East London, First Thursday, Martin Whatson, Project Space, “you don’t look like you’re interested in art”, last Thursday’s exploring…

Project Space

Project Space

First Thursday then, for the last thirtyseven in a row, my First Thursday was spent on a busy corner halfway down Vyner Street, frantically Cultivating. Haven’t been able to get out and properly explore an East London First Thursday for over three years now.

First Thursday for me was always about just heading out and exploring, about just going and exploring, discovering, gallery hoping, just go see what you find. The plan is to head out to Vyner Street first then just head along the Hackney Road to Shoreditch and explore whatever we find on the way.

The official First Thursday website was never correct during Cultivate times so why should it be now? Had a quick look but most of the shows we’re already aware of aren’t listed, I see Art Rabbit has started a new art trail, Art Rabbit was always one of the better event listing sites, totally relying on the artists and galleries to list their own shows though, so even the rabbit can be a little hit and miss. Surely all we need to do is head our and see what we find?.

Project Space

Project Space

Disappointing to see Vyner Street so quiet, it has been gradually getting quieter in terms of spaces actually open on First Thursday, never seen it like this though. Degree Art’s purple neon sign is the only real hint of life from the top of the street, there’s a small crowd outside their space and an officious man insisting we sign the guest book and give an e.mail address just to get in, we’ll skip that then.

The space on the corner, opposite the Victory pub, is in new hands now, formally the home of Cultivate and the place where I’ve spent my previous thirty seven First Thursdays of course. All painted up with shinny red door and gleaming grey floor, the gallery is now called Project Space (although they did call it Street Corner Gallery for a couple of weeks) and a collective of artists gathered together as a group called The Colony Room are using it for the next six months to test their art, test your reactions, explore each others contradictions and generally challenge each other as well as us visitors. The small space is busy in terms of people, in terms of art on the walls not quite so much. Each of the twelve artists has just one piece up, always hard to get a handle on an artist you don’t know from just one piece, The work is hung so low that you can’t really see it past the bodies filling up the space tonight. I always thought the best way to use this particular fractured room was to fill it with art and energy, pack the walls with attitude and let those coming in explore and discover, everyone has their own way though and a more formal structured, dare I say art-school approach, still makes for an interesting show. Of course there are several artists we’re already aware of, Mathew Tudor’s work is always interesting, seen this particular piece a few times too many already, could have done with a fresh piece. Familiar art on wall from Mathew Tudor, Peter D’ Alessandri, Chris Godber, of those new to us – have to say the show is lacking in information, surely a name under a painting is always a good thing in a group show? Of the artists new to us, Elena Dimitrova makes a particular impression, seeing a small piece of her art in the flesh doesn’t disappoint. Names on the wall under the work really would have helped, there’s other pieces of interest in here, certainly a show worthy of further exploration and a daylight daytime visit without the wine drinking crowds obscuring the view

Jonathan Wateridge at Wilkinson

Jonathan Wateridge at Wilkinson

– and that is always how I viewed First Thursday, a kind of scout around and make a mental note of the spaces and shows worth returning to without the crowds and the elbows – mind you the giant Wilkinson space is totally empty, no people in the way of the art in here, I’m the only one in this giant white cube! Of course there’s no signs outside to say the space is open or to indicate to those who don’t already know that the foreboding black door hides a beautifully big gallery space. There’s a powerful Jonathan Wateridge show on at Wilkinson at the moment, on until January apparently – “The gallery will present Monument, a group of paintings developed out of a period spent in Los Angeles in early 2013. These paintings continue the themes present in the constructed scenes of Wateridge’s earlier work, but also combine ideas and impressions from his recent experiences in America. As such there has been a process of emptying out and paring back. Fleeting, incidental, quieter moments have been used to heighten the staged simplicity of each environment…”

None of the once far more alive Vyner Street spaces that Limewharf has now swallowed up are open tonight, they rarely are now, besides their café everything Limewharf is in darkness. No sign of life at Wayward or 47Gallery either, even the usually reliable Hada Contemporary is closed, how disappointing (and no one has paid the unrealistic hire price required to open the two Vyner Street Gallery spaces tonight either). Galleries, you can’t moan about people not coming if you’re not going to bother opening for us when we do come, surely you have to at least make the effort for First Thursday? Besides the Colony Room Group in their Project Space, we’re rather sorry to say Vyner Street is looking a little sad tonight – no longer a street alive with galleries, well worth keeping an eye on developments at Project Space though, let’s hope they keep it busy and refresh the art on the walls often (and label the art so we know who the artists are). Rather like what they’re doing, promising start, let’s see what develops, must go back down there in the daylight.

