Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Panic @ The Old Abattoir

Guerilla Zoo's latest exhibition Panic, is a group exhibition of over 35 artists who find inspiration in the 1960's Panic Movement, showcasing a collection of surreal, controversial and provocative modern art.

The Old Abattoir is a brilliant location and enormous space, however, if you are the sort of person to pick up on negative energy, I'm sure you'll find plenty here with its history - having originally been a prison in 1800s, and then a huge abattoir and butchers until 1980s. Although unusual, this environment is ideal for the exhibition, complimenting the surrealist nature of the work.

From painting, to sculpture, film to installation - this exhibition is overflowing with exciting work, and demands you spend time to give it the appreciation it deserves.

Only open till Saturday, grab your chance to get down there now.

Sat 14th – Sat 21th Nov, 11am - 7pm, Every day (one week only!)
The Old Abattoir, 187 - 211 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4LS

Holly Willats

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Deptford Tour, Saturday 7th November

Relieved that the rain was staying well away, I navigated from west to south London for the Deptford Art Map Tour. Only just on its second run – the Deptford Art Tour is certainly a new addition to the Deptford art scene, and a brilliant one at that. Initiated by Julia Alvarez, the director of BEARSPACE gallery, this tour is specific and committed to the area. With everyone on the map chipping in to the start-up finances - just like ‘the good ol’ days’ when communities worked together and helped each other out – this tour screams out comradeship.

Deptford is the area in London with the greatest number of artists per square meter. Fact. With artists squeezed in to every building and corner, there is no lack of creative talent. With fourteen galleries featured on the map and eight must-see studios, Deptford is oozing artistic talent.

Having gathered at New Cross station Julia led us to her first stop: The Old Police Station. Yes, this really is, an old police station – the name isn’t just for effect. This is an arts centre full of charm and community spirit! A strong group photography exhibition from Goldsmiths is currently on show, but I have to admit, I was equally delighted with snooping round the old police cells…

Next stop was SE8 gallery. This non-profit art space, has dedicated itself to the good cause of installation art. Working closely with artists to make site specific work, it is refreshing to find a gallery with such a strong focus.

BEARSPACE was the third stop on the route. Although having run for five years now, this gallery still retains a fresh sense of energy and enthusiasm. The artist, Thomas Helyar-Cardwell was there to meet us and talk about his work. The first commercial gallery of the tour, BEARSPACE aims to seek out new emerging talent that pushes against the boundaries.

Passing through the bustle of the Deptford High Street market (brace yourself for several aggressively visual, pavement-invading butchers if you too, are a suffering veggie…), we made our way to Utrophia. A ‘vessel of exploration’ – Utrophia is a gallery, a project space, a music venue and a hotpot of ideas and imagination. Also under the roof of this old ice cream factory are several studios and a communal area bursting with character.

Last stop on the map for the day was APT, an arts charity committed to promoting the value of creativity through the visual arts. Despite being in the midst of an exhibition change-over, the gallery technicians showed us round; I must now make the point, that every single host on this tour had been accommodating and welcoming, something that could be quite hard to find if you were to attempt this in West London. APT not only runs a gallery space but also provides highly sought-after studios. Being an environment that inspires creativity, APT was an appropriate final stop for the afternoon’s tour.

The Deptford Art Tour had been a big success with the group full of interest all afternoon. Being so well organised and executed, informative, varied and above all good fun, it is impressive that this is only the second to have taken place so far. Julia’s obvious dedication and enthusiasm to the area and for everyone working in it is contagious. I came back to North London, singing the praises of Deptford!

Each tour will vary as to which galleries and studios are visited, meaning that you can attend a second time without feeling a repetition. And re-book is certainly what I will be doing – strongly recommend you do too.

Holly Willats

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Crypt Gallery, Tracing the Photograph

Brilliant exhibition but found myself slightly uncomfortable about the eerie thought that there were possibly 557 other spirits there with us that may not have been so pleased about these arty happenings...

