Friday, July 14, 2006

Pish and Chips


Another great summer evening. More art, free beer, newly discovered grungy bar and unexpected musical find.

Hauled my lazy arse onto my bike yesterday afternoon and went into Whitechapel to meet Liz. It was a lovely evening to cycle, sunny with a nice cooling breeze, I whizzed down Holloway Road passing many a cyclist and got my knee down round Highbury Corner dodging busses. The worst part of the journey over I slowed up and enjoyed the evening as I cycled into the City and the rush hour slid past me on the other side of the road. I reached my destination just past that particular part of Whitechapel Road with its odour of pish and chips. If you have been down the Whitechapel Road you will know where I mean, just after the Aldgate roundabout before the Whitechapel Gallery.

I lingered over a pint and waited for Liz and then we headed off to Vyner Street. Modern Art was opening its two gallery spaces, paintings by Wawrzyniec Tokarski can be seen at its smaller gallery space and the summer show is in the larger space opposite. Tokarski has created some large scale paintings, sort of modern day pop art in watercolour and oils. He combines typefaces, images and graphic design to produce large canvases that echo urban life and the advertising drenched visual culture we currently inhabit. The most amusing (and vast) of these canvases raised a chuckle with its brown, red and black panels with the legend “it doesnt matter what it is as long as it takes enough space”. I am intrigued at where the comment is aimed, a crass art viewer like myself who might be impressed by the scale of the work, the buyer with money to burn and the space to show off their buying power or the gallerist or dealer who needs the wall space filling to complete the ‘look’ of their latest show.
The selection of work for the summer show in the gallery opposite is very disappointing (Barry McGee’s combination of drawings excepted), it is the grungy trash on canvas that now passes for the fashionable look of the moment in some galleries. If you were born before 1975 you have seen this done better a million times before on album covers, gig posters, 70’s punk fashion and numerous later rip offs of the punk aesthetic. And each generation that comes up with slogans and images to shock for the sake of it in this style without pushing the art form forward don’t shock they just bore me even more than the last time I saw it. These young artists may tell you they are paying homage to their ‘70’s heroes. Frankly I wouldn’t believe it, I have heard modern day ad men who have long since appropriated this visual territory say exactly the same thing.
I grabbed a drink and went outside for a chat with some friends and soon forgot the dire art. I relaxed in the sun as the breeze flowed up this normally desolate street and gently tweaked the label off my icy cold beer and then supped up before we rode on towards Old Street.

I have never been inside The Foundry on Great Eastern Street, there is always a crowd outside and on occasions I have thought it was ever so slightly ‘Nathan’. In any case I am always on my way to somewhere else, this night however Liz and I were stopping to catch another exhibition opening. We stumbled into the bar and got two organic beers. The Foundry is quite a spectacle on first visit, it looks like a squat and some of the punters don’t disabuse you of this idea with their appearance, Liz's staement sums it up "look at the state of this place, its appaling, I love it!". The main bar upstairs had some art on either wall, I had seen a brief listing and as it was on our way home I scheduled it into our evening ramble (or whatever the cycling equivalent of a ramble is). The art was fairly nondescript but The Foundry manifesto which explains their curating policy was very interesting indeed, all I can say is good on you guys, the art world needs more people like you.
Then we were approached by a young lady who energetically explained that if we made our way to the downstairs space we would see some art and there would be music and other stuff too, so down we went. In the large basement under the main bar a mix of paintings and photos by a variety of artists was placed around the walls and just in front the far wall a girl was playing keyboards, a kind of lounge folk, jazz pop, improv thing, it was a chilled atmosphere. The art was a great antidote to the previous Vyner Street experience and although put together on a shoestring had a purity and honesty. We made our way back out renewed by the art and were once again approached by the energetic girl who said that she would be playing some of her own music soon, as I had my art head on (and the art schedule fulfilled) and had left my music head behind I could only think heading foodwards.

I asked for a flyer with details and on later inspection I now see that energetic girl is in fact Kate Nash. I checked out her page on myspace and have to say cocked up by not sticking around. She plays a folky style with a great London slur to her vocals and an edge to her acoustic backing that I imagine is fairly difficult to achieve. Despite listening through a tinny laptop I can tell that I would appreciate hearing some more. One to watch maybe, I’ll be keeping my eye on the listings in any case.

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