And so the second of the six week Cultivate Columbia Road takeover shows opened last Thursday evening in what was hopefully not the last of the warm summer sunshine at East London’s Shipton Street Gallery. The plan was to not have a plan, to just let the six weeks unfold and flow and see where it takes us, the intention was to be spontaneous, to get to know the space and place, to let things happen rather then setting it all in stone months in advance in the way that art galleries so often do and to hopefully show some work of an artist or two who we’d not actually heard of at the start of it all The first show opened eight days ago, a show called Intention and a usually quiet gallery space brought to life by the fishing of performance artist Marnie Scarlet alongside a group show featuring contemporary painters, installation, sculpture text play and more, I think we can say the residency got off to a colourfully healthy start with the opening night of Intention. Intention was intended to be a short sharp statement of artistic intent, a one week show, a marker put down at the start of the six week Cultivate takeover..
Now before we go much further you do know that Organ is brought to you by the Cultivate team don’t you? So yes, we are talking about an art show we’ve put on ourselves here, we are blowing out own trumpets again, well it isn’t like the London art press ever come out to actually check anything beyond the formal establishment is it? “Oh we love her work but we can’t come because you didn’t send the press release in the right format” said one website – come on! Get out there, lot of exciting things happening right under your noses, we dare you to look beyond the latest press releases and your laptops and actually get out there and cover what’s really happening Cultivate is seven this week, seven years since we set it up and started doing it our way, artists doing it ourselves and all that, Organ is of course a lot older than Cultivate.
Week two then, and a shift in gears, still as full-on in terms of attitude (or whatever you might like to call it) as week one was, a lot more visually punk rock flavoured though, notions of the Why Cheap Art Manifesto, of Riot Grrrls, echoes of those Huggy Bear slogans of the 90’s and bits of stitched together Crass and slices of golden cake and lots more. We hadn’t heard of Jessica Scott two weeks ago, we knew nothing about her or her art. Jessica came up to us at our stall at the Art Car Boot Fair the week before last and we got into a conversation about Riot Girl bands, her love of Bikini Kill and the red Kathleen Hanna lino prints that Emma Harvey had on sale and the Dream Nails gig Jessica had been to the night before. A week later and websites had been checked out and Jessica had been invited to take part in the second show at Shipton Street, a show called I saw It First, I want it Worse (and yes that is a Seven Year Bitch lyric).
Jessica Scott‘s rather impressive quilt takes up one of the three walls of the small Shipton Street gallery, actually it feels more like a banner than a quilt, one of those banners that defiantly proud trade unions marched behind back there, a working class mineworkers banner or something, one of those calls to arms, or calls to unity or calls to just stand for something, it kind of echoes those Jeremy Deller banners, it feels a little more real though, a little less patronising, a little more natural. it feels like it really is her heritage, that it really is her culture, her people, it feels natural, very personal, an instinctive piece of art, a piece stitched together with love, with hope, with a need to pass on the word and share with others, with coming generations/ Apparently the piece was made to celebrate the birth of a new family member, the passing on of tradition, of craft. The quilt (or banner) is a collection of those DIY patches you’d see stitched to jackets or bags at anarcho punk gigs, you still see them, not so much these days, you still do though -. Crass slogans, Subhumans artwork, Corrosion Of Conformity logos, anti war slogans, “reclaim the streets”, that “All The Arms We Need” images that you saw so often back there, stitched together queercore sentiment, feminist thought, punk rock culture, an anti-capitalist stitch in time and a piece of art that deserves to hang on a white wall with space to breath in a formal way in an art gallery for people just to look at and consider in that way you do when it is on a gallery wall (and a piece to explore and find more and more as the exhibition unfolds, an enjoyable piece to spend quiet gallery time with, I;m rather enjoying having this piece in the show)
And on a plinth next to her banner and not far from Emma Harvey’s paintings of Kathleen Hanna (Julie Ruin period rather than Bikini Kill, the Bikini Kill ones are a little further over), there on a plinth, just below the three Bratmobile paintings, right there, quietly sitting on a white gallery plinth, is a beautifully handmade cushion, a piece of textile art emblazoned with a Bikini Kill lyric, a homely piece of art made while the artist was homeless, a second brilliant piece of work form Jessica Scott – you see what I mean by just letting things flow and seeing what happens, letting the six weeks come together spontaneously, rather than setting it all in oh so formal stone months in advance. Art needs to be alive, to react to something. Rather pleased that Jessica came over to talk to us at the Art Car Boot Fair, rather pleased that people were seeing her big piece through the gallery window over the weekend and coming in to talk about it, to take photos of it, to take selfies in front of it. (and I see Jessica has been working with Megan Pickering as well, Megan is always worth checking out, one of our favourite artists, about time Megan was in another Cultivate show)
Meanwhile on the plinth in the middle of the room, sits the second piece from James Bell. I guess James Bell is mostly a painter, I haven’t asked him, I really must, I get the impression he is mostly a painter, he first joined us for a Cultivate show at BSMT Space gallery over in Dalston at the start of the year where he had a much photographed, much shared, much ‘liked’ piece of silver asparagus on a plinth, We invited James back this time and place a plinth smack bang in the middle of the gallery for him to use for the six weeks Last week it was gold asparagus, this week he came in with a golden slice of cake, both pieces have been sitting by his Harrods staff badge during the shows – there’s a pattern emerging here and yes there is a story behind that badge and why James is no longer an employee of Harrods and the pieces of golden “luxury” that have been sitting on the plinth , maybe we’ll let him explain it on these pages in a day or two rather than trying to explain it ourselves.
