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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Exhibition: Arboreal

Transition, Bethnal Green, 5 May - 3 June 2007

Written by Christel Escosa

Pin-balling my way through The Troubadour, viagra dosage dosage further pissing off the already pissed off waitress whose path I continually obstructed, information pills I started to lose sight of what the hell I had actually trekked across London for. This notion intensified further by the bitter sting of embarrassment that came after I had marched to front of the queue for the gig, viagra proclaimed my name was on the list, preceded to walk in, only to be told I still had to pay. Having just spent the last of my cash on an overpriced drink, I managed to barter my way in with shrapnel and some pocket flint; and just when I thought my night couldn’t get any worse, Owen Duff took to the stage. Nay, I jest.

The moment the few bars of his first song were played, my seething melodrama quelled. This multi-instrumentalist first played the piano at just four years old, progressing onto cello, guitar and bass. When watching him chirp through the energetic Act of War, taken from his first EP A Tunnel Closing in, it’s hard not wish that he was sat at a grand piano rather than a Casio Keyboard, allowing him to fully demonstrate his obvious mastery. Having been compared to a bizarre hybrid of Sufjan Stevens and Dusty Springfield, Duff’s sound is one of complex melody and artful composition.

His range of song is practically bipolar, effortlessly jumping from jolly ditties such as Any Captain Worth his Due to the far more sombre Sepulchre. Probably best for those with suicidal tendencies to avoid this track at all costs. Undeniably, the highlight of the gig was ‘Morning Finsbury Park’, which enlisted the celestial tones of Ellie Gray. It was during this collaboration that you realised you might be witnessing the embryonic stages of a very successful musician. With a definite theatrical twist, this song floats with the softness that epitomises Duff’s signature velveteen sound.

As ever, you can find out more about both Owen Duff and Ellie Gray on the communicative/informative phenomenon that is MySpace. Just go to or
Anyway, buy more about we missed the support because the thing that came through with the tickets said they were called the Macabees which sounds like one of those ‘The’ bands that make music to a streak of piss being washed away in the bristol drizzle. Through the floor of the bar above the Anson Rooms they didn’t sound like that at all, story but then it turns out they were another band entirely who may have been alright.

Once inside, the Anson Rooms’ usual crowd of miserable boy students crying into their pints over ugly girls had been replaced by the cast of a Jamie T song. Even Sheila was over from Cardiff with her mate Stella (who got Carling poured all over as I passed drinks back from the bar; they’d run out of Stella).

Jamie T appears on stage with longish hair poking out the sides of a baseball cap supported by his band and a slideshow of endless piss ups. He launches into upbeat thrash versions of his album tracks, and his cast start gleefully throwing pints around and singing along. They know every word of every track: they must have played the album non stop back to back since it came out last week (or have been ripping it off Gnuttella for the last six months…). Alicia Quays is devoted to Chelsea Davy, and by the time If You’ve Got The Money (“Bully each other!”) is played even the Media Twats at the back are thinking about dancing and some girl’s got her tits out. Master Treays leaves the crowd calling “London!” as he finishes his set with Sheila.

To the encore: “Have you heard of a singer called Billy Bragg?” “Yes!” the cast dutifully reply. “I said, HAVE YOU HEARD OF A SINGER CALLED BILLY BRAGG!” “YES!” scream the fifteen year-olds at the front. Fucking liars; they were only two when socialism died. Nonetheless they seem to know all the words to XXX wrote this song at 21. For the final song we are treated to a repeat of Calm Down Dearest played to the tune of the Pixies‘ Debaser.

So, as my friend Alice shouted in my ear after Sheila: Jamie T is the musical equivalent of those cheeky lines you used to do between lessons in sixth form. Whatever; I was doing my physics homework.
Located within the Regent Studios complex in Bethnal Green, salve Transition Gallery is run by artist Cathy Lomax. Exhibiting works in this small white box space by both emerging and established contemporary artists, approved Transition’s current show is called Arboreal, website meaning to dwell or frequent the woods. Arboreal explores human relationships with the world.

All the works had the distinct looming of an incoming apocalypse; or perhaps that apocalyptic times were upon them already. On further inspection, maybe an apocalypse had wiped out humans completely, yet left everything else in its current, somewhat apparently shambolic state, in tact.

Decidedly sinister, Lee Maelzer’s series of nine archival digital prints depict a Christmas tree in various stages of dystopian disrepair; evoking an atmosphere of dark nostalgia. Maelzer’s Dead Tree is of a gnarled tree – desolate, foreboding and full with holes suggestive of gaping mouths in mid scream. Jo Wilmot’s works juxtapose the claustrophobia of a quiet life of domesticity and the claustrophobia of industry. Referring to expectations unfulfilled, Wilmot’s paintings are discomfiting. Tobi Deeson’s delicate looking flowers mass-produced out of cheap bed sheets are again an imitation of life. Deeson’s work hangs from the ceiling to sit above a mirror on the floor suggesting the narcissism of culture; the flowers seem to wilt, hovering between their artificial life and death. Made of cheap wooden panels and veneer, Debbie Lawson carefully characterises wolves in gorgeous puzzle-like carvings, which feel menacing and simultaneously gentle. Lawson explores the organic and natural in theory, versus the manmade imitation of nature with her medium.

Arboreal conveys a darkly hopeful world, the decline of society and it’s impact on the world at large. Humans are physically absent in the works by Tobi Deeson, Debbie Lawson, Lee Maezler and Jo Wilmot; yet the heavy bootprint of man – and subsequently, society’s – collision with nature is devastatingly obvious in the exploration of the organic versus the synthetic by the artists.

A nice exploration of the theme with a well-chosen selection of works, Arboreal is a lovely exhibition with a shadowy heart.


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