There has been a lot of excitement in Pop Surrealist Fanboy circles about the big show of American work in Bristol this summer. So the London Miles gallery’s latest exhibition is a very timely wake-up call to the fact that Pop Surrealism, with its Graffiti and Lowbrow fellow flavours, has a very natural home here in the UK. We’re so culturally jam-packed with icons, ironies and idiosyncrasies, its a recipe fit to burst kola-kube-sour onto your culture buds.
But any recipe needs skilled chaps and chappesses to cook it up. London Miles has done well to gather so many first rate artists, and the artists have done very well to respond to the British theme without being gimmicky or repetitive.
Andrew Rae depicts the “Great White Hunter”, a British Raj-style heartless toff in the colonies with massive moustache and blunderbuss, his Chai Wallah at his side, as they stand atop a pile of murdered target practise – a tiger, a unicorn, an elephant, a mermaid. All rendered in a gauche Tintin outline with a dulled palette of Imperial Tales for Boys, circa 1930.
“Great White Hunter” – Andrew Rae
Contrast that with Kevin Wayne’s bas-relief revision of Richard Hamilton Pop Art masterpiece “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?”, now titled “…so depraved, so appalling”. He seems to suggest that, while people in the 60s thought the 60s was a bit crass, we in the present are far too witless and lost even to know that anything’s gone wrong.
“Society” – Studio Diablo
Studio Diablo, on the other hand, presents us with “Society”, a bold and happily overpopulated image that chronicles one day’s happy-snapping on Brick Lane, cool people at the front, street cleaners at the back, the bagel guy half way down, set against East London’s beautiful streetlamps, CCTV cams and a lovely grit-salt bucket. It’s a big draw, and soon has a crowd standing around it only a little bit smaller than the one in it. It also doubles up as a partytime Banksy version of Where’s Wally. (I spotted him quick)
Other standout works include a a high-speed procession of three-eyed horses and assorted oddbods through the sky, driven on by the excitement of tea (by an artist called Mooselumps), a lovely bold pig-faced man asking for two sugars in his tea (by Mr. Penfold), and a surly Peckham Skingirl (who looks like she could use a nice cuppa, by Mr. Frivolous). And Xue Wang applies the laws of Mark Rydenism to Britishness by way of a very creepy big-eyed-girl in a chastity belt with a Henry VIII puppet.
“A Grand Cavalade of Brew House Streamer a la Mode.” – Mooselumps
Don’t get the idea that everything here would fit neatly into a “California goes Laaandaan” Juxtapoz compendium. A lot of this work comes from purely British veins of illustration, graffiti and image. There has been a great liberation on both sides of the pond. This exhibition is the strongest sign yet that British talent no longer faces the choice between hiding away or selling out to the Saatchi scene. As recent years on Brick Lane have shown, barriers are coming down between art and graphics, plus a lot of disciplines we used to have to look down on.
“High Tea” – Xue Wang
“English Rose” – Ink Fetish
This is the best show I have seen for a while, in one of London’s tastiest spaces. Energetic, democratic, authentic, and even, dare I say it, affordable. It doesn’t have a big ego, doesn’t puff itself up. It just does what it says on the tin, as gleefully as possible. If Britain’s really got talent for a new dawn, this is the place to watch.
Speaking of talent, the show runs concurrently with a little solo show corner. The work of Illustrator artist Mesh 137, a supafly stylist of the first order. Check out his orange teapot. Both shows until October 1st. Visit www.londonmiles.com for more know-how.
- Art Listings
- Pick Me Up London 2015 Review
- Art Listings: 24th August â
- An interview with Phil Maxwell, photographer of Brick Lane
- Free For Wall! part 2 at The Brick Lane Gallery