As I write many people in London are worried about riots. There has been a lot of fighting and looting going on. Some say the riots happened because of the actions of the police which resulted in the death of a young black man. Some say the riots are happening because people are angry that the government are out of touch and that they are making the wrong decisions about how to get us out of this recession. Sadly it can't be denied that some of the people setting fire to post offices and stealing from shops are just heartless thugs.
On a happier note - My friend Jasper Joffe and I have had success with our latest exhibition "Joffe et Pye". Our exhibition takes place in his home in Shoreditch, East London. I think Joffe et Pye is a very upbeat show. I find it very hard not to smile every time I walk into the courtyard of where Jasper's house is because the first thing you see is a gigantic cardboard house covered in crazy drawings of Snoopy. The work is a collaboration between Jasper and his 6 year old daughter Alba. He's called his gallery "Chateau Joffe" and all our paintings have been hung in a salon style. One of the paintings in the show that's proved a hit is a collaboration I made with my friend Rowland Smith called "The Power of Suggestion". The work is made up of 16 postcard size canvases squeezed together. Each canvas is a different coloured spoof magazine cover with me as the cover star. Mick Jagger once said "As long as they put me on the cover I don't care what they say about me on page 28." I think the idea of making work about magazine covers may have come from seeing the final sequence of The King Of Comedy in which all the mags on the news stand have Robert de Niro's face on them.
Jasper and I were surprised when one of Radio 4's flagship shows made contact and said they wanted to talk about our exhibition on the radio. The programme is called The Saturday Review and about 4 million people listen to it every week. Three writer/critics Lisa Appignanesi, Ekow Eshun and Misha Glenny came to visit our show and we were delighted that the things they said about us were all so positive. Lisa said she'd like to own one of our paintings. Ekow said he liked the fact Alba was there as he'd never had a 6 year old tour guide before. Misha talked about how my painting and Jasper's paintings complimented each other. They talked about hidden meanings in our work and the fact they appeared childlike but were sometimes sinister. All the critics seemed to agree that Jasper and I were witty and intelligent and that our show was worth a look.
Another important thing for me about the show is that it was the first time I've ever exhibited non figurative works. I don't know why but lately I've found myself painting different coloured squares rather than people. I'm not sure if it's a significant development or just an embarrassing phase that I should try and grow out of.
In the same week that Joffe et Pye opened there was a special launch party for the latest issue of my magazine The Rebel. The launch took place at the private view of an exhibition I curated called "Four By Four (Part 2)" at the L-13 space in Clerkenwell. "Four By Four (Part 2)" features 16 works of art: Four paintings by Tom Pounder, four art cushions by Emma Coleman, four photographs by Aleksandra Wojcik and four sculpture pieces/paintings by Edward Todd. I persuaded four critics (Sarah Thacker, Boyle N Shaw, Alex Chappel and Georgia Anderson) to write 444 words about each artist. The private view was on for four hours. It was a very hot night and we all got very drunk – which was good.
A journalist from the Guardian newspaper wrote great things about the show. She told me she loved Aleksandra's photos of Greenwich in particular. I like shows where the artists are very different and you see people connecting with different things. I think Emma Coleman's work was partly inspired by The Residents famous album cover that featured giant eyeballs and partly inspired by her body going back to normal after having two kids. Edward Todd was the least confident about his work. I think he has a very curious way of working – it's as if he wants to risk embarrassing himself. Maybe he's challenging pre-conceived ideas about what's cool and what's rubbish – I'm not sure and I don't think he is either – but his work is interesting. Tom Pounder's paintings would look good on my wall. He always come up with great titles for his work too.
I interviewed each of the four artists for The Rebel. Here is a link to each interview and a quote from each artist.
Emma Coleman: "Let's call them art cushions. Cushions that hang on the wall like stuffed canvases. Then I can try to reconcile my desire to make art with my desire to nest and build a home and make the sofa look nice. I'll cover them in a surface, the surface of skin, in a stream of consciousness type of way, starting to paint at one edge and covering the whole thing, then the cushion will look like a human pincushion. There'll be a certain slowness of painting, a meandering over the surface by the brush to see what appears from my imagination." http://therebelmagazine.blogspot.com/2011/05/q-with-emma-coleman.html
Model Navy by Emma Coleman
Mother by Emma Coleman
Art Cushion 1 by Emma Coleman
Tom Pounder: "I think we're all striving to find meaning in some way or another and maybe it's harder these days for an artist to be earnest or totally sincere. I like to think of myself as a serious artist but I like jokes too. I want to try and make beautiful objects. I suppose I'm trying to resolve the dispute between an anal retentive tendency to draws squares and neat mathematical diagrams and the expulsive urge to puke my fucking guts up (and shit myself)." http://therebelmagazine.blogspot.com/2011/03/q-with-tom-pounder.html
Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annuciation" by Tom Pounder
Gulf War II by Tom Pounder
Gulf War I by Tom Pounder
Edward Todd: "My statement begins with a quote from The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bemanos:
"So I said to myself that people are consumed by boredom. Naturally, one has to ponder for a while to realise this – one does not see it immediately. It is like some sort of dust. One comes and goes without seeing it, one breathes it in, one eats it, one drinks it, and it is so fine that it doesn't even scrunch between one's teeth. But if one stops up for a moment, it settles like a blanket over the face and hands. One has to constantly shake this ash-rain off one. That is why people are so restless."
