Thirty Thousand Streets

Sunday, March 30, 2008

War Paint

I love working in Soho. It's all there basically. A heady stew of media bitches, okey-cokey tv celebs, record shops, clothes shops, vice, and decent food.

There's also a smattering of hip galleries and print-shops thereabouts, such as Cosh on Berwick street, and now the Lazarides print shop on the Charing Cross road – a sort of sister venture to their longer established space on Greek Street, that regularly had peeps snaking round the block to purchase an Anthony Micallef print.

It's split between an exhibition space on street level, and a print shop above – and accessed via – Soho Books. The exhibition on right now is entitled War Paint and features paintings by Massive Attack's 3D, and some photos (or 'light-paintings') by Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones.

I quite like 3D's stuff, which graced some of Massive Attack's releases, along with the MoWax 'Headz' compilations, and he was a grafitti artist in Bristol before being a musical artist. Like many 'street' artists, the same figurative motifs recur in his paintings, populated as they are by raw Francis Bacon-esque viscera and homunculi. All the images are rendered in a strident red, and are available as prints (the companion blue edition sold out on Pictures On Walls practically instantly).

The accompanying photo portraits by Warren Du Preez and Thornton Jones also take a deconstructivist approach of the personalities involved, and are arresting, but I've gotta say, I wasn't in the market for a photo of James Lavelle's mug even in the heady, stoned days of the mid nineties, so god knows what I'd want with one now.

In fact, I read that the exhibition was inspired in part by the Unkle album, War Stories, which I'm slightly bemused about, having always viewed everything beyond The Time Has Come remix ep as a yawnsome product of Mr Lavelle's ego, and hence not that cool or indeed interesting. Oh well.

The actual print shop has the prints from the exhibition on display, along with other bits from the Lazarides gallery archives. Now, it must be said, Steve Lazarides and co. are reet canny fuckers. The blue edition, vended through Pictures on Walls which sold out like that (snaps fingers) had five editions of 50, on at £275, wheras here, the red (and more limited) versions are on at exactly twice that, and presumably before VAT. These cats have basically got a license to print money. I was going to try and blag one of the show posters, but looking at the price list, I see that even that, an unlimited edition, costs £20. Oh well, can't front I suppose. Artists getting payed is a good thing.

I was also looking to see if there was anything by MoWax/Dizee Rascal's designer Ben Drury, who is also on the roster, but there didn't seem to be anything in evidence. Amongst the other stuff there were prints by Antony Micallef, Faille, Space Invader and others.

On an aside, I have to say, there are some tropes particular to this kind of supposedly 'subversive' street art that are getting a little tired, such as the juxtaposition of militaristic motifs with icons of popular, consumerist (read: bad) culture. A US marine with Mickey Mouse's head superimposed over his would be a perfectly acceptable example of this. What is slightly irksome is that, wandering round Lazaride's super cool (won't say Über, oh, damn) Soho print shop, is of course that their operation covets this very same consumerism, under the guise of some supposedly ironic, knowing, distance.

But of course, there is an immense appetite for all this, which at the minute, much like war, doesn't seem to be abating. People just can't get enough, me included, apparently, as I've bought a couple of prints from the over the years. Guess I'll shut up. And actually, on that that front, one of the prints has more than doubled in value, so not a bad little purchase, if the market doesn't suddenly get bored of guns, skulls and halftoned dots.

Anyway, worth a goosey if you're in the area, or want to splash out on something for the wall of your trendy hackney studio flat.

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