Week two and show two then, Jessica Scott on one wall, James on the plinth right there in the middle of the room and a piece of cake being photographed even more than the asparagus was, Mia-Jane Harris is still in the room and on the plinths, her pieces from week one, her slightly dark taxidermy, her fetish flavours, dare we say her hints of Goth? And Suzie Pinder is still on the walls with more of her text that featured in the first week. The show features three artists on the three main walls, Jessica on one, me, Sean, on another with those afore-mentioned notions of the Why Cheap Art Manifesto, more layers of leaf growth, stars and playing with light, leaf tags growing on stars in the window (you can see what you like, no one is right or wrong, but I haven’t actually painted a heart since I painted one for a record sleeve back at the start of the century) and on the third wall of the room 43 paintings.
On the third wall of the room 43 paintings from Emma Harvey, 43 small canvas pieces, small paintings of Riot Grrrls and Riot Grrrl bands, of female musicians, paintings of punk bands, of those who influences the Riot Grrrls of the 90’s of those still out there doing it, saying it, shouting it, living it, 43 paintings of The Slits, of the rather forceful Tribe 8, paintings of Bikini Kill, of The Julie Ruin, Bratmobile, of Joan Jett’s heroine Suzi Quatro, of Joan’s own rather ground-breaking band of the late 70’s The Runaways, paintings of L7, of Hole and Courtney Love, of the much loved much missed English band Huggy Bear, of those wonderful Poison Girls, of The Raincoats,paintings of Dream Nails – a band very much carrying the Girls To The Front sloganeering of Bikini Kill and the rest forward here in London right now – paintings of Seven Year Bitch and X-Ray Spex and well, 43 paintings and a wall full of grrrl positive painterly energy, a celebration in gloss on canvas, 43 rather powerful paintings thst you really should try and see in te felsh if you can. Last week Emma has two rather beautifully painted oil paintings on the wall, this week her more spontaneous side is on show, it all knits together so well, a real identity, and exciting artist, a powerful (female) artist going from strength to strength, just brilliant to have her work on the wall and to work with her, she probably won’t thank me for saying it, she is a rather private painter, she mostly does it for herself, she doesn’t make as much noise as some artists do about herself but this wall of hers is rather special, these paintings are rather special, her paintings continue to be rather special.
And so the second show, I Saw It First, I Want It Worse opened last Thursday, it ran through the weekend that just passed, it ran alongside all the fun of the Columbia Road Flower Market, it goes on next weekend, it ends on Sunday October 7th and then things evolve again and we get on with the next shows in the space Rather enjoying being in the space so far, lots of people coming in and looking at the art and asking and commenting and several good conversations and middle age women with their shopping saying oh I remember The Slits and people asking about Subhumans and painting and why stars and who are Seven year Bitch and the best reaction so far was three school girls in Uniforms with school bags in hand on their way home after school on Friday afternoon who looked up Bikini Kill on their phones as a response to a bit of explaining abour what Riot Grrrl was and still is, I get feeling Emma and Jessica might have planted a seed or two there
An art show is always far more enjoyable the day after the stress of the opening night has been and gone. Actually the very best reaction I’ve heard so far was from a small boy passing the front window – “mummy why are there stars?” to which the mum said in an oh-don’t-bother-me kind of way “don’t ask stupid questions” and just as I was feeling really bad about the answer the little boy got she said sorry to him and turned back and said “I don’t know, let’s go and see” and in they came, she clearly felt as horrified as I did about her first answer, they stayed for ages as the little boy looked at the art, I like it when a gallery door is open and art engages, they came back the next day with his star drawings.. (sw)
I Saw it First, I want It Worse is the second show of the Cultivate Columbia Road takeover, the show is up at Shipton Street Gallery until Sunday October 7th before things evolve again, the gallery is open from midday until 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (yes it would be open a lot more than that if it was my space). Shipton Street Gallery is on a street very slightly off Columbia Road and just off The Hackney Road here in East London – Shipton Street, London, E2 7RZ. There’s zines, prints, badges and original paintings for sale at the gallery…
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show from the second exhibition, I’m off to pull together the third and fourth…