My practice reflects a similar kind of movement; a tired, reluctant, shifting rather than the objectivity of a journey. There is an emphasis on the topology of isolated localities, not the overview." http://therebelmagazine.blogspot.com/2011/01/q-with-edward-todd.html
Mermaids and mermen are imaginary
Paralytic Feedback by Edward Todd
Untitled by Edward Todd
Aleksandra Wojcik: "The Greenwich Peninsula project isn't only a story about a particular place in London. It is also my own journey thought the shadows of the city, night and fear. Buildings sites from everyday places seem to turn into landscapes from other planets at night. I was fascinated by the artificial land created by humans and their machines. During the long exposures I was experiencing, meditating and observing the land. There was a strong sense of alienation and emptiness. I wanted to see and capture that place in my own way. I didn't have a final concept of my work. Every time I went there, I wanted to describe the place, how it looked like. Ever night I found something new about it, something that hadn't been said before. I became more focused on the detail, more aware of the quality of light and shape of the land. I kept my distance and shot in a wider view to underline the sense of the location and at the same time I came closer focusing on almost abstract shapes. I was fascinated by the strange forms which we are passing by every day without noticing them.
he rubble and wired machines placed next to the gravel or cement factories reflected by the halogen lamps from the posts turn to beautiful creations and amazing objects. They are the main subject of my work, with the big city behind them in the background. Places which nobody wants to visit, empty and scary. The wasteland , where I could just hear the boat passing, or builders working on the other side while silent in my thoughts. Waiting so long for the image makes you think a lot about the location. It is almost like a dialogue, a meditation, a magical process of understanding the wind and light, the smell of the place as time passes." http://therebelmagazine.blogspot.com/2011/06/q-with-aleksandra-wojcik.html
Untitled by Aleksandra Wojcik
The space where the Four By Four show took place is run by Steve Lowe. I've always thought Steve was an interesting character and one of the good guys so I decided to interview him too.
1) Where are you from and what's your story?
Steve Lowe: "I was born in Slough but my parents moved every 3 or 4 years so I never really considered myself from anywhere. I lived in various parts of London for about 20 years, but now I live in Hastings by the sea with my partner and 6 year old daughter.
My story is: Shy middle class kid born to aspirational parents from working class northern/jewish background. Hated school but did OK. Studied fine art at the Byam Shaw School of Art, now part of Central St Martins, and then the University of Ulster for an MA. Whilst at Byam Shaw I met Adam Wood where we started collaborating. Mostly doing horrendous noise performance that I likened to Einsturzende Neubauten without the tunes. In Belfast I was treated very well and given a big studio and materials, but I left one month before the end of the course due to a complete and utter loss of faith in art, artists and anyone involved in the 'art' world. I returned to London and started an 'alt rock' band called Buxom with Adam and my then girlfriend. That band evolved into another one called The Impossible, I co ran a tiny independent label, we made our own records and had some critical and zero financial success. We existed back in a time where it was possible for a small band with no label or management to get 'Single of the Week' in Melody Maker. Just before Nirvana signed to Geffen and ruined it all.
Whilst being a young idealist in a band I started work in a 2nd hand bookshop that I fairly quickly took over and eventually became a rare book dealer specializing in modern literature, art and counterculture. I was also a bit of an expert on Dr Seuss.
3 on the wave of a spectacular meltdown in my personal life, and the start of War in Iraq I decided to turn half of my little bookshop in Bloomsbury into a gallery. My position was still that I hated art and artists, but I was bored with book dealing and desperate to do something more meaningful. We started with an extraordinary show about the Situationists but my first show with an 'artist' was a Billy Childish exhibition. I was familiar with his music and poetry but hadn't seen a single painting when I offered him a show. That followed with an art against war exhibition through which I met James Cauty and Jamie Reid and working with those 3 artists laid out a blueprint of what we've done since."
2) How did the L-13 space get it's name?
"In 2006 I moved out of the small space in Bloomsbury to a bigger one on Farringdon Road. Part of the reason I chose the new site was because it had been bombed in 1915 in a Zeppelin air raid. Billy then did some research on the subject and discovered that it was Zeppelin L-13 that was responsible. There is something about the total insanity, and tragedy, of a huge inflammable air ship used as a weapon of war that appealed to us. The gallery at the time was known as the aquarium and when we moved to the new space we became THE AQUARIUM L-13. I closed that at the end of 2008 and moved to a more hidden space below an old organ factory where me and Adam had our studio. This was also on the route of the bombing raid, but wasn't hit. We opened in 2009 as the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop and Private Ladies and Gentlemen's Club for Art, Leisure and the Disruptive Betterment of Culture, but mostly refer to it now as just L-13 or the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop. Never L-13 Gallery!"
3) Who helps you run L-13 and which artists do you work with?
"I do all the administration, organising and things like the website myself. Me and Adam have the Harry Adams' studio at the back so Adam is normally about and is an amazingly useful person to have around when it comes to putting up shows or making things. The main artists I work with are (in alphabetical order) Harry Adams, Pete Bennett, James Cauty, Billy Childish and Neal Jones."
4) How is L-13 different from all the other art spaces in London?
"We have quite a lot of spirit and character for a contemporary art space. I never ever liked the cold impersonal aspect of displaying art in bright lit empty white boxes. I can see how it can be highly effective, but I don't think it's healthy as a staple diet. We are also a working space and aim to engage our audience in the sheer energy and momentum of our creative pursuits. So making and doing and showing are all necessary parts of an ongoing process for us, and our huge ambitions tend to be serious creative, poetic and fun ones rather than those that seek to present anything resembling accomplished success. We also embrace confusion and contradiction and always think we occupy the moral high ground whilst fully understanding the fallacy of our position and the shifting sands below us."