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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Jakob Roepke at FRED gallery

Vyner Street, E2, 24th July - 30th August

Written by Sarah Barnes

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Photograph by Dylan Walker

Andy Walker, viagra medical also known as Loyal Trooper is very modest, side effects he will rarely talk about his music especially not to strangers, he wants his songs to speak for themselves. Tonight he is playing at Bar Music Hall in Hoxton. He says he is just testing out some new ones. Fresh from playing at Two Thousand Trees festival he says he feels, ‘crowd spoilt’, being an unsigned artist playing to a packed tent full of people with eager ears and open minds. By comparison by the time he plays Bar music hall tonight the crowd are mostly too busy discussing important matters of their own to notice him play heart rendering acoustic nuggets of joy, sadness and Sheffield related heartbreak. The group of people sat at the front were however paying close attention and during the second song a friend turns to me and says , ‘wow he is incredibly talented!’, and she’s certainly not wrong!

Its a big stage for one person but the pretty noise soon fills up the place nicely, ‘Okay at Best’ is about being bored of growing up and knowing there is more to life than being unfulfilled and wearing a suit. The line, ‘I want to fall asleep at my desk’ Is sang slowly and sleepily, accompanied by sweet twinkly guitar, this however is followed by repeated yelling of ‘fuck being okay at best’. Its a little bit like watching Bill Hicks lulling you into a false sense of security and then shouting at you, if Bill Hicks was incredibly good looking, had an aptitude for playing acoustic guitar and didn’t sweat or scream quite as much.

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Photograph by Dylan Walker

His songs display an astonishingly accurate observations of london, its bars, its personalities and its pitfalls. ‘Five year plan’ is a cathartic rant at those irritating people we all know and love who can talk and talk and talk about themselves but don’t seem to possess ears. Andy has perfected the art of beautiful songs that can be incredibly sad in places while revealing a dark sense of humour in others. ‘I know about their job, their pet, their wife, but they never ask a single detail about my life’. Singing, ‘will they ever get bored of being self important pricks?’ feels very appropriate as his soft voice filters through the chattering of those in the bar.

Luckily enough I know Andy fairly well, so I am not only able to talk to him about his songs but am even lucky enough to take him home with me after the gig and give him a guinness or three and some nicotine gum. Having been locked in introspective song writing sessions Andy has recorded a mini album in his bedroom, and now says he feels ready to show everyone what he has made, so he is self-releasing it, it comes out on the 15th of September, it might be hard to find, but if I were you I would go looking for it.
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The enduring flirtation between art and fashion has borne some strange and beautiful sartorial love children. From Yves Saint Laurent’s timelessly chic 1965 ‘Mondrian’ dress to Guy Bourdin’s iconic fashion photography; from the paper ‘Souper Dress‘ inspired by Andy Warhol’s achingly prosaic Campbell’s image, to the recent – and inexplicable – collaboration between Warhol and Pepe jeans. Art and fashion are firm, if sometimes awkward, friends.

Enter Phaiz, a gallery slash boutique in Chicago’s River West neighborhood – an area increasingly awash with converted loft spaces, ergo artists and creative types – which alluringly promises that its visitors will leave feeling like they’ve been rendezvousing with the aforementioned Andy Warhol and enfant terrible Alexander McQueen.

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Reticent fashionistas with a cerebral bent pondering whether to visit a gallery or a boutique are thoughtfully spared the angst, as Phaiz, a concept store with a difference, seamlessly marries art and fashion in a meeting defined by its makers as a ‘collision’, but perhaps more aptly described as a match made in proverbial heaven for the all-encompassing aesthetes among us.

A refreshing alternative to high street mass production and identikit ‘It’ bags, visitors to this cult gallery/boutique can peruse the cavernous 800 square foot space safe in the knowledge that its wares are one of a kind, being crafted exclusively for Phaiz and available for a period of 30 days alongside the space’s site specific installations of the same duration.

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With prices ranging from $80 to a credit crunch eschewing $3,000, the work of exhibiting artists and designers virtually transforms Phaiz on a monthly basis. With each collaboration ushering in a new phase – get it? – for the gallery/boutique, whose blurring of the lines between art and fashion extends to its pricing scheme. A scheme that sees all items bereft of price tags with visitors instead being gifted a price list upon arrival.

