ORGAN: That current exhibition at Sherbet Green, the one at Banner Repeater, the guts of it all, falling out of love with art shows…

Banner Repeater, Hackney Dpwns Station, East London, January 2023

January adventures or encounters with art, the falling out of love with it all. I did originally write this piece back in January, I have been back to it several times, and here we are heading towards the middle of February, Valentine’s Day actually, and I’m still not sure I’m going to post it. Did go back along the Hackney Road to check out that Sherbet Green exhibition again, for a third time, last weekend…

Here’s the original piece that I first wrote in the middle of January and then added to and then left and then last looked at it at the end of the month… 

Been to a lot of art show openings and such over the last two weeks, you kind of want to kick off a new year feeling like you want to be refreshed, like you want art to excite you, you want it to grab you, to engage, to enrage, to bite, to thrill, to be as thrilliant as art can sometimes be. New year and despite all, you want to hit the ground running, you need that refreshment, that re-set, you want art to grab you and shout “come on, let’s go!” . Second day of February now and I did scrap posting this, ah, who needs it, you get tired of the gatekeepers both old and new, especially the new.

Sherbet Green – January 2023

Lots of January shows then, mostly over here on the East London side of things (it is where we’re still based), feels like there’s been an opening happening on most nights of the week this January. Whatever happened to the co-ordination of Thursday nights and running from one to another and ending up way too drunk in the Dolphin somewhere north of midnight? Shame the coffee drinkers at Whitechapel Gallery made such a mess of First Thursday, it really was a remarkable flip up, you knew it was all going wrong when, with our Cultivate hats on, we had a couple of meetings with their in-house PR people (they really were good at drinking coffee), a couple of PR people who told us they had no idea where the then thriving Vyner Street actually was but seemed to know rather a lot about St. Helens, Wigan Warriors and rugby league! They’d been doing PR on the Super League before taking on the job of handling the First Thursday publicity for Whitechapel, perfectly qualified, no idea who Joshua Compston was but they could talk about Martin Offiah when you didn’t want them to! Never mind Chariots or First Thursday, all that, like Vyner Street, and Cultivate’s time in that street is ancient history now. Do wonder what Joshua Compston would make of East London now? Would he feel the need for dynamite more than he ever did? You do think about Milly Thompson and the Bank lot and how exciting some of these shows. Sad to see Milly Thompson recently passed away, she was always a bit of a positive thorn in the side of a London art scene that now feels even more fractured that it was back there.   

Busy start to the art year then, “Why haven’t you covered blah blah?” asked someone, actually we’ve been asked why we haven’t covered this exhibition or that show several times recently, we get asked lots and lots about things we haven’t done, we’re kind of damned when we do and damned when we don’t. But then you know we don’t cover everything, we go to lots, we cover lots but on the whole it has always been a case of if we don’t have anything that positive to say we tend not to bother saying it. We went to the opening Saturday evening of both shows at The Approach, both were politely alright in a rather conservative kind of way on the Saturday night after the buzz of the It’s My Party opening at Guts up there at the other end of Hackney and the Friday night before. Lot of annoying hype around Guts Gallery at the moment, their e.mails can be really annoying and we’ve mentioned the lack of vital information already. It does have to be said, the Party show did back up a lot of the hype those new gatekeepers are enjoying right now, shame about the attitude though

Guts, Hackney, January 2023

And There was the show at the very rarely open Banner Repeater art space – is it a gallery? Is it a shop? It could be so exciting, an art space right there on the busy platform at Hackney Downs railway station and an opening on the same Friday night as the Guts Gallery opening. Banner Repeater was, well shall we just be polite about it and say it was frustrating? That place could be so much more exciting, engaging (surely art should want to engage? Surely that is it?), Banner Repeater could be so much more exciting and engaging than it actually is, but then it does feel like art really doesn’t want to engage that much this days over here in East London. Lot of talking it more than walking it at the moment, all wordy press releases and very little in terms of substance to back it all up. There was one or two interesting films at the Banner Repeater thing – there is art happening right there as the trains are stopping and starting, as passengers are busy changing platforms, it could be so much more! We’re trying to cram into small room on the platform, a small room with a bottleneck of an entrance, it isn’t easy to get in, it isn’t comfortable once you do, pretty much impossible actually and although this show of seven films is on at the space for ages, the place is, frustratingly, besides this opening night on a cold Friday in early January, only open by appointment and not to the passing passengers. The show is called The Advantages Of Being Boneless And Incomplete and it goes on in the space until April 30th and well if only is was open and you could just drop in as you were changing trains? How brilliantly engaging would that be? But art doesn’t really want to engage, it just wants exist in those often aloof bubbles, that art school bubble, that Art Council academic bubble. It feels elite, unfriendly, aloof and as good as what we could see of a couple of those films were, we really didn’t get to see that much. Banner Repeater has been on that platform for as long as I can remember, passed it a million times, first time I’ve ever seen an open door and a sign of life. And as interesting as Banner Repeater might have been andas strong as that show at Guts Gallery was on that same Friday night, we’re left thinking about how unfriendly and unengaged it all was. No communication, no information, apparently according to Guts, telling people who the paintings on the wall have been painted by is an “old fashioned” idea. Dare we say that it kind of feels like there’s rather a lot of art school bulshit flowing through the much hyped new breed of curators and galleries as well as some who’ve, ah hell, you see why I couldn’t be bothered to post this when I first wrote it, who needs it?        

