“I just met Sir Ian McKellen, he was eating a pasty” so read the post on one of Marnie Scarlet’s cards pinned to her yellow latex interactive smiley-face social media notice board, don’t know if Sir Ian was eating his snack at the show, it was rather busy in the gallery last night, impossible to see was or wasn’t there, was he there? Another packed opening, another round of trumpets, another gathering or artists, people, paint and performance, another coming together under the Cultivate banner and some more trumpet blowing about something that’s going on right here and right now..
Marnie Scarlet was a big bright yellow emoticon this time, Amy Kingsmill gave extra life to a vase of creamy white roses while an almost silent crowd watch on in, well in almost quiet delight, was it delight? Or was it in disbelief, in shock? In awe or maybe reverence? Maybe just in silence, transfixed as she bled. She was beautifully subtle about it, understated, people quietly watching on in all kinds of engaged emotion as blood dripped down from her arm through the petals to the water in the glass vase – camera phones crowding around the now not quite so white and rather bloodied roses at the end of it all.
“This is bloody brilliant” read another of Marnie’s cards, she’s an analogue Facebook said one whispered voice of Marnie’s performance as she passed around cards from basket and asked for responses and for the right emoticon to be ticked. Amy’s performance was controlled, it wasn’t in anyway violent, it was bloody (not gory), it was beautifully controlled, quiet, not quite delicate, almost clinical, blood tap opened in almost silence, a packed gallery silent. Marnie had been witty, Marnie had been brilliant, Marnie is an absolute star, they were both brilliant once again.
And so the latest in what is now a rather long line of Cultivate shows opened in an East London studio space last night, a space soon to be converted and made ready for yet more offices for the invading tattooed coffee drinkers. Opportunity to show art is fading fast on the East Side of town. Two big rooms in a beautiful old building just off the Hackney Road and a one-off show before this one goes as well
“Be Imperfect’ read Naomi Edmondson’s perfectly coloured big piece hanging on the back wall of the first room, part of her ongoing “Survival Techniques” series that has been inspiringly gracing the buildings and streets of London for the last couple years now. Be imperfect indeed, a Cultivate show is never ever perfect, we try to get as much of it right as we can, always imperfect though, birthed via the do-it-yourself ethic and attitude that revolves around just getting on and doing it rather than waiting for someone else to make it happen. Feeding off the ideals of the photocopied fanzine culture of the last century, the tape trading music scene, the paste it up and make it happen ideal and other bits of factual nonsense that went towards the idea of a better Woolworths. This is about artists coming together and doing it ourselves and yes we are going to blow our own trumpets, the so-called London art press can’t be bothered with showing up for these things and reflected on what’s really happening out here (and you only get on that damn art map thing if you pay them, they’re far more a part of the problem rather than the solution they claim to be)
Twenty eight artists gathered under the Cultivate banner, some invited, some found via an open call. Twenty eight contemporary painters, performers, sculptors, street art flavours, rebellious wallpaper printers, fine artists, textile artists, makers of wearable art, installers of installations, etchers, stitchers, sprayers. Diane Goldie with her very positive kimono robes and defiantly colourful neck pieces (as well as a very personal piece of black and white beauty that you’ve maybe not seen before from Diane, a touching tribute to the writings of her recently passed away daughter), good to have Diane back in a show.
Mia Jane Harris is over there with her delicate vintage porcelain, her tiny bird wings and her Victorian gothic chic. While hanging from one of the building’s big wooden beams you find Laura Hudson’s rather wonderful rather powerful time-based sculpture piece, her gloriously rusted steel box hanging on chains, her sand and time running from the box on to the floor, people standing there just watching time flow, excellent!
There’s several pieces of rust in the show actually, Kim Fordwoh’s installation False Hope, features the rather thin and now very rusty cast iron shields from a destroyed-in-battle World War One tank. The rusty tank piece rests against the wall next to Ian Bailey’s latest Rebellious roll of luscious gold and red hand-printed wallpaper. While London-based Russian artist Yulia Robinson’s bold canvas pieces.(love the Flamingos) shares wall space with Deborah Griffin’s latest painting, “Cicada Boy”, Deborah has been quietly contributing her style to Cultivate shows for a number of years now, really is about time we got to see a body of her work together in one place.
There a real pleasure in just looking at the quietness of the Lucinda Burgess piece on the floor in the silence and the changing atmosphere of the second room, the way the blackness of her beautifully charred redwood plays with light and occasionally reveals more of the black texture, a piece quietly keeping itself to itself behind the door, it really is one of the standout pieces in a show where it really is unfair of me to pick out standout pieces. Emma Harvey’s latest circle paintings, always untitled, always the same 55cm sized circle, her latest two circles are easily as tantalising, exciting and intriguing as any of the previous, and as more are revealed, the idea of what the link might be slightly shifts once again. Has there been eight circle paintings now? We saw the first around this time last year didn’t we? The two newly revealed here share space with previously exhibited riot grrl flavoured Boys Suck piece (or “Untitled No4”), love the way this series of paintings is slowly being revealed in different shows, love the way people are slowly picking up on them without really being told to by anyone.
