St gallery

Now how on earth is anyone who isn’t already in the know supposed to know there’s a gallery hiding through the back of the garage behind the silver shutters on the corner at the end of Herald Street?  Another gallery with no sign, not even a discrete name plate on the door, no clue whatsoever, why? I’d love someone to tell us why these galleries like to hide? Surely it isn’t all about some kind of elitism and wanting to appear exclusive, to appear to be a cut above the general public and not really wanting us to explore these spaces, not wanting us to interact with the art they have on show behind these unmarker doors? Surely that can’t be it? Surely not….


An art gallery that is actually open, no really, it really is….

Herald St is actually a very likeable gallery once you work out that it is actually there and you work out that if you wait long enough someone might answer the door and let you in – a serious gallery, and, as we said last week when we covered the opening night of Christina Mackie’s Drift Rust, a gallery alive with contemporary quality, a space to trust and a space that comes with a little bit of a playful smile, a gallery that takes what it shows very seriously yet manages to smile about it – there’s an impression that they might actually enjoy what they do in this likable East London space hidden in a Bethnal Green back street behind a garage behind a silver garage door.

The Christina Mackie solo show is well worth visiting again, and as we are visiting again, let’s revisit the Organ review from last week – Christina Mackie is a name of course, Tate installations and whatnot, she’s known to use a whole range of things to bring her art to life, a variety of media united in here in this show by a depth of colour. The perception of that colour seems to be central to her work, the thing that pulls the roadworks lights, the mostly white objects on the tables and of course the beautifully warm paintings together.  it really is the colour somehow ties together the installations and the sculptural pieces that contrast so much with the fluid feel of that summer paint and the lush feel of her warm canvas. An artist in a permanent state of what shall we have for tea today? Will it be paint this evening or will we have sculpture? A big installation, or maybe a delicately energetic painting, a 3D film or some lavish colour applied to canvas?  –  you can find lots more photos and words via the Organ review from the opening night last week.


Christina Mackie, Herald St, April 2017

Christina Mackie’s show is well worth a second visit in the peace and quiet of a Friday afternoon rather than the crowds and the excited chatter of an opening night, and as we already said, Drift Rust is a show that takes a while to make sense of and then it suddenly clicks as you stand there in the room, it suddenly all makes so much beautiful sense, it all fits together as one whole, one body, one notion, and yes, of course there’s only one artist in here. A curiosity is rewarded, a fine show enjoyed, an artist on top of her game and a show to most certainly go back to yet again while it occupies the East London  space so well. Christina Mackie’s solo show Rust Drift is on until 21st May at Herald Street Gallery,  you find the gallery hidden behind the side door inside that unmarked garage at 2 Herald St, Bethnal Green, London, E2, don’t let the lack of a sign intimidate you now…

Hang on is that a gallery as well? The Ryder? Is it a gallery? Can’t quite tell? Is it open? is it?  “The Ryder is a new project space for contemporary art presenting the work of emerging and mid-career artists in curated dialogues and solo presentations”. There’s no real indication that it is a gallery or indeed that it might be open, we’ll walk in, see what we find, what couple possibly go wrong poking around strange buildings in East London back streets on a Friday afternoon? 


is that an art gallery? is that William Mackrell’s work or an electricians workshop?

The Ryder is pleased to present “Hold Up,” the gallery’s second solo presentation of work by British artist William Mackrell. Throughout the exhibition, there is a sense of endurance, where objects, sound, and body shift precariously between collapse and rebirth. All of the works in “Hold Up” embody a kind of vulnerability, as they try to maintain their existence under the continuous threat of their own absence

– and so we find ourselves it what could be a rather inviting exciting intimate art space, another of the Herald Street spaces, there’s a whole load of flickering fluorescent tube lights on one wall, there’s a couple more over there, there’s a record deck on the floor, a record spinning, no sound, while in a bare white cube of a second back room there’s a small black hole and maybe that’s the sound of the record coming out of the black hole in the wall down there? 

Mackrell continues his exploration of the body as filtered through cultural and technological perspectives in the live work Interruption (solo). A performer lies upon a transparent shelf containing a faulty fluorescent light tube that flickers and hums sporadically. Though the bulb struggles to remain lit, it is ultimately trapped in its obsolescence, headed to its impending and inevitable death. In turn, the performer lying above the strained bulb experiences the bulb’s breaking rhythm through the vibrations in the shelf, and attempts to ingest and translate what moves through his or her diaphragm via subtle vocal sounds and exhalations –


William Mackrell’s sound hole…

Kind of liked it, we’ll probably vaguely think about it until we get to the next pub, shall we have another pint or head for the first of tonight’s openings?  Too late to catch whatever might be happening Maureen Paley Gallery now (another of the Herald Street spaces, seems a Lawrence Abu Hamdam show just opened, inkjet prints on acetate sheets on overhead projectors and such).  And there’s a piece of art fixed to a lamppost between a couple of the street’s galleries and tagged #Datum_01


An East London phone box….

