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Exhibition Review: Andrew Curtis’ Wild England

"Suburban life is a big strain, you know... To maintain this fabric of absolute normaility requires powerful repressive forces -all these double glazing and patio doors are sustained by a huge effort of will." JG Ballard

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

All photography by Matt Bramford

When Ellen from The Real Runway emailed me to ask if I’d like to go to an erotic/spooky cake launch, pill it took me about 4 seconds to answer. Eroticism? Cakes? Yes please!

The launch of The Evil Cake Shop was at the Maiden shop on Shoreditch High Street, ask It’s a grand little shop and the perfect place to dash into if you need a last minute gift (which I all too regularly do).

The queue stretched all along the pavement outside, and we were informed by people dressed in suggestive Halloween costumes that the basement, where the launch was, only held about ten people. I was absolutely baffled, but in the meantime, said folks walked up and down the line with cans of Alibi to keep our lips moist and a taster of some of the cupcakes. We missed the first batch, which featured a syringe stuck in the top containing absinthe. Dammit! However, what we did get was even better.

Cue ‘Two Girls, One Cupcake’ – a chocolate treat inspired by that video, featuring a huge dollop of edible faeces-looking icing on top. Well it was so incredible that I had to fight the urge to jump up and down. Two Girls, One Cupcake! Bahahaha!

The Evil Cake Shop is the brainchild of Miss Cakehead, purveyor of perverse cakes including vaginas with teeth. You heard me! You have to check out the website, which features an incredible shoot by Nathan Pask and costumes by Prangsta, who we featured recently. The idea behind the shop is to bring together these extraordinary cake-bakers, potion-makers and confectionary creators for an extra special Halloween treat. Inside, in the window, appeared these fab roadkill and dead-girl-in-bath cakes:

‘Is that CAKE?!’ we cried. Well, it is, believe it or not.

Downstairs, the dark dungeon glowed with red lights and was a showcase of the rest of the fabulous cakes on offer – all of which are infused with Alibi‘s pretox goodness. The ‘dungeon’ is absolutely tiny and actually did only hold about ten people – pretty tricky to navigate, particularly as everything was so exciting to look at.

Cookies by Alice Rose

‘The naughtiest vegan cakes in town’ by Ms. Cupcake

Cakes by Holly & The Icing

Models were banished behind bars in Halloween costumes – a little bit awkward considering the tiny space, but fun nonetheless.

When you’d viewed all the cakes, a PVC-clad dominatrix gave you a cupcake and sent you on your way. I got a lime-flavoured ‘phlegm’ cake (above) described on the menu as follows:

Phlegm is a viscous liquid secreted by mucous membranes of mammalians. How about having some in a cupcake? Lime-infused cupcake with a hearty heaping of gob’. It was delicious.

Cakes by Jen Wong, featuring lists like ‘Buy chainsaw’ and ‘Kill somebody’

My personal favourites. Clockwise from top left: a penis, a vagina, a pierced nipple, a wound, zits and an eyeball. More works of art than cakes, designed by Holly Andrews

Spoky fingers by The Curious Confectioner

The cake shop is open to the public from today until Sunday only. They’re flogging 666 cakes per day, and when they run out, it closes, so get down there early – you won’t be disappointed.

PVC onesie optional. Happy Halloween!
Modern Times

Andrew Curtis’s photography expose the fallacy of normality on which the construct of British Suburbia survives aided and abetted by local newspapers and the tabloids. In a time where British Suburbia has become the hotspot for floating voters. Where was Boris Johnson accredited with visiting in his challenge to become London Mayor, no rx which Ken Livingstone was chastened for neglecting and it was subsequently claimed lost Ken the election? Why, viagra 40mg it was the outer zones of Suburban London.

Suburbs have provided ample fodder for British writers, the most famous being a resident of Suburban London, JG Ballard and the photographs of Curtis continue to emphaise that not all is as it seems.

Continuing a British tradition of romanticising the life outside the city, potentially epitomised in Constable’s Haywain, (whose idyll removed all traces of the countryside’s unrest) life in the suburbs has been idealised. It being the world behind the facade, Curtis’ photographs aims to expose, potently the precise suburbia the artist, himself inhabits.

New Empire (How Crooked Are Your Branches)

Walking into the gallery, the viewer is greeted with large monochrome photographs, each (apart from a photograph documenting a crash) image dominated by the imposing presence of a tree picked out in heavy black gloss. On closer examination the surface of Curtis’ prints are dotted with printing errors, the type of which professional printers (the Artist’s day job –therefore we can assume these marks to be intentional) painstakingly iron out. These marks, are another layer added to Curtis’ undermining of the idyll, so painstakingly cultivated by the residents of Suburbia.

New Empire Amnesia

A role of the photographer, it could be argued is to challenge what it is we see on a daily basis, develop our visual language and challenge visual associations. In Curtis’ photographs, the unfamiliar is accentuated, the work that goes into maintenance is exaggerated. Never noticed monkey puzzle trees? which dominate suburban Britain? After visiting PayneShurvell, you will not fail to notice them. These remnants left over from the colonial plundering of Victorian Britain dominate the picture plane. Their forced presence in the British Landscape our a constant remainder of our less than spotless past are enhanced via tcareful application of dripped gloss paint .

Curtis’ photographs are an exploration into the psyche of modern suburbia fitting of Ballard, (whose words head the press release and introduce this article) and Amelia’s Magazine throughly recommend a trip to PayneShurvell before the exhibition closes on the 6th November.

This week as part of First Thursday, PayneShurvell are delighted (as are we) that Andrew Curtis will be hosting a talk on “Wild England”.

PayneShurvell opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm.


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