 Surely art has got to want to engage, surely it needs to engage? Surely the bubble needs to be burst? Surely these too-cool-for-school galleries need to be a little more user friendly? A little less wanky? A little more than just a “Story” and a wordy statement on Instabloodygram?! Can it please be little less by-the-book art school? When we opened Cultivate in Vyner Street, we did it because we were sick of the way (we) artists were being treated. When we opened Cultivate is was never about statements and wordly press releases, it was about want to engage, it was about having the door wide open whatever the weather, it was about wanting the general public to feel comfortable about coming in, wanting people to feel welcome, it was about conversations, it still is. Cultivate may well be nomadic these days but it still is very much about open doors and engagement, about artists coming together making things happen, about wanting to talk to the public, about taking away the mystery, the aloofness – aloof, that is a word that comes back again and again, there’s a number of relatively new rather aloof galleries that are maybe believing their own hype a little too much right now. As someone who finds going to an art gallery exciting, as someone who probably goes to more galleries than most people do, I finding things more than a little frustrating one month into 2023,  there was a new show at Guts opening last weekend, as interesting as the new show looks I quite honestly just didn’t feel like taking the short walk up there.             

Sherbet Green February 2023

Where were we? Back in mid January, and a new show and another opening night at the much talked about Sherbet Green, another intimate group show, this time featuring four artists, Sonya Derviz, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, Shamiran Istifan and Li Li Ren. A fresh show at that still relatively new space on East London’s Hackney Road.  Almost called it a small space but really, as small as the space actually is in physical terms, Sherbet Green is far from small in terms of their on-line projection or ambition (like there is with a number of places right now, there’s lot of hype around this space). First things first, in view of the frustration expressed in that review of the previous show at the gallery and the questioning of who the hell did what and did any of it actually matter? First thing to say this time around is that yes, there is plenty of information to hand (probably way too much), the names are there, art work credited, all there on a clear gallery map, this time we do get to know who’s created what, and yes, these things do damn well matter!  Handing out a four page press release to everyone might me a little over the top and well, I hate to be moaning all the time but surely, just a label on each piece or a simple map or gallery plan on the wall? If we want more that the basics we can go on line, we surely don’t need big piles of environmentally unfriendly paper? Just a simple bit of basic information is all we’re asking and yes, even I’m getting tired of me saying it again and again. Way too much paper this time. I did write a review of the Sherbet Green opening the morning after the opening, it went something like this…  

Bloody freezing out in East London last night, the easy option once more would have been to just stay in the studio and throw paint at canvas, that or watch the telly. But we need spaces like Sherbet Green, we need to be bothered about spaces like this, we need to make the effort when they do, we need to make the effort and drag ourselves out on a cold wet January Wednesday night, we need to support the smaller galleries, we need them.

We need them yes, but, and yes there is a “but” or two on the way. What is going on here? The previous show opened way way back at the start of November and ended up running all the way into early January, this new one is scheduled to be in the space until the first week of March, how long?  Do these shows really need to go on and on for so so long? Surely everyone who wants to see them is going to go to the opening or get along in the first couple of weeks? Come on, change it up, where’s the danger? Where’s the energy? Where’s the challenge? I mean we’re not talking the West End and big names here, we’re in a space not much bigger that a shoe box and a group of artists, as interesting or not as they may be, a group of artists that no one really knows much about. Exciting that the gallery are presenting new names, good on them for that, pretty sure there  aren’t crowds of people fighting  their way up the Hackney Road from all over the land or indeed all over the city to see it?  Why is it all so damn conventional? Why is it once again all so by the art school book? Surely spaces like this need to deliver it all with a bit more of an attitude, a bit more of a bite, a bit more energy? A bit more of a punk rock challenge, surely they need to rip it all up and throw it at the establishment rather than just, oh I don’t know? Surely I need to walk in a gallery like Sherbet Green  and be punched in the face, that or to feel seduced by something or just to feel excited, to be challenged in some way, I need to go “wow”, surely. And yes I wrote all this the day after the opening and didn’t bother posting any of it up. And now a couple of weeks later i;m still not sure if any of this needs to be published and the people asking me why we haven’t said anything about the latest show should just be politely ignored. I mean there have been other shows and other openings over the last couple of weeks that we’ve been to and haven’t been inspired enough to mention on these fractured pages. I do wonder if I should just knock the whole thing on the head and fugg off?      

