East London, height of Summer, warm Thursday evening in the middle of August, where’s all the art? I know there’s an argument that art takes a summer break but that has only really ever been the big establishment galleries, the mainstream taking off on their yachts to the South of France or whatever they go and do for the summer before the money-sucking art fairs kick in, the East End scene(s) never did close down, art didn’t stop, art happened every week. This time two years ago, three years ago we’d find plenty just by walking around on any given sunny Thursday evening, five years ago art would be everywhere, eight years it would have been so damn exciting out there, we’d be spoilt for choice and failing to get to see it all in one evening. Rather sad to be walking past the now knocked down Foundry site and not being able to look back over shoulders to see if anything had changed on the big wall on the outside of what was until recently Red Gallery. Sad to walk the streets of Shoreditch and Hoxton and to not hear that distinctive hum of an art gathering on a street outside on an opening night. There were a couple of openings last night, only a couple though, well only one really, only one proper art opening, Thierry Noir’s show, we were out for an opening on once art-rich Redchurch Street not an actually art show in a gallery though, a pop up shop, a collection of vintage fashion, a touch of art, mostly dresses (with a painting or two on the walls).
Now those of you who know me know I do rather like doing things in shops; the recent Fruit Shop in that old Greengrocers place by Columbia Road of course, that show with fellow painter Emma Harvey a couple of years ago in that beautiful old dressmaker’s shop in amongst all the working sewing machines and the fabric cutting on the Hackney Road, the market stalls that have happened this year as a result of that original fruity encounter on Ridley Road back at the start of the year. Last night the Honey Bee East pop up opened up in the Purple Shop on Redchurch Street, a rather impressive collection of inherited fashion, a collection now being sold off for charity. There’s a number of my paintings on the walls along with a piece or two from four or five other London artists, all the work is on sale with a healthy percentage of any of the art or fashion sales going towards Cancer Research, to the Refugee Community Kitchen and to the Brufut Education Project . The Purple Shop, a vital part of Shoreditch art history, a shop painted purple sometime ago by the now sadly no longer with us Dot Gurtler when Redchurch Street really was left for the artists to save, The Purple Shop is host to the Honey Bee pop up until September 1st and sometimes it can be good to be showing paintings somewhere other than just another art gallery (I kind of liked the idea of hanging some paintings in Dot’s place). Can’t recall the last time I was actually on Redchurch Street for an actual proper art gallery opening, this place was once so so alive with both permanent and pop up spaces, besides the defiant red doors of the gallery at Studio 1.1, there really is absolutely nothing to be found there now, even the street art is disappearing in favour of the grey heartless conformity of the new breed of designer label shops that have ripped the soul away (there is a show on at Studio 1.1 at the moment, closed tonight though. we did check it out earlier in the day, the art of the walls didn’t really demand we take the time to cover it). Redcurch Street is just another street now If there are gatherings outside the now buffed buildings it isn’t anything to do with art, there isn’t that much room for art amongst the designer label spaces, the gentrified food outlets and the building sites where once art happened, East London isn’t like it was, gentrification grey is the order of the day, thanks for all you did, now piss off…
East London isn’t like it was, gentrification grey is the order of the day the street art spots as well as respected pieces of art that have remained untouched for years are going, replaced by the waves of fashionable conformity, these are the times of historic bell factories vandalised for the sake of another boutique hotel, swimming pool on the roof so we’re promised, the art spaces that are still functioning seem to be shops more than galleries these days, we walk past the darkness of Pure Evil’s place, when did we last actually go to a show in one of those galleries of his? Thierry Noir has been busy though, Mr Noir is in town for a show, some of those familiar cartoon-like figures or characters of his have started to reappear on the Shoreditch Streets in recent weeks – “Thierry Noir, one of the world’s most recognisable street artists, is teaming up with London based children’s charity The Kids Network throughout August to raise awareness and funds for The Kids Network through collaborative murals and a fund-raising exhibition at Protein Studios. Having illegally painted over 5 miles of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, Thierry Noir’s colourful motifs, old lines and timeless visual language have become a symbol of youth culture. For the month of August, Noir will paint murals around Shoreditch, Dalston and Hackney Wick with local children through The Kids Network mentorship programme. The project will culminate on the 22nd of August with The Thierry Noir Academy of Art Summer Exhibition at Protein Studios – with over 1000 original Thierry Noir works of art on display with proceeds in support of The Kids Network” –
Now, kids thing and the worthiness of it aside, we’re an art shoe opening, a gallery event, and yes you could see what Mr Noir does as fun, you could see what he does as positive repetition, as some kind of pop art mass production, you do kind of think that maybe you’ve seen it all before though and a room full of hundreds (and hundreds) of the same flat graphic images is maybe a little like he might be treading water or playing it just a little bit too safe now? Or maybe its the hang here that, compared with say the museum he enticed us into when the Howard Griffin Gallery was still operating in Shoreditch back in 2016. seems a little less sympathetic to his brand of imagery. White walls and an almost scatter-gun approacher where every inch of his 2016 museum walls seemed to be so so considered, Thierry Noir is obviously at his best out in the noise and the marks of others, amongst the visual noise outside on the street rather than on the not very considered way-toooooooo-white walls of an almost pop up high-walled gallery surrounded by what is Shoreditch in 2019.. There’s lots of work in here, lots and lots, hundreds of paintings, hundreds and hundreds of them, I guess you could argue for the notion of positive pop art mass production even though they are all apparently one-off paintings, and heaven forbid that an argument be forwarded that it all might just be a little bit repetitive and as much as his work is very likeable it does kind of have the feel of seen it all so many times before. Are we getting a little bored here? The museum back in 2016 was exciting, this doesn’t really do anything like that show did, this really does feel a little like little more than a sales room and treading water and as much as his work does bring about smiles when it is out on walls and yes this probably is a little unfair considering the collaborative nature of the things he’s apparently been doing with school kids in East London this month – maybe it does feel like a school classroom? Or maybe like a quick pop up rather than a considered gallery show, it feels like a sales room, it feels a lot like a lot of Shoreditch does right now, which is a shame because when he’s at his best and his art is in the right place, Thierry Noir is a rather excellent street-flavoured pop artist, right here, in this space in these times, repetition can be a positively beautiful thing, we maybe needed a little more this time though….. (sw)