Amelia’s Magazine | Street Art Likes the Great Indoors

“Come on down to The Brick Lane Gallery today, for cutting edge art at recession-busting prices! We’ve gone absolutely kerrr-azy! Bring a wheelbarrow. We got pretty art, ugly art, sincere art, ironic art, meaningful art, meaningless art. All under one roof! Through just one door! For just a few quid. Whatever your arty needs, get down to The Brick Lane Gallery, cos we got it covered. We got Art In Mind…”
Sometimes, you have to marvel at art. One day, you’re in The National, looking at five hundred year old glazes of linseed oil that are worth a bajillion pounds. The next, you’re walking through a door opposite a kebab and falafel emporium, to look at stencilled blotchings of Tinkerbell you can almost smell the freshness of. And you can think about just getting your wallet out.
A lot of the work on show at The Brick Lane Gallery as of today looks like it was done this morning. It’s a treat to see The Krah’s latest work. His cutesy figures are living in the future, plugged in and wired for Things To Come. Their placid faces suggest enlightenment for a second, then they are the faces of the suppressed. Beings rendered docile and unquestioning by the seat of power. Then the faces flip back again. Is their world Nirvana, or Consumervana? Are we welcomed into our fate, or warned from it? Luscious backdrops, tell of tie-dyed heaven/hell, or 70s-wallpaper heaven/hell, with the figures mainly monochrome. They are figures drained of their own colour, subjected to an overly vital world of synthetic distraction. Or maybe it’s just pretty graffiti, made purely to look cool. Stick it on your wall, above your Vans, your designer skateboard, and collection of nihilistic Gorillaz-esque figurines. Well, that bit’s up to you. Sure, it looks hip, but I don’t think he’s getting it from nowhere. It’s canny à la Banksy, but with a more European, less direct modus operandi.
His street art support acts are three: Milo Tchais, a gestural Brazilian cartoonista, all toony blobs, tentacles and love on a zoomed-in Pollock backdrop; Marlene-B, who presents Manga-like portraits of the distant and untouchable on cheap board; and Hero, who is the most interesting of them. A grid of Superman comic front covers transforms the Man Of Steel into a Skeletor hairboy death-fetish, under the banner American Hero. Tinkerbell gets up to a bit of graffiti on a beautiful black canvas. And best of all, a portrait of Damien Hirst, stencilly white on black, with “diamond dust”, entitled For The Love Of Capital. It’s the beautiful Eternal Return of little fish biting bigger fish, with Hirst now graduated to the biggest, the guiltiest. Banksy’s influence is very visible here, only slightly diluted. Truly, an artist with much gumption.
The other highlight of the ground floor room is the work Liron Ben-Azri, who paints girls with a slight Egon Schiele awkwardness, and a hint of Otto Dix loathing, and then disrupted with pretty circles, all in a near-primary pallette of inanity. I really liked this work. It brought out aromas of misanthropy and shameful lusts. These are paintings that could take a long lot of looking at.
There are also some photographs by Tomas Tokle, which seemingly depict capitalism in mid-melt, with detached, guerrilla relish. Only £100 each (unavoidable irony, give the fella a break).
Moving down to basement, things get a bit low-key. The work here is less bold, less dynamic, less attention-grabbing. And also a lot more disparate. This is work that couldn’t go in the window, and doesn’t fit in any way that I could see. Let’s just call that Brick Lane Ethos. The best of it is David Barnes’ photography of Portugal. Just three black and white pictures, compositionally brilliant though completely different, but hanging nicely together through their tonal and sun-soaked consistency. Dolunay Magee has produced a series of delicate images of wholesome young ladies in the process of exposing their beautiful, well-fed figures from behind towels or no-longer-needed garments. These works are the epitome of bourgeois, romantic, twee, suburban, subtly erotic idealism, with no evidence of irony or feminist critique. I did not expect to see this here. Uncle Derek’s plush flat in Esher with it’s easy-wipe leather sofas, maybe, but not here. It’s nice, as if this part of the show has been curated by sheer chance. You suddenly have to check yourself for pretentiousness. Why shouldn’t I like these pictures? Is it because I’m sophisticated? Well, it might be for a much better reason than that, but you have to think about it, which is a good thing. It’s a lemon-scented wipe after your main course.
There are a few other artists on show, and almost everything comes with a price label. Obviously, you can’t look at a price label these days without thinking “recession?” and “green shoots of recovery?” and “maybe if I bought one, the economy will get fixed, cos everything’s intertwined?” and so on. Well, I can’t afford one, but I definitely reckon you should go there and buy loads of stuff. Do it for the economy (and also because there’s enough first rate stuff you can afford, and you’ve got the space). We’re all counting on you. Find Nirvana through Consumervana. Maybe that’s what The Krah meant?

Art In Mind can be found at 196 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA.

Categories ,art gallery, ,brick lane, ,contemporary art, ,Hero, ,Liron Ben-Arzi, ,street art, ,The Krah

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