Martin Whatson

Martin Whatson

Off down the Cambridge Heath Road then, no sign of life at Cell Project, another space that gives you the impression that actually opening for the First Thursday crowds is a little beneath them. There’s a couple of very crowded spaces open on the Hackney Road, there’s a band playing in one, impossible to see the art, we don’t actually encounter anything else until the intended target of a bar called Juno (on Shoreditch High Street) where the Sweet Art Collective have a group show called Guilty Pleasures opening. There’s a couple of familiar artists in here as well, there’s another of Peter D’ Alessandri’s painterly nudes, old school figurative painter with an interesting narrative and an exploring of relationships, he’s an artist getting around and grabbing some deserved attention at the moment, a proper painter. There’s a Quite British Accent piece over there as well. Guilty Pleasures is a pop up show in a bar though, I suspect it might work during the daylight hours, but in the darkness of the evening, under low key bar lighting, with a DJ in the room banging out dreadfully annoying Queen records while people are sitting at the tables in-front of the very poorly lit art, oblivious to the fact that there’s an art show happening in the chosen drinking hole, almost impossible to see anything of this Sweet Art art in here. Hard to even get a vague idea of what’s on the walls (or again to find names). I assume the bar is open during the daytime? I assume it can all be explored during the daylight hours? We’re told the show is on for a month so guess the art is at least going to been seen during the day on this busy street? And anyway, the last thing a good art show should be about is the opening night social drink up… Shame the ridiculous hire prices actual gallery spaces are charging are keeping the galleries locked while people like the clearly well intentioned Sweet Art Collective are forced in to badly lit bars full of people just there for the pub – there again, it might actually be a good show to explore in the daylight when the bar isn’t so full? They might just reach a few people who would never dream about going to a gallery? Impossible to honestly tell if this is a decent show in here tonight, saw one painting through the gloom and the bar room lighting that I liked, couldn’t see and name .

Andew Graves

Andew Graves

Is there any life left in Redchurch Street now? Last time we made it to a First Thursday in Rechurch street, back in the days before Cultivate, it was so exciting and alive. There’s still the street art of course, the layers of tags and the bits of Ben Eine and such, looks like there’s only one gallery open here tonight though, an Andrew Graves, Stephen Harwood show at Studio 1.1 (open until 30th November), not much happening in Redchurch street then, starting to feel a little down about First Thursday, where did it all go? Off to Kingsland Road and Hoxton Gallery then, we know that one is open, it was always an intended target for tonight – as was whatever was going on at Chrome and Black, as well as Nick Thompson’s opening at Doomed Gallery on Ridley Road – Nick JS Thompson’s documentation of the varied remnant military structures of the Atlantic Wall on the small island of Fanø, Denmark explores the architecture of war – the exhibition runs from 6th November until the 9th November in the Ridley Road space. Didn’t make Doomed or whatever had popped up at Chrome and Black (during the day a sweet-shop of spray paint emporium , in a railway arch down in Bethnal Green, a place alive with so many colours it scrambles your mind as you try to choose). A weekend date with Doomed and Ridley Road then

An East London shop window

An East London shop window

Martin Whatson is at the excellent Hoxton Gallery space on Kingland Road – the beautiful brick walls always bring the work to life in this well lit spacey venue, always like this space Martin Whatson has a show called Hide and Seek, presented by the roving RexRomae team, Martin Whatson is essentially a Norwegian stencil artist, his textures are the things that interest, the tag-like layers, the bold use of colour on what are mostly black and while canvas pieces, his Norwegian flag is a highlight tonight. Some of the actual imagery might be a little seen-it-all before, military helicopters with loveheart balloons suspended underneath and such, the more cynical of us might say that all that’s missing is a stencil of a rat. Can’t help but like this show though, sure, some of it is a bit neat and tidy, the energy restrained by the notion of a “good” frame, do like this show though, alongside Elena Dimitrova’s piece at Project Space (and a very colourful shop window display on Shoreditch High Street that had absolutely nothing to do with First Thursday), Martin Whatson’s show, his exploring of relationships between the colour and the black and white, the “good and the evil” is the highlight of what has been a rather disappointing November First Thursday night. Of course there were shows we didn’t make, heard good reports of performance artist Marnie Scarlet’s first solo show at Resistance Gallery, apparently there was an interesting show of paintings in Beck Road, man on the door deemed me not cool enough to come in, “you don’t look like the sort of person who’s interested in art” he said, wonder what I should look like? Darren Coffield’s show over at the Residence Gallery was open for First Thursday of course, that, as we’ve previously reported, is well worth exploring.

Martin Whatson

Martin Whatson

First Thursday then, saw some interesting street art in Redchurch street, mostly the accidental layers and textures that continue to build up, saw some awful street art on the Hackney Road, kind of enjoyed Martin Whatson’s show, disappointed not to fit in a visit to Doomed Gallery, encouraged by some of what I saw at Project Space, their first show offers hope, might be worth another visit to that Sweet Art show in that Shoreditch bar (awful selection of beer, reduced to drinking larger!) clearly need to dress a little cooler to get in to some places, old Primal Scream hoodies are clearly not up to standard when wanting to view art. My first post Cultivate Vyner Street First Thursday adventure then, kind of missed the adventure while enjoying my corner, was really looking forward to tonight, where has it all gone? The first adventure beyond Vyner Street in over three years was, shall we politely say, just a little bit of a disappointment.

(SW)

21 photos in random order, from November First Thursday, click on an image to enlarge or run the slide show….

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