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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Gossip @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, Friday 21st March 2008

Written by Camilla Pia

A worryingly bright room with the stench of fresh white paint known as the Nog Gallery was illustrator Marcus Oakley‘s chosen venue for the launch of his new book.

Framed art and canvases, order website like this none much larger than A4, were hung tightly together in a line around the room. This was a collection of work that made the book that we were there to drink our beers to.

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A colourful collection of trendy, childlike illustrations were bought to life by Oakley and his fat marker pen, HB pencil and a selection of coloured papers and paints. His work involved a mixture of typography, pattern making, still-lifes, houses and numerous quirky characters and animals such as the creepy bear (above).

Oakley’s work also involved portraits of more familiar (yet still rather creepy looking) characters including Fleetwood Mac, Simon and Garfunkel and Neil young. There was definitely a 1970′s air around the exhibition: bygone architecture, retro pot plants and large collared fashion. Oakley appears to be influenced by the aesthetic beauty of the decade’s architecture, fashion, graphics and typography. The subject matter and his taste in music may be a little old but his style of illustration is definitely contemporary.

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The Glasgow School of Art undergraduate fashion show has been an annual affair since the 1940s, viagra approved so it’s no surprise it has established a reputation for being dynamic and innovative. This year proved to be no different, more about with 40 students from second and third year showing 108 outfits.

The theme for this year’s show was ‘Avant-Garde’ and the students aimed to challenge mass-produced fashion to create exciting and daring one-off pieces.

The show opened with work from the second students, salve who showed one garment each, followed by the third year students who specialise in one of four areas of textile design – knit, weave, embroidery and print – to create a three garment collection.
Featuring fluorescent colours on neutral backgrounds, jewel bright colours from opposing ends of the colour wheel, layered tones and rich hues, this was a show saturated in colour. The voluminous shapes and intricate folding, tucking, draping and pleating showed guest lecturer Julian Roberts influence.

The designers cite inspiration from architecture, industrialism, Optical art and the glamour of 1940s screen sirens. One minute cubic shapes in knits and print evoked city skylines, and the next Surrealism and Romanticism took over as the models were transformed into Cottingley-esque fairies in light chiffons and appliquéd flowers.
Using a toned down palate of coffee tones in gold and cream, Natalie Graham created a collection of juxtapositions. Masculine tailoring challenged ideas of femininity while her choice of tough woven tweeds patterned with mechanical shapes was classic and sophisticated.

Stephanie Parr drew inspiration from dilapidated buildings, and used thermals with laser cut fluorescent fabrics. The layered train of one dress, lifted and lowered by the model like fabulous neon parrots tail, created endless shapes and movements.
Nautical stripes were toughened up in Ian Porters capes in which striped panels and red rubber panels seemed more like an apocalyptic day by the sea.
This was a bold and self-assured show that once again cemented Glasgow School of Arts reputation as the place to look for new talent.

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You can tell Armen Eloyan lives in Zurich. With claustrophobic cabin interiors, health sparse, snowy landscapes and a cast of animal – human hybrids: wolves, dogs and black cats, his paintings seem like stills from a half-remembered Mitteleuropean fairytale. Take ‘Man Dressed as Wolf’: a figure in a stove-pipe hat and a vulpine smile stalks amid the fir trees, on the way, you can only imagine, to eating someone’s grandma.

Eloyan inhabits much the same territory as the notoriously grim Chapman Brothers, but while their demented cartoon characters are drawn with a twee neatness that underlines their menace, Eloyan’s visions are smeared onto the canvas with splenetic vigour. Cartoon imagery is removed from the flat safety of the printed page; in ‘Bear and Dog’ a speech bubble emerges, filled with frenzied, illegible writing, while in ‘(Bunch of a Story) Tea Table’, the viscous substance oozing from the pot doesn’t look much like tea. Random details surface from the swirling depths of the paint: although you can’t quite work out what infests the outer reaches of the canvas, you can bet your life it’s nothing friendly.

It’s well known that modern anxieties about childhood and the American film industry have excised the darker content from children’s stories and folklore. In Eloyan’s nightmare-world, these dark and haunting subtexts burst through to the surface, creating queasy juxtapositions between the painterly, expressionist backdrops and the goofy-eyed figures therein. In short, Bookstore Cure celebrates the triumph of the macabre.

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After a guestlist mix-up that had me convinced I’d be attempting to review this gig from outside the venue, seek we finally get the green light and find the perfect perching spot for first support act Youthmovies as a heaving throng of expectant early arrivees go wild for this Oxford fivesome’s thrillingly complex riff attacks. They are also very keen on next act Esser and rightfully so, as the pint-sized ex-Ladyfuzz drummer kicks off an energetic and compelling performance by dramatically thrashing at a cymbal and snare. Along with frYars and Micachu, the quirky chap is currently one of the capital’s most innovative young songwriters as he caters in everything from dark, off-kilter pop to shimmering electronics, stripped-down hip-hop and frantic thrash, throwing in maracas, creepy piano samples, strings and cowbells along the way. ‘I Love You’ and ‘Headlock’ sound like hits in the making and as Esser tumbles off at the end of a thundering finale, kicking over drums and microphone stands in his path, he leaves us gagging for more.

