I'm walking past shops selling exquisite antiques, ornately framed mirrors, objet d'arts and serious hardwood flooring and lifestyle solutions. I'm passing men dressed in black tie outfits and darlings wrapped up in expensive coats, their porcelain bodies twinkling with jewels; their rich, carefree laughter spilling over me like an accidentally knocked glass of ice filled gin and tonic...
Vyner Street, it ain't.
I'm way out in the unwild west, just out of Notting Hill tube and heading along to Sartorial Contemporary Art
. This place has been on my radar for a long time but what with other openings and commitments, shows, work, it's location so very far west, and whatever, I've never managed to quite get here. I do vaguely know some of the artists from the gallery; have been along to the shows they have put on at No More Grey in Redchurch Street. But finally, tonight, I'm at the centre of the operation..
The show is part two of Artistic Vandals curated by James Jessop, one of Sartorial's stable (along with people like Jasper Joffe and the very busy Harry Pye
). It's a whole mix of graffiti inspired/influenced/mashed-up work by people with tags rather than names. So, we're looking at works by Nathan 80, O.two, Mr P, Cyclops, etc...
Actually some of them do have names and some of the work is quite good.
I see Olly Beck
there and he mentions a new gallery venture that he has started in an old hairdressers. He seems in good spirits.
We check out the work: two highlights, I think. William Tuck's painting. Smooth, airbrushed, confident. And Jessop's work too. I think he's a step ahead of most artists plumbing this street/graffiti line. His work is clearly gallery ready, pay up front, get it shipped out, thank you very much guv'nor, stuff. But it is interesting. He mixes up graffiti history with pulpy covers, referencing a whole bunch of visuals that shift around to a sort of paranoid, sleazy, schlocky kind of vibe. He's certainly no fool. And didn't Saatchi buy up some of his stuff a couple of years back? I'm sure I remember reading about his big painting 'Horrific' and all the press articles talking about it being done by a securty guard (as opposed to an artist). I liked that. It made me picture an overweight geezer in his fifties, tight black uniform, shiny peaked hat, sitting in an empty office block during the wee small hours, despairing of his failing marriage, his lack of prospects, and nipping out in to some storage facility out the back, slowly working on this enormous, fucked up, nightmare version of his twisted, frazzling psychology painting...
It was, of course, nothing like that at all.
Hugh Mendes is here, also one of the artists on the roster at Sartorial. He has a solo show coming up next year here. I ask him about those obituary paintings he does (check them out here
). He says he used to do portraits, then, when his dad died, he moved to still lives. Someone suggested he painted newspaper clippings. He tried it, painting a clipping of John Lennon's murder, placed behind an apple. Then a story about cloning, placed behind an egg. Eventually, as this went on, the object in the foreground disappeared and the clippings all became obituaries. 'They are still, still lives,' he says. Then he laughs and says, 'It's all a bit morbid.'
I first met Hugh standing outside an opening at Rokeby. We both try and recall which show this was. I remember speaking to Boo Ritson that evening too - she'd just been bought by Saatchi and was very excited. But what was the show? Then we remember: the Mark Moore Gallery show with Alastair Mackie in it. Ah yes this one
'Ah,' says Hugh, 'yes, I was at Alastair's studio this morning.'
I eat some pretzels, eye up the cheese and grapes. (I told you it wasn't Vyner Street).
The gallery is run by Gretta Safarty Merchant. She has a piece in the show. It's all over the floor. A reworking of Alison Jackson's Last Supper with additions by Gretta. I don't get it at all. I see Gretta moving around, smiling and talking to people. I can't quite remember but I'm sure she's lived a quite adventurous and glamorous life, maybe she was in a couple of films at some point...
As I leave the gallery, thinking about Gretta, I'm suddenly reminded of another adventurous women who set up her own gallery: Jibby Beane
. I remember hanging out around her west london flat where the front room was the gallery. Heady times. She was always very glamorous and sexy and decadent. She once gave me a tour of her flat, stopping to point out a Vivienne Westwood basque that she had mounted in a frame above the head of her bed....
But hey, that's a completely other story. sartorial pics