Council vultures, they don’t like culture, them and sticking out like a soar thumb plain clothes policemen and women who could have got the answers to their clueless questions with a quick five minute poke around the web rather than taking up big chunks of our busy time last Thursday evening – “what’s all this paint on pavement sir”, “wasn’t us officer, it was a man called Jackson, or at least he started it”. “Why do you call it First Thursday?” “Because it happens on First Thursday” Officialdom is raining down on us at the moment…
Another busy busy month down the street (yeah yeah, I know, always a busy month down the street, or at least on our bit of it anyway) and as you no doubt noticed (we did go on about it a little bit), we marked Two years on the collapsing cobbled-stoned corner last month with the appropriately named Two show, and without a much needed pause for breath, the paint-drenched momentum of the Cultivate roller-coaster carried us flying (crashing?) on beyond Two, first with the week-long Notions Of The Street show – Alo, 616, the newspaper-baring monsters of Bortusk Leer and such – and then with Emma Harvey’s rather well received two week long very painterly solo show, Fleshed.
That Notions show kind of had us wondering what the point of filling a wall full of Alo’s work was when there’s so much of it out there on the actual East London street to see right now? I guess the gallery environment affords more space to just look and enjoy, to discuss, to question, to absorb, to ponder – a little more than a glance at a wall on a street and maybe a photo as you rush by doing whatever it is you have to rush and do that day. Unless you happen to be on one of the forty-seven “official” East London street art tours that seem to be trolling around Shoreditch and Brick Lane tripping each other up every day, “Roll up roll up, thirty quid a go, I’m a personal friend of famous street artist and one time England and Bristol Rovers goalkeeper Gordon Banksy. What do you mean, Banksy played for Stoke City, nah, that was Brian Le Rat or whatever his name is. Want to buy my new London Street Art book, there’s only been five new books on the subject published this month so you’ll be needing this one, it has that bloke from Essex who once stuck a sticker on a lamppost in it”, No, promised I wouldn’t get cynical about the seemingly relentless “business” of mostly unadventurous unchallenging London street art and the treadmill that churns it out. Got asked by some “street art” company this week if I would come teach street art classes to teenage kids in schools – “There’s loads of money in it”.
Couple of months ago I was asked to take part in canal-based street art tours involving artists operating punted boats along Hackney canal. Something to do with giving talks and live demonstrations while simultaneously floating, or punting, the paying customers, or punters, to a converted warehouse of a Hackney Wick restaurant, where said punted punters could eat and then be parted with their money in exchange for the “street” art that would be hanging on the walls of said fancy restaurant that would double as a street art gallery – “I’ve already got the stick-man guy and the bloke who does the big teeth signed up, you know those guys I’m sure? Do you have a street art name to put on the website? You fellers like to be secretive don’t you, adds to the mystery” “Sure, I’m Captain Leafheart, I usually paint late at night in a glowing green mask and a big black cape, you might have seen a photo in that latest London street art book that just came out, the one with a stencil of a rat in a riot cop outfit standing next to the queen dressed as Marilyn Monroe eating dollar bills with Mickey’s big-eared shit-eating head on them” “Oh yes, I know you, didn’t recognise you without the mask, love you work Captain”, Street art tours! What is going on? Saw a big wall piece the other day, on the Hackney Road, on the corner by Dalston train station, the piece included impossible to miss details and a great big phone number for one of the many rival East London street art tours, the piece was the work of an artist I did have a little respect for for not quite fifteen megabites back there, bet he’d jump at a chance to punt along the canal like a performing street art monkey if the cash was right….
So we had a gallery full of art that some would call street art. or urban art or whatever the flip you want to call it this week – art that some would say didn’t need to be on a gallery wall, while others seemed to really enjoy the chance to swim in a gallery full of work from Bortusk Leer, Alo, 616 (and a leafheart or two), art you can see on the streets of London anytime you want, art that takes on a slightly different feel when you see it on a gallery wall. Yes we did need a wall full of Alo paintings and anyway, so many people don’t look at the walls outside and had have no idea about the so called street art scene and who’s the cool name to drop this week, a majority of the people who come in to Cultivate have no idea who Roa or Stik or Sweet Toof are, and at the end of ir all we’re just putting paintings on walls and that is why the art-student types who asked if we “show proper paintings as well as all this stuff” was sent packing off back to Goldsmiths with a flea in his ear.