However, it’s headliners Foals that really bring the house down tonight, rather unsurprisingly as before they are even on stage a real party atmosphere pervades the Astoria with pissed-up punters chanting the band’s name and excitedly lobbing glowsticks into the air. The extremely talented quintet commence an intense and perfectly executed set of tracks from debut ‘Antidotes’ with a brief warm-up as smoke fills the stage, blinding us with red and blue flashing lights before ‘The French Open’ surges into action, all discordant horns, juddering guitars and clattering percussion. Gone is the tight circle formation of old, replaced by an increasingly confident live outfit unafraid to own all of the space they are entitled to – Jimmy Smith manically thrashes at his guitar while Yannis Philippakis pirouettes, hops and skips around the stage gesticulating wildly from behind his microphone and even launching himself into the front row at one point to dance with the crowd.

‘Cassius’, ‘Balloons’, ‘Heavy Water’, ‘Hummer’, ‘Two Steps, Twice’ and ‘Electric Bloom’ all incite screams and hysterical flailing from audience members, however, it is nothing compared to the encore of ‘Mathletics’ which sees people grabbing at the frontman and guitarist, pulling them into the pit and hugging them, as growling basslines, twittering riffs and rhythms at breakneck speed erupt around the venue. Anyone worried that a move to stages of this size would detract from the power of the Foals live show should leave tonight feeling appeased. The band are now more adept at putting on awe-inspiring performances than they ever were…

After having met Chris – Yeasayer‘s front man – the other week, ailment he extended an invitation to watch the band’s final London gig at the ICA last night. So with a note to himself written as a reminder to submit my name, page we parted ways with a sincere promise of a catch up on the following Monday.

I’d heard nothing but good reviews from an eclectic selection of people, so I was anticipating whether Yeasayer would live up to my expectations. Rolling up to the venue early in the hopes of catching one of the super sized fig rolls that the ICA has to offer, we were met with “We’re still waiting for their guest list.” Man, all I wanted was one of those fig rolls, could I wait in the café? No. So I was relegated to the lobby to await the royal list.

Not only were we at the mercy of the bureaucracy that comes with guest lists, but also the sticky red tape of being at the ICA. In my frustration I wanted to shout at someone, to para-phrase CSS, to ‘suck my art’, bizzatch!! Despite being amused an hour earlier to observe the ‘art crowd’. But some dim sum and a lot of phone calls later, we skidded in just in time for the lights to come up on the four piece that is Yeasayer.

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I wondered how Yeasayer were going to translate onto a live stage; as they were the kind of band that I imagined to have a raggle taggle but Slick Rick type gypsy orchestra backing them up. So when the sound swelled (the sound at the ICA is amaaaaaazing darling…but not up toooo loud, it’s all very civilised up in there) I thought that it was all too good to be true. And then I realised, and was initially surprised, at how electronic and backed up they were. I was skeptical for about a minute, when it all began to make sense to me. Recorded, and on a romantic level, Yeasayer are a seemingly untamed wilderness of exotic sound; a whirling dervish of drums, vocals chanting with abandon and organic handclaps. Often, images of bare feet kicking up dust as they stomp and dance cross my mind when I listen to Yeasayer. But of course, on an intellectual level, I know that every sample, every wail and every drum stroke has been carefully executed with the pride and precision of a military operation. And on observing the live version of proceedings, it was clear that it was almost a Wizard of Oz type procedure, with live mixing as well as live instrumentation.

I was hanging out to hear Sunrise and they didn’t disappoint me, I was appeased. Yeasayer lived up to my expectations, and were well worth the trouble that I, and everyone on either side of me on the food chain, had to go through to get me there. I got what I went for: the urge to gyrate, throw my hands up, dance in a fashion that would clear a wide circle around me and, despite one of my pet hates being anyone who thinks that going barefoot is a cool idea (vagrants), I also felt like I wanted to chuck my shoes off for a stomping jamboree with Yeasayer. Fantastic.

