‘Life imitates art, far more than art imitates life’, is the well known Oscar Wilde quote, suggesting the notion that we look for significance in real life events, not because of personal opinion, but because of the perspective that art offers us of life. Could this be true for the CROSSROADS Art Show; the 3-day exhibition that has recently taken place in the Truman Brewery? Wilde’s words can be depended on to add an attractive wistfulness to any speaker’s debate. Perhaps a more philosophical thinker would be able to pluck something deeper from this comparison, but for my efforts, I am instead choosing a steadfast and stockier line: in that one of the world’s largest brewery’s and therefore a place steeped in history is ironically a temporary home for a brilliant collection of modern art, and as ever Shoreditch proves to be London’s epicentre for artistic culture.
CROSSROADS sprawls out over two levels, and the large size of the exhibition is an indicator as to just how much talent the show is housing. Aptly named to suggest the diversity of the collection, as well as inviting viewers to leave behind what they know and set their artistic appetites to something new. The name also has connotations of adventure: of different cultures, geographies, and mediums all of which is true for the art show formed of the work from 50 different galleries.
As the show unfolds there is a strong presence of the theme of irony, which the poignant, pithy perspective of graffiti artist Banksy has made a common place within modern work. A similar Banksy-esque dark wryness is notable in several pieces. Carlos Aires’ ‘Disaster’, depicts banknotes from different cities, however, printed on the note is a photograph of another part of the chosen culture, which is not suggested by the crisp lines of the political pictures of the notes. If I was still a university Drama student-I might use the word ‘subtext’. ‘Disaster’ presents this juxtaposition with the late great Amy Winehouse-her beehive rivalling the regal headwear of the Queen on a twenty-pound note. There is a green US dollar with an effusive female cadet whose grin seems much too clean for the mud her uniform will one day wear, and a smiling Nelson Mandela on a South African rand, next to the faces of two school boys; one beaming and the other shy and unsure-suggesting the type of naïve wisdom which comes with fresh-faced youth, as if he is aware of the raw tribulations of the south African people. It subconsciously makes you finger the tenner in your pocket and wonder if you will be spending it on that East London lamb burger and craft beer after all.
Other artists whose flair and creative thinking echoed the comparison of Banksy was ‘ARTISTS NAME’ work ‘PIECE NAME’. This showed the true power of the idiom ‘less is more’, as ‘PIECE NAME’ is a large black canvas, against which there are pyramids of various sizes. On closer look, you can see that the pyramids are in fact piles that are made up of the words ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’. The cuttings are small, almost as if cut from a word document, however, each time there is more ‘knowledge’ than ‘faith’. The businesslike simplicity of the way the words are presented, is a potent contrast to the matter being discussed: in this age do we have more knowledge than faith? The tiny font printed against the black background is painfully close to the many millions of individuals that walk the earth without singular beliefs; so pivotal to us, and who we are, and yet under the endless watch of the universe, insignificant. But then this may be the very point the artist is insinuating, perhaps no one is even watching. This satirical tone moulds the ‘LET’S BE IRONIC!’ collection from the Servais Family Collection. In particular the soft pastel still life pictures of fruit bowls, synonymous with the art of the 1600’s, are edited with an addition in the corner of a calorie count that is so crucial to our modern day survival and ability to consume a balanced diet. The calorie count is printed as though it is a digital calculation, and against the soft lines of the painting it presents our current age as a kind of hypersensitive dystopia. Not that that would be the best name for Gillian McKeith’s next cookbook.
It is not all writhing with ironic statements, though, and other strengths of the collection are the diversity of mediums presented. Viewers are offered the perverse pleasure of watching a block of clay be pounded by boxer turned artist Sislar Gascar, to later marvel at the satisfying result of what looks like soft chunks removed by some kind of ice cream scoop, as opposed to the agile punishing of a boxer. Hugo Alonso’s collection of paintings of film stills causes the viewer to turn voyeur, as we watch over an empty room. Alonso’s talent is palpable; the painting has been created in such a way that it looks like a blurred photo, and this fake sensation of the photo adds an extra sense of life as if you are encroaching on someone’s private space. You are left awestruck when you learn that this has all been completed through an artists’ hand. A luminous glow of a room lit at night time is further achieved as Alonso’s monochrome piece is painted on aluminium.
CROSSROADS is a beautiful collation of thought-provoking pieces from across the globe. This diverse and lively collection will leave you reeling with the varied perspectives of different artists, and marvel at the skill they have to then physicalize this through paintings, sketch, sculptor, video, as well as dust the second piece of Alonso depicted tiny portraits of faces; the dusky lines used to create their expressions were born from dust found in each of the subjects’ homes. The show continues to champion Shoreditch’s reputation of being a hub for an alternative style and creative talent, fuelling Wilde’s words of art moulding life. Partially anyway-it’s also important to remember that I met someone called ‘Palace’ within minutes of arriving.
Words: Evie Richards © Artlyst 2016 Photo: Let’s Be Ironic curated from the Servais Family Collection Image P C Robinson © artlyst 2016