One of many beautiful collisions to have emerged from Phaiz so far saw the juxtaposition of the work of former graffiti artist, Peter Kepha with that of fur designer Backtalk. An unobvious coupling, were it not for Kepha and Backtalk’s shared use of collage.

In rubbishing distinctions between art and fashion and the way in which they should be seen and bought, Phaiz provides a very real compromise to Janice Dickinson’s – yes, the original supermodel of I’m a Celeb fame – suggestion that we should ‘follow sound business trends, not fashion trends’. A trendsetting pioneer rather than a follower, Phaiz seems to have not just art and fashion, but the tricky business of selling them, quite literally sewn up.

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Since starting at Amelia’s I’ve become used to the art openings of the Shoreditch scene, dosage with beer in a bucket and noisy chatter becoming something I’ve taken for granted. I was slightly surprised, visit this site then, upon entering the FRED gallery on Vyner street that no such scene greeted me. I was not so far, geographically, from all the galleries I have previously visited, but I felt like I was a world away.

A sparse, older art crowd, exchanging air kisses (one for each cheek) inhabited the interior of FRED. Each culture vulture entering before me was greeted with a “Hi, how are you? Would you like a glass of wine?”, but I received no such greeting or offer. It seemed that as soon as they had seen my tatty teeshirt and knee high socks they must have figured that I obviously didn’t have the money to buy any of the art, and therefore any magical, purse-string-loosening booze would be wasted on me.

Feeling somewhat shunned, I found comfort in reading the printed info about exhibiting artist Jakob Roepke. I found that Roepke, a German artist born in 1960, has produced over 700 of his small collages since 1996. It was also made clear that each collage was available to buy for the amount of £200 + VAT.

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On to these collages, then… the whole reason for my being here (I know that in hindsight it seems as though alcohol might have been the priority, but I can assure you that art was the only intoxication I was seeking. Yes, really!) Fred was displaying 130 of Roepke’s works, all 12 x 13cm pieces made from 1999 to the present day. I was really taken with the nature of the display, a tiny shelf running around the whole of the space that brought the tiny, intricate squares up to a comfortable viewing level.

The experience of viewing the collages was like going from room to room of a dolls house and peering in. Within the four corners of each work the stage was set for weird existences to play themselves out; a man making tea on the back of a tortoise, another buffing the toes of a woolly mammoth. When windows were present in the rooms, all sorts of mysteries came in through them; trees invading to take shelter inside, graph paper blobs floating in and owls perching on the ledges. Juxtaposition is what’s great about collage as an image making technique, and Roepke’s use of characters from 1970′s yoga handbooks and birds from nature annuals made his juxtapositions all the more absurd. His use of flat patterns, worked on to as if 3D, lent a distorted perspective that made surreal scenes even more bizarre.

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Technically, each collage was impressive too. Pieces of card had been completely covered, front and back, in papers with tiny patterns (dolls house wall paper, Japanese origami paper graph paper…) and then worked on, layer by layer, with paper cut-outs. The whole thing was then painstakingly painted to bring all the layers together. I watched, slightly jealous, as the gallery owner encouraged one potential buyer to (“very gently!”) run her finger over one piece to see how surprisingly thick and bumpy it’s surface was.

I learned at an early age NEVER EVER to touch a piece of art in a gallery, so I was pretty shocked to see a gallery owner actively encouraging a hands on approach. But then I shouldn’t really have been surprised at such special treatment since this woman had already staked her claim on a couple of pieces she wanted to buy. Knee high socks girl wasn’t getting any such treatment, however, as I trailed around after the gallery owner, hoping to have a word with him (well, it’s only polite), but could never seem to divert his attention away from wooing possible purchasers.

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Eventually giving up, I left the FRED gallery glad to have been allowed a peep inside Jakob Roepke’s mixed up miniature world. However I did feel that the hosts of this world could have been a bit more accomadating to those who didn’t look like they might want to buy a share.

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