The introductory song of Jesse Malin‘s On Your Sleeve set the scene of the album well: the scene of an episode of Baywatch. Thereafter, sick a procession of power ballads marched on with ‘vim, search vigour’ and all the originality of a victoria sponge. The influences that he claims to have were difficult to detect – despite my strain to do so. Tom Waits! The Ramones! Where? Where? The entire album seems to merge into one mediocre commingling of many an eighties epic, nurse deep-and-meaningful pop rock effort. It did give my colleague hot flushes upon hearing it – although I’m not sure whether or not that is necessarily a good thing. There are many songs on this album, fourteen in fact, and many of them are rather catchy, but none of them – not even Rodeo Town or his rendition of Walk On The Wild Side filled me with optimism for the singer’s future in music. I understand that he is not trying to be edgy, and is singing truly from the heart, but I still can’t imagine anyone wanting to listen to it who doesn’t already have the greatest hits of Lou Reed. In fact it left me wondering, does he wear beads? Is it ironic? Is it a pastiche? It could be a quiche for all I care.
Possibly due to its close proximity to the grand edifices of the University of London, website the private view of Erica Eyres‘ show at the Bloomsbury-based Rokeby Gallery had a distinctly scholarly air. Take my exchange with one clever-looking chap in square spectacles…

Chap: What do you do?
Me: I’m a writer (mostly of essays, so technically true).
Chap: I’m a lecturer of French and Russian.
Me: Gosh.
Chap: (Something incomprehensible in French)
Me: (long pause, tumbleweed passes, etc) Oui.

And all this intellectual stuff is kind of ironic because Eyres’ show is one of the strangely visceral you’ll see all year.

There are certain media that are probably only ever used by adolescent girls, and ballpoint pen and coloured pencil rank high among them. Lucian Freud won’t ever display a new series of works in Caran D’ache. Likewise, it’s improbable that Frank Auerbach will abandon oils for biros. They do not scream ‘This is Art’. Eyres, however, embraces the associations of these almost apologetically workaday media to produce some uncomfortably familiar representations of female identity.

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At first sight the Canadian-born Eyres’ drawings of ethereal waifs are the stuff of much contemporary fashion illustration. You know the thing: wispy fringes, big eyes, coyly downturned chins; a bit sixties, a bit Sara Moon, a bit nothing. You can practically see the Topshop labels on these girls’ smock dresses. But on closer inspection (and it really is closer inspection, Eyres is so clever that nothing jumps out at first), you see their features have been gently, lovingly, devastatingly manipulated. The blotches and craters of their skin have been unsparingly detailed, their incardinate lips are grotesquely downturned as if grimacing children; their low-slung jeans creep beneath the pubic bone. And the worst of it is: these pitiful girl-children don’t realize how absurd they appear. They pose for the viewer in the attitudes of provocation, intensifying the pathos to levels that are both heartbreaking and comedic.

As I edged towards the well-stocked bar following my woeful attempt to impress my Francophone friend (whom I spotted later that evening similarly intimidating the gallery director) it struck me: what’s Eyres’ work is about is our universal terror, despite all our pretences, and all our fancy clothes, of looking a little bit stupid.

After seeing this Arkansas trio perform the same live set for over two years now, website it’s disappointing to hear Beth Ditto informing us that they will not be playing new material when she strolls out to three levels full of expectant faces in a packed-to-bursting Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The iconic vocalist looks as striking as ever tonight in a combination of figure-hugging, store shimmering green dress, huge bouffant hair with dangling crimped ringlets and dramatic black eye make-up – an outfit conjuring up the spirit of Hairspray’s Tracy Turnblad. She hitches the frock up completely during blistering opener ‘Eyes Open’ before the band treat us to fiery versions of ‘Yr Mangled Heart’, ‘Coal To Diamonds’, ‘Yesterday’s News’ and ‘Fire/Sign’.

Gossip have toured their essential breakthrough fourth album to death – so it’s no surprise that on occasion these songs have less energy than when they first unleashed them on a hungry UK audience in 2006 – but what makes this act so special is that even when they’re not firing on all four cylinders, they still knock the socks off their peers performance-wise. Ditto roars, shrieks and shakes along manically to drummer Hannah Blilie’s thundering rhythms and engages in witty banter between songs while fashionably speccy guitarist Brace Paine gives the frequently-photographed frontwoman a run for her money in the stage-owning stakes, creeping, crouching and hopping from one foot to the other while dishing out bluesy, attacking riffs and squalling solos. The outfit also pay tribute to some of music’s most influential females as Ditto sings snatches of X-Ray Specs songs and quotes Nina Simone before unleashing their famously sultry version of Aaliyah‘s ‘Are You That Somebody?’.

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These references seem to be lost on the audience, however, the majority of whom are only interested in hearing that Skins song, an advertising campaign responsible for transforming Gossip from a cult act into a mainstream proposition last year. In fact, they barely pay attention to the first airing of infectious electronic-tinged newie ‘Eighth Wonder’ – complete with pulsing beats and samplers – and dance half-heartedly to the first encore of ‘Listen Up’, before the familiar opening thrash of ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ kicks in, its pulsing bassline sending shivers down spines and sending the Empire into a frenzy. Suddenly Ditto is nowhere to be seen, enveloped by the crowd as she pulls hundreds of people over the barrier to dance with the band. They swarm the stage and flail around wildly, providing a spectacular visual finale to a show which, despite its intermittent failings, still packs a well-placed punch in the belly of modern music.

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One Response to “Gossip @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire”

  1. Charlotte says:

    WoWWww – great photo! When I saw them in Brighton Ditto got lost in the audience for two songs!

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