At Lazarides Rathbone, the “cityscape artist” Frank Laws presents a series of paintings, some of which are derived from housing estates in the changing area of Hackney, commenting on the contrasts between the grittiness of such housing and the hope and warmth of the people who occupy it, and the need and ability to create identity as a counterbalance to the anonymity of the grey concrete housing blocks. To add to the atmosphere, his paintings are hung on the dark-painted panelling of the first floor gallery. His watercolours of the gables of buildings appearing as brick towers are reminiscent of the drawings which architects used to prepare before computer-generated images took over, with the loss of softness and atmosphere in the process, and reinforce the identity and sense of place which such brick buildings provide to our cityscapes – perhaps also a commentary on the value of such historic markers when residential areas are regenerated.
“Urban Art” at the Woolff Gallery, shows work of street artists Pam Glew, Pure Evil, Max Zorn, Zaira and Bustart, Andrew McAttee, Static and Richard Heeps, three of whom reflect on the identity within the streets and buildings of our cities.
Pam Glew’s work has a gritty feel with parallels to Frank Laws; indeed both use the American flag in some of their works though, in Pam’s case, she uses real flags as her basic canvas while she explores how identity within the city is shaped by our country of origin. Zaira and Bustart have collaborated on “The City Project”, a series which aims to create their own imaginary – yet recognisable – city, with a variety of buildings acting as a backcloth to city life including street graffiti, while Max Zorn cuts brown tape with a scalpel and layers the tape on acrylic glass to create images that are revealed when illuminated from behind, providing sepia-tinted illustrations that evoke the 1930’s era of contrasts with film-star glamour on the one hand and criminal gangs on the other .
Entirely different, Turkish artist Yesim Akdeniz’ exhibition “The Secret Life on My Coffee Table” at Pi Artworks London shows surreal images of imaginary buildings and interiors where the occupants have gone. Well-maintained houses, power stations and other buildings float calmly like deserted arks in a sea of water while the building interiors are also calm and deserted, still decorated with art and fashionable furniture, but mysteriously occupied by rocks. Is this a post-apocalyptic future where our buildings and well-designed interiors are all that remain of our identities? Akdeniz is tapping into the theories of Carl Gustav Jung, as is Angela Bulloch, but raising questions about the nature of our age. There is no hint of a disaster here – the empty buildings and interiors are beautifully intact. In the increasingly digital age, how much of our identities no longer exist in physical form and, when we leave and our digital record is deleted, what memory of us will exist?
A variety of questions to think about on the relationship between cities and buildings with the people who lived, live and will live there.