During that Notions show we sold an Alo piece to a member of the London Symphony Orchestra, a 616 piece to a very contemporary fine art sculptor who had a show on in another gallery in the street who has no idea about 616 and just liked his work (and said she loved coming in to Cultivate and finding treasures in corners), and if we do have to put things in safe little pigeonholes then we shall deal in cross-pollination, and everything we put on our walls is “proper”
Galleries are somewhere to stop and get off for five minutes, they should not be places that intimidate people. Last Friday I was standing outside the open front door of Cultivate, talking to someone about something when one of the bus drivers who regularly go by stopped in his tracks for a double take (there’s a big bus garage at the top of the road, and just along Mare Street, we regularly see drivers and such cutting through fast food strewn filth of Vyner Street and Mowlem Street of there way to and from work) craning his neck to look at something that had obviously caught his eye and delayed his hasty walk to work. I told him he was more than welcome to go in and have a look “oh really” he replied, “I haven’t got any money to buy anything. Am I really allowed to just go in”, he seemed delighted with the invitation, and headed straight for the painting that had caught his eye – seemed to spend a good fifteen minutes admiring just the one painting for many different angles. Probably wasn’t fifteen minutes, but was a heart-warming length of time, there is a pleasure in seeing people take time to enjoy the art we’ve chosen to hang on the wall, especially when that person has taken a moment to step out of his comfort zone and come on in. The bus driver’s enthusiasm and thanks as he left gave us more than enough fuel for another weekend in the oil, discarded fast food wrappers and general filth and dirt of Vyner Street.
This week we find ourselves halfway through our YES WE KNOW WHERE BISTROTHEQUE group show, and a room perhaps not quite as full of words, text, letterforms and wordy pop art as we might have liked. We’re very pleased with what we have on our walls right now, and we won’t put anything on the walls that we don’t feel right about, and we’re very pleased with what we have on our wall right now, we’re especially pleased to be working with Quiet British Accent, been wanting to have some of their work up in Cultivate for some time now, Another blog about knowing where Bistrotheque is in a moment…
TEN THINGS THAT HAVE ANNOYED US THIS WEEK
1 – Tower Hamlets Council
2 – The broken internet combined with the slow painful death of the gallery laptop, sorry for the slow e.mail response over the last couple of weeks (anyone got a spare laptop? Anyone fancy organising a whip-round? If we asked for donations would anyone care enough to donate a pound or two to the Cultivate needs a new Laptop fund?
3 – Tower Hamlets Council
4 – Badly framed art…
5 – Whitechapel Gallery First Thursday officialdom, their lack of support and their general taking for granted of the smaller artist-run galleries and spaces that contribute and commit so much to an event they get so much positive publicity out of without really doing that much. Two years of infuriating frustration and at times a lot more than just frustration.
6 – The unreliability of 6b pencils
7 – Bits of mashed potato stuck in the holes between the grid in the potato masher thing when it comes to washing up. Alright, nothing to do with Cultivate but I am doing the washing up right, a multitasking artist, if I can do it so can you, come on you artists, especially you Mr print maker, that’s the third and last time you’ve said you’re showing up with work and then failed to do so.
8 – Mr bloody Brainwash, the clue is in the name.
9 – Over priced art fairs and organisers funding for their expensive holidays by charging artists outrageous fees to take part in their dubious events, that and artists who say they have no choice other than to say yes and won’t make a stand against this cynical exploitation. A reasonable fee we can deal with but there really is a lot of taking the p and people making too much money out on artists going on right now. We need more artists saying no or at least asking questions, this is one of the main reasons why we set up Cultivate in the first place.
10 – Right Twix
TEN THINGS THAT HAVE PLEASED US THIS WEEK
1 – The bus driver’s delight
2 – The plant your own bulb stall, the handmade pizza oven, the dome full of tomatoes and all the colour that has emerged via the canal garden club collective at the very bottom of Vyner Street.
3 – What Julia Made
4 – Finally getting some art from Quiet British Accent on our walls, been wanting to do that since we first found their work via a gloriously red online football fanzine website a couple of years ago.
5 – The traces of Serge J Vutuc recent solo show at Wayward Gallery that still linger on the walls outside – explain door, just door…
6 – whoever covered the wall of the building site at the top of the street in painted paper butterflies last week – Alex Arnell. It was an artist called Alex Arnell, there was a lot of very colourful paper butterflies
7 – selling art made by Michelle Mildenhall, Emma Harvey, MyDog Sighs, Julia Maddison, Quiet British Accent, Carne Griffiths (and a leafheart and exclamation mark or two), always good to sell art and hand over some cash to a fellow artist
8 – Left Twix
9 – Being paid in homemade blackberry and apple jam, Miraculous Mule’s new album, the Phoebe Unwin show at Wilkinson Gallery, the A in AC/DC, the Joanna Georgiades paintings that were on the top floor of the Vyner Street Gallery complex last week,
10 – The rather expansive AD-HOC-RACY exhibition that the Limewharf people have on at the moment at the big space that is the old Fred Gallery space and is now a beautifully refurbished and opened out space
ARTIST CALL – TEN @ CULTIVATE, VYNER STREET, LONDON, E2
24th OCTOBER – 29th OCTOBER
TEN is a series of ongoing shows at Cultivate. Once again we’re going to divide our walls in to TEN areas (with black tape) and invite TEN artists to take one area each Each wall section will be 1 metre wide and 2.9 metres high (there will be blank space each side of the one metre so artists can use all their space right up to the edge) Artists can do what they want with their space, fill it with one big canvas or piece, fill it will lots of small affordable pieces of work, install something, take it in a minimal direction and make a bold statement with one or two pieces in the space…
IF YOU WISH TO BE CONSIDERED contact us for more information, submission details and such – firstname.lastname@example.org