Last week I joined kindred curious spirits and head off for the opening of the Curio-City exhibition at the Curious Duke Gallery (CDG). This group exhibition is the kick-off show for the new gallery space. Owner and curator Eleni Duke founded the gallery 2.5 years ago and recently found the opportunity to re-locate her gallery just a bit further down its initial location on Whitecross Street. I had never been in the CDG before, but it was clear that Eleni was thrilled with the new gallery space for its high ceiling and huge windows making it a light and spacious room. She explained that although the previous location was equally lovely, it was in a basement and tall visitors had to be careful not to hit their heads while descending the staircase.
Upon entrance I was warmly welcomed by Eleni who immediately came across as friendly, enthusiastic and a curator with a good eye for young talent. She told me that she spends lots of time on social media to find new artists.
I was surprised to see the works in the window as I already knew the artists, but as street artists. Not that odd to see these works at the CDG though, as they state on their website the gallery represents surreal and urban artists. Compare the photo above with photos I’ve taken in the street in the last few months.
While I had a quick scan of the room, I was surprised to see such a diversity in styles and techniques in the works on display: from ink drawings to mini art installations and works using burnt materials!
The moment I walked into the gallery, I absolutely fell in love with the beauty and serenity in the works of Simone Webb and the touching and funny works by Roy’s People. Especially in the case of Simone’s works it was a classic case of love at first sight. Unfortunately Simone couldn’t attend the opening, but Eleni told me she was very proud to have ‘discovered’ this talented artist who only just graduated from arts school. She also explained that Simone applies a sophisticated combination of Photoshop editing and manual techniques to create her work.
Simone was so kind to send me more information on this by email: ‘My work is a combination of traditional and contemporary methods. I start by drawing rough ideas and then resource everything I need to create it, taking it into Photoshop and then adding more traditional methods such as painting using acrylics. Sometimes it all happens the other way round, it all just depends on individual pieces and what shape I feel the piece is taking! I try not to plan too much as I like spontaneity in my work and not knowing exactly how a piece will turn out.’
The works by Roy’s People (real name Roy Tyson) on display were funny photographs depicting cleverly staged situations and also very sweet and touching mini installations. All the miniature figures are hand painted.
If you want to learn more about this artist, then make sure to keep an eye on Inspiring City’s blog who will be meeting Roy soon to talk about, among others, the forthcoming auction organised by Big Issue, with a hunt for Roy’s Little People project in Convent Garden.
Also make sure to catch his first solo show at the Curious Duke Gallery from 3 April till 26 April.
At the opening I had the pleasure to meet artists Sam Peacock and Darragh Powell who both told me a bit more about their works in the show.
I was intrigued by the historical thought underlying Sam’s works, referring to colonialism. Sam about his 2014 collection the “Ironsea”: ‘It focuses on trade and Britain’s own history in shaping the sugar trade. The work is made on steel sheets and forges a mixture of liquorice, coffee, Demerara sugar alongside more industrial types of paint, it focuses on port towns located on the south coast where a proportion of the trade into Britain arrived.’
As he explains about his previous series of works “Unseen Landscape”: ‘It was inspired by the hidden landscape which occupies Australia and was the focus of my solo show and collection of works during 2013. The work was made using a mixture of coffee and Demerara sugar alongside a mixture of industrial oils and varnish, all the colours are created by using a open fire at the studio in the midlands.’
Sam beamed as a naughty schoolboy when he said that he gets invited to this midlands studio every year to basically burn things in the open fire out in the woods.
Darragh had exchanged his home in sunny south France for London for a few days to attend the gallery opening. He has both French and English roots so is in London quite frequently. I was struck by the beauty of the elegant crows in his paintings, but they also left me with quite an unsettling feeling I couldn’t really place. However, the following information in the artist bio on the Curious Duke Gallery website puts my feeling perfectly into words: Darragh creates images in which the audience find themselves immersed in a place where nature seems to have the upper hand whilst man is often visible only by the imprint he has left behind.
I found it illuminating to learn from Darragh the connection between his work Watchtower (the Hill has eyes) and the legend of the ravens of Tower Hill. Legend has it that “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”
Darragh remarked that in his works he is not only inspired by nature, but most of all by his two big passions: film and music. We had a funny bonding moment when we realised we’re both fans of the American metal band Machine Head.
There are too many artists in the Curio-City to mention here, but here are a few more photos I took on the opening night. You can find the artist bios and more works on the CDG website.
I found the entire show striking and was mostly fascinated by the diversity in artist voices. All works are stunning and I end this post by simply saying: go and see this show!
Curio-City is on till the 28th of March.
Check the website for the exact opening times.
Curious Duke Gallery
173 Whitecross Street