Off to the first of the evening openings then, this is not the time to head back to the pub,  we’re only five hours in and there’s more exploring to be done, the last gallery left standing down Vyner Street is calling, Head past another distinctive Aida Wilde print pasted up on the wall and it is a rather depressingly void down the now very sanitized coffee shop polluted Vyner Street now, if ever a street had the life gentrified out of it no, let’s not go there again, hard to believe this place was once so alive with people and art, you know the history by now….


Elizabeth Magill at Wilkinson Gallery

The great big Wilkinson Gallery down the end of Vyner Street has an opening tonight, another Elizabeth Magill show in their big (big) white space – a third solo exhibition with London-based artist Elizabeth Magill. The exhibition on both floors of the gallery brings together a body of work made over the past several years –  and it is pretty much the same as we saw from her last time, more of her layers of leaves and paint and her trees and birds and figures through the leaves, her pathways and discoveries.  There are some beautiful marks, some delicious layering of paint, some playing with light and branch shapes. Oh look, the big gallery is packed, connecting with the pieces with all this noise is almost impossible and really feeling any emotion for the branch-like abstractions is difficult in here with all the art chatter and drone.  I’ve enjoyed my previous encounters with the expansive painting of Elizabeth Magill, rather think this needs to be explored in some peace and quiet on another day, Elizabeth Magill’s no doubt rather powerful show is on at Wilkinson Gallery until the end of May


Elizabeth Magill, opening night chat at Wilkinson

And so Friday’s adventure is almost at an end, one more to go, Rckay Rax is back at Residence gallery again, three years ago it was The Sucker, what will it be this time? As we’ve said before, The Residence Gallery is an intimately plush space, and in this show Rckay addresses the human’s place in an increasingly tech orientated and dependent world. He does not fill in the blanks. The images, drawn by finger on the most basic of iPad sketchbook apps, resemble Victorian spirit photography and fantastical adventures in Scrying. They are at once disturbing and beautiful, profound and pathetic, silent and screaming…


Rckay Rax back at Residence gallery…

Fantastical adventure on the gallery wall and Rckay Rax tera bites and snapshots retrieved from a somnambulant insomniac examination and expansion upon his obsessive themes: technology and primitivism; futurism and transformation; choice, manipulation and totalitarianism; sexuality, aesthetics and morality; contradiction and juxtaposition. Self sacrifice and Vampirism. The speed (or not) of life – you can explore the Residence gallery opulence and the Caravaggio flavours and the darkness of a dead monitor at night when you’re not looking, you can explore all that and a little more at Residence Gallery, 229 Victoria Park Road,  London, E9 7HD. until the 18th June (how long!?)

And then it really was time for the pub. If you know where to look then the East End of London still has a lot of art to offer, some of it may be hiding, some of it might hang around for a few more weeks that in maybe needs to, some of it, like the current Athena Papadopoulos show at Emalin, or the Christina Mackie show at Herald St or Rowdy and Sweet Toof on the walls and boats of the canal or the ever evolving colour on the walls of Sclater Street (where those leaves were left hanging) really does excite, some of it infuriates, some of it is a little too slick and sometimes maybe you should jump on the bed with your muddy shoes still on and mess stuff up a bit.  Whatever people might tell you while they sit  in their white cube galleries or there art magazines offices sucking up their press releases and admiring their hats on their websites over in the other parts of this big city, the East End still has a lot of art to offer if you really bother to go and look for it. More next week as new shows open and old ones close, art excites, exploring art excites, interaction excites, more to come, a Friday afternoon well spent, we’ll do it all again (and again), bring it all on, we want it all…  (sw)

Click on an image to enlarge it to run the fractured slide show and follow the order of Friday’s events…

2 thoughts on “ORGAN THING: Thirteen galleries, several pints, the further exploration of East London’s art – Athena Papadopoulos at Emalin, the Brains & Lip Takeover at Hix, William Mackrell at The Ryder, Elizabeth Magill’s opening night at Wilkinson, Rckay Rax back at Residence…

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