The Crypt Gallery

They Are Here

Thursday morning and I had booked myself in for the Battersea Arts Centre – a place that stands out amongst the white cubes of the London art venues for its labyrinth like corridors, the dated blue paint and mis-match of furniture; this is an Arts Centre overflowing with charm and character. However, I had not dashed across London merely to wonder at the decor – I had come to participate in a new project, The Twins Research Project: The Daughters of EW Mountford hosted by the artist collective, They Are Here.

Now like many I’m sure – I have a certain clichéd idea that pops in to my mind when someone mentions ‘performance art’. I really do try not to presume, but the fact is that performance art is in a minority against other art forms and so without yet experiencing much of it, the image of artists dressed in black leotards free-moving to modern jazz is hard to push. It is with these prejudices that I found myself sitting with one of the artists, Helen Walker at the Battersea Arts Centre. Whilst we waited for the other participants, Helen explained to me the practice of her work.

They Are Here is an artist collective, made up of Helen and Harun Morrison, which in its four years has held many projects, including this year at The Tate and Camden Arts Centre. Harun approached Helen having seen her graduate show at the RCA – head-hunted even! From this beginning they have collaborated with many others, aging from 14 – 28; their collective has expanded on occasions to as many as 25 people! The principle idea to their work is to study communication between people and systems, whilst playing with both fact and fiction.

I was certainly reassured by Helen’s friendly demeanor but slightly unnerved at what this ‘playing of fact and fiction’ could entail. Once Harun and the other participants had joined us, the artists divulged more about their project. They had been invited as residents to the Centre and whilst starting on one project, had found themselves entirely sidetracked by something unusual, something to be found, in the basement…

Certain that I was going to embarrass myself by yelping at something unexpected down in this basement, I crept down the narrow stairs to what anyone would imagine when thinking of a basement: dark, damp and dim. The basement flashed in and out of the visible as the single light bulb flickered. Now this is the point that things started to ‘become clear’ – this was the starting point of the project. Harun explained that when the two artists had first come across this occurrence they could not help but feel it was odd behavior and that it could be some form of communication.

From this we were invited to their studio – from one extreme to the other it seemed as this was housed in the attic of the building. Resembling a DCI office on the case of a crime more than an artistic hotpot, the studio had maps, charts and photographs on the walls. Once sitting down more information was divulged. Helen and Harun, with the help of the old Morse Code, had managed to decipher the basement message, it spelt out the name: 'Chotsani'. Perplexed as to this having any meaning they had checked dictionaries of different languages and names to find that this was from Malawi, meaning ‘take – away’ (not the food kind) in Lao, a local dialect. The technicians of the building, now in the-know of this finding alerted the two artists of any other questionable behavior from the building. Next up was another light that once decoded, was communicating the message, ‘Plug in to me’. With this instruction, the artists tried plugging in different appliances in to the faulty socket – ending with a television that then pictured many an odd image on its screen adding to the list of messages that had already been amalgamated.

Now I’ve brought you this far in to the story but having written this much, I realise I should hover on caution as it would be wrong of me to give the entire idea away. Let me add though that these messages eventually lead the two artists to the Library across the road, designed by the same architect as Battersea Arts Centre, EW Mountford. The concept of twins and mutual behavior is central to many other They Are Here projects, and some sort of sister-like relationship was developing between these two buildings. With similar behavior from the two, and records in the library archiving letters and documents detailing other similar odd happenings, the tale became more and more mystifying. I found myself getting rather too enthused when I spotted a flickering light in the library entrance – chance certainly was playing its part in making this experience all the more exciting.

By the end of the performance I was in awe; starting as an utter sceptic, I had in fact thoroughly enjoyed myself. Helen and Harun had delivered their ideas with an honest and simple approach that entirely avoided the dramatic and over-the-top. So, not only is it well worth keeping a listen out for any upcoming projects by the exciting artist collective, They Are Here; but I now note, this is certainly an example that moves away from the cliché of performance art and will persuade anyone otherwise.

Holly Willats