DANNY POCKETS – “Houses of The Holy”, Royal Albert Hall, London, March 2018
– Of course it was emotional, of course it was, Danny Pockets, a much respected contemporary painter, a much appreciated person who was always a pleasure to work with and share space with, a well known and extremely respected character and significant contributor to the the ever evolving London art scene, a painter who’s work was (and is) highly regarded by his peers, Danny Pockets, a beautiful man who lost his defiant fight with cancer just two short annoying weeks before this show, a show that must have meant so much to him, a show that opened for a short run at the Royal Albert Hall last week. Of course it was emotional, how could it not be?
There’s people quietly in tears in the circular corridor of the Royal Albert Hall, fellow artists coming to see the exhibition that Danny didn’t quite get to see himself, friends telling tales and sharing talk of Danny or of times at the Rainbow or the Astoria, nights at the Marquee and those other houses of the holy he’s painted in just the right way. There’s friends, family, followers, artists, people arriving early for the gig tonight, people who know Danny, people who have no idea who he was, people just passing though and enjoying the colour, the textures, the layers, the shop fronts, the beautifully paintings of much music venues, the history captured, the magical places.
Danny’s collection of paintings, an impressively expansive body of work that dates from 2005 right up until 2018 (apparently he carried on working right up until the end) is hanging in the corridor of Royal Albert Hall, the exhibition is part of the Teenage Cancer Trust week of events at the grand old venue. There’s bands playing fund-raisers all week, Kasabian are on tonight, they’re spending the late afternoon sound-checking inside the venue as we explore the art that’s filling the corridor walls (the exhibition is open during the daytime, there to be viewed by everyone before the concerts in the evening, it feels rather fitting to have a live band sound-checking in the background as we explore these gloriously reverential paintings of much loved and now mostly lost music venues.
These Danny Pockets paintings are wonderful, they’re a celebration, they’ve become a celebration of the artist now, but this would be a wonderful celebration of an exhibition anyway, this would be an important body of work without all the background and the passing of Danny and his two year battle with a dreadful illness. This is a tremendous body of work whatever the circumstances. Of course the show is a sad one, a poignant show, but to see this collection all in one place and especially to see it in one of the most important music venues in the land is something rather special as well, something joyous, something fitting and something rather right.
This isn’t just another art show in just another space, so good to see these paintings hung here of all places, in here while a band sound-checks and people line up outside waiting the evening’s concert, people in a line and excited to see a band, this is so right. This is a real privilege, this is a fitting celebration of a an artist’s life, this is a painter leaving a mark, a legacy…
Actually to see these paintings of these now lost places, place that so many of us have spent so many precious times inside – the Astoria, the Marquee, the Hammersmith Palais, the Hammy O, to see these painting is emotional anyway – there places, these houses of the holy, these buildings that played such a big part in so many people’s teenage years, places no heartlessly pulled down without a second thought for all the history in those walls, all the blood, sweat and tears. So many things happened to so many of us in these special places, you can hear people talking as they walk around the exhibition, “oh I loved going to that place”, “I saw the Clash at the Rainbow…”, “do you remember the stars painted on the ceiling…?” “I saw a great Black Flag gig in there,,,,,”, “I went the Marquee at least once week”, Metallica at the Lyceum, on it goes, snippets of conversation as you walk around – Nirvana at the Astoria, Cardiacs at the Astoria, so many bands at the Astoria, the Organ’s tenth birthday party at the Astoria Two days of gigs, Mr Pockets was probably theRe on the night Pulkas played for us, I think I first met Danny at a Pulkas gig, he bought a copy of Organ off us so he said. I love those paintings of the Astoria, so much emotion in those paintings, so much magic… .
Rather like those Dan Witz mosh pit paintings over at Stolen Space last month, you can’t just photograph these things however well you may photograph them, there’s a weight of importance that comes with a painting of something like a venue or indeed a chip shop or a department store or a joke shop, a reverence that comes with a painting of that place you ate at during your lunch hour or that café you always went to when when you went to the seaside, a painting of that place where you first saw that band you grew to love so much, that time at the Lyceum, that first time so and so came over to play. A painting of one of those places where important things happened, where big life-changing things happened, important friendships formed, partners were met, these places where small things happened, that place where they were always happy to see you when you bought your chips on a Friday night or went to for a full English to clear your head on a Saturday morning before the match – Fat Sue’s place or the Victory Café or whatever the equivalent in your town was. By painting these places in such a meaningful way the artist has captured them for us all, he’s marked the importance of these places, he’s celebrated them, he’s said to us all, “yes, they were as important as you thought they were”, he’s memorialised them, he’s documented their special place and time in history. Danny Pockets has captured a place, a time, a way that’s now almost gone. Gloriously on-the-nail paintings of venues and shops, of “our” cafés and pubs, of places now torn down and replaced with soulless glass-fronted shopping centres full of “stuff”,paintings of places once alive with music and people now surrendered to the corporate chains and their fake off-the-shelf gastro pub nightmares.
Oh the nights we spent an the Charring Cross Road rushing between the Marquee and the Astoria, the Friday night chaos of the the Royal George, times spent with the Deco-majesty of that curved front of Earls Court where Pink Floyd one pulled down their wall or flew their pig, or the 100 club when Ken McKenzie once saw the Pistols, or that first album you probably bought at Woolworths, or that night at Madam Jo-Jo’s or The Crypt or the Odeon (never the Apollo, it will always be the Hammy O, pleased to see he got that right, but then Danny knew about these places, so why wouldn’t he get it right as he has?).
Danny Pockets has captured it so so well, he’s captured the details, those beautiful bits of detail almost hidden in the layers of his paint, those sweet wrappers, the shoe stickers, the marks, the scars, the colour, the energy. This would be an emotional exhibition without the emotion of Danny’s passing, this is an excellent body of work, an important body of work, these are wonderful paintings, this is a wonderful legacy, Danny has left us something very very special, I really hope it isn’t the last we see of them, and oh how I wish I could buy that painting of the Astoria.
Of course this was always going to be an emotion show, and of course just days after his passing, it isn’t easy to be completely subjective, but these painting are so so right, so special, this is a wonderful exhibition, a celebration is so many ways. Rest in peace Danny, you did good, thank you my man, we’ll miss you, we won’t forget you or your art though, we won’t forget you or the Astoria or the Marquee, we won’t forget. These paintings are so so right, so alive, rest in peace my friend.. (SW).
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