The Sherbet Green advance publicity said something like “From the ether, the gentle uncanny. Glimpses seemingly through windows; angelic figures in a state of embrace; stalactites congealing on electric chorals: the phantasmagoric particles of life on earth. A never-ending history of surrealism, modernised and mechanised…..” – Nah, not really getting any of that. What I got was a conventionally hung, politely presented set of well, of what? There’s a couple of nice enough paintings, there’s something hanging there in the middle of it all, the red bits around the edges where the wall meets the floor pulls the room together in some way. I did go back a few days later, I really really wanted to get something more than a need to be polite and say “yeah it was alright”.   It was alright, it was a decent enough show, but hey, all the on-line hype and the self-congratulation and the self-importance and the art school BS and the emperor’s clothing and well can I really be bothered with it all? Oh it isn’t you, it really is me, am I finally falling out of love with art shows and clapping with one hand? I have been back since that opening day. The show is alright,the art is alright, you do wonder what what a couple of the artists will l do next? A couple of names noted and yes. the art is a lot lot more rewarding than some of the things encountered in January of this still new year, in some of the shows not mentioned here but where’s the “wow”? Where’s the art gasp? I mean give me Sherbet Green over the “stuff” galleries like Maddox any day of the freezing cold January week and yes we should be celebrating places like Guts and that one over in Deptford but they are feeling like one set of gatekeepers replaced by yet another set and still I sit on all this and still don’t bother posting any of it and yes the Sherbet Green show is far more rewarding that most that I haven’t even bothered mentioning here and if we didn’t care then it wouldn’t be said in this piece, but I am starting to think that maybe I don’t care any more and I should just ignore it all completely like we have a number of other shows we’ve been to the first month of this still new year and oh I detest these art school attitudes and sudden conformity and by-the-book of it all. Maybe I really should just stop writing about all this art?    

And now here we are heading towards the middle of February and I actually took a break, for the first time in years I avoiding looking at the lists of new shows, te Art Rabbit weekly mailout, whayever Seb was on about, I didn;t look at Artlyst’s Friday e.mails, I just stopped going to galleries, I didn’t even go see the Raincoats open things at White Cube, I just fell out of love with the whole idea of going to see art, of going to explore galleries, I went a couple of weeks without going, that really is a long time for me, I love going to art galleries. I ignored the millions of e.mails and invites and gallery press releases, I just lost the need to go, the appetite, the drug. Until last Saturday afternoon when I almost forced myself to go see George Henry Longly‘s new show at Nicoletti and go back for a third look at the current show at Sherbet Green.  I have to be honest, the art at Nicoletti didn’t do much for me and the Sherbet Green show still didn’t excite me massively, I mean there’s nothing bad there, but there’s nothing that really excited. The Sherbet Green show is a well put together show, a well curated well hung show, and I do like the way the red has been used around the edges to unite the room and the conversations between the pieces, the red really works. I do like the show, it is a good show, I’m just not that excited by it and right now I really need to walk through a gallery door and just go wow! I need more walking and less talking, I need art to want to engage, I need going to a nart show to excite again, I need to be able to cut through the attitudes and the aloofness to reach that piece of art, to have that conversation, to feel that intimate thrill..   (sw)

Sherbet Green is at Unit 1, 430 Hackney Road, London, E2 6QL You can find the space open on Fridays and Saturdays, 11am until 6pm. The current show that opened back in mid January funs until March 4th.

Previously on these pages…

ORGAN THING: All Night at Sherbet Green, another rather strong art show and an opening night on the Hackney Road but what the hell or what the who was it actually all about? Who the hell did what and does any of that matter?

ORGAN THING: (It’s My Party) I Can Cry If I Want To at Guts Gallery, Hackney, East London. A packed opening night and yes, it is a slightly uncomfortable art show in the best of ways, you are challenged…

Banner Repeater is actually found on platform 1, Hackney Downs Railway Station, Dalston Lane, London, E8 1LA. The current show, previewed here, runs for 13th Jan until 30th April 2023, How long?

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