Vinay Hathi’s oversized Pop Art Primark handbag standing in the middle of the show is just great fun, made out of carpet (should we be revealing that?), it is just great fun, selfies are encouraged, as is picking it up (if you can). Brett Banks is, in terms of a Cultivate show, a lot more of a traditional artist, dare we call him an old school sculptor? A proper sculptor, which of course is why we invited Brett to place three of his rather fine pieces on three plinths in the middle of the floor in the middle of this show. His green opal, his copper and carved oak, his oiled plywood and his waxed steel really does delight in a deliciously organic celebration of form, texture and relationship, his earthy carved colour contrasting with bold pop of those Naomi Edmondson words, that giant handbag and those vinyl records of Quiet British Accent that on closer inspection might not be vinyl. Never Mind The Bobbins, here’s ZIppy and the Cookie Monster and more of that playing with popular culture in that way the Quiet British Accent duo do so well (I think we first found them via the pages of a football fanzine).
It makes perfect sense to us that Quiet British Accent should be sharing gallery space with the tradition of Brett Banks or the giant cherry tree and fungus growth of Louise Hildreth. We first met Brett in a small wood in Leytonstone last year where he was exhibiting some sculpture and carving some stone. We first met Louise HIldreth via the open call for this show, we wanted to have the work of five artists we hadn’t encountered before, we ended up selected eight from the hundreds of submissions. Eight selected from the on-line open call and invited to join the other already familiar to Cultivate artists taking part in the show – open calls have always been an important part of Cultivate, open doors and the vital flow of new blood. Talking of blood, those cream-coloured roses of Any Kingsmill are starting to turn a little pink in their rather bloodied water in the Friday afternoon light.
Soojin Hong is another artist who came to us via the open call as did Lucie Macgregor and her carpet piece, Soojin with her Unequal Strength and Flexibility and her rather technical looking paintings balanced on bricks, Lucie with her tectonic carpet plates in the middle of the floor of the second room, North American Plate meets Eurasian Plate via the medium of carpet in the middle of the gallery floor while people walk around the worlds laid out there at their feet.
Part of the fun is watching the difference art tribes come together when we mix things up like this, “love a show where you have to spend a while appreciating the crowd before you can even look at the art” said someone on social media. Hey, look, we can’t review our own show, we can’t be doing all the trumpet blowing, the show happened, the venue got rather crowded, the art was explored, hopefully enjoyed – the performers delighted, the curators got stressed, the pub next door did rather well out of it all, those who were there know what went down. Friends were made, art was bought, art was talked about, phones were lost, smiles (and other emoticons) were exchanged, we can’t name all the artists here in this sort-of-review or we’ll not get any sleep before opening time comes around again (gallery opening time that is) we’ll write more about the artists in the next few days and weeks, more about those mohair and silk knitted Ophelia`s Dream masks of Jasmin Reif or Amy Oliver’s mannequin and barbed wire or Espira’s ‘Brex-Sebastian’ or those very painterly Lynne Blackburn prints that we always delight in, or the painted faces of Sal Jones or those exceptional portraits of Joanna Geogiades, or the eyewitness painting on newspaper of Nicole Weisz or indeed her big bold Now Is The Time installation that dominates the big room is a rather stylish way, or the vertical mixed media tryptic of Vesna Parchet or those delicate drawings and hugely atmospheric and evocative etchings of William Lindley, really do love William’s work, it looked good on-line, excellent in the wooden flesh.
Hey look, we put it all together we blew trumpets about it all before hand, we can’t be blowing trumpets here as well, we can’t be reviewing our own shows, you were either there or you’ve almost missed it, more about the artists over the next few days, we had a brilliant time, a stressful time, a colourful time, an interact or two happened, we haven’t slept for days now. The interaction happened, people came along, interacted, explored smiled and a great time was had once more, a great time had at an East London art show that once again would go unmentioned and unrecorded if we weren’t here blowing our own trumpets. Thanks you artists, thank you performers and thank you everyone who came out to join in, art excites (oh and it turned out on closer inspection Sir Ian was eating a pastry not a pasty). Thanks everyone. (sw).
The final day is today, Sunday 18th June, open until 6pm, jsut off te Hackney Road, head for the Sebright Arms. COate Studios, 37 Coate Street, London E2 9AG
Click on an image to enlarge or run the fractured slide show and get some of the flavour (I’ll add the rest of the credits and a few links this evening, go to go open for the final day, not enough hours this week)