Exhibitions

First Thursdays – March 2014

My First Thursday of March involved two shows: #unsung: alternative icons at Doomed Gallery, Dalston, and Half Cut at Stour Space, Hackney Wick.

#unsung: alternative icons was a solo effort by painter Faye Dobinson.  Speaking with her on the night, she summed it up pretty succinctly: just paintings of “women who deserve props”.

The series was of oil and mixed media paintings of women in music, from the better known (Skin of Skunk Anasie) to the obscure (Delia Derbyshire, a pioneer electronic musician who arranged the original Doctor Who theme song).

I really liked Faye’s style of painting.  I actually want to paint like she does: realistic portrayals of people with enough expressive flourish to stand out and feel personal.  Some of my favourites…

The night reminded me of how much I enjoy art as an event, especially when the artist is present.  When I say Faye’s painting style was personal, this is most likely because I was able to speak to her, albeit briefly, and so better understand the context of her work.

She spoke of having a daughter for whom she felt the need to provide positive role models in an age of Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj.  And the women depicted certainly achieved that, such as Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who continues to create music in the face of fundamentalist opposition in her country, and Tammi Terrell, a Motown singer who battled cancer for 3 years whilst performing.

Another cool element of the night was the fact that the DJ set was built up of songs keyed to the paintings.  Tying music to art is something I’ve never really thought about but feels like an obvious link to explore for exhibitions.  Unfortunately, I left before Doctor Who came on.

Half Cut at Stour Space was different but equally awesome: a group show of contemporary woodcut and linocut prints.

I know very little about these techniques; I think the last time I looked into woodcut was actually for a GCSE art project.  I definitely didn’t realise there was a ‘contemporary woodcut and linocut print’ scene.

The techniques don’t feel like a dynamic or fluid approach to making art.  Taking the end point of colour on a medium, compare the effort and immediacy of a single brush stroke with the chiselling of a piece of wood, applying of ink, aligning and then pressing.  The amount of forward planning involved would seem to take the inspirational spark out of the artistic process.

Nevertheless, few of the works on show felt lacking in inspiration, or otherwise clunky.  Having to plan ahead probably means ideas can be better thought out and executed.

My favourites were Peter Rapp’s cuts of surreal, Bosch-like creatures.  The precision of his cuts was so fine that it felt like a pen and ink comic book print – they reminded me a lot of Charles Burn’s ‘Black Hole’ series.

I also liked Sean Starwars (which is surely not his real name).  I thought they could have been featured on a Marilyn Manson album cover from the 90’s.

In sum, as with last month, I really enjoyed First Thursdays.  If you want a more personal gallery experience, exposure to new styles and the chance to meet those behind the art, drop by April’s edition.

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