Shoreditch-based StolenSpace Gallery is one of my regular go-to destinations during my street art walks. The bright and industrious space really complements the artworks on the wall. Featured artists all come from or are inspired by ‘underground’ culture such as graffiti writing and street art. The same goes for their current show ‘The New Pollution’ by Australian artist Ben Frost, which criticises the amount of urban refuse and unwanted advertising (pollution) that forces its way into our private lives on a daily basis.
The majority of the works in the show are painted on medicine and food packages and luxurious fashion bags. These objects are considered as ‘polluters’ for different reasons: on the one hand they are polluters in the literal sense of the word in that they are often found in the urban environment, while on the other hand they also reflect our relationship with these products and what they once held. Take these crying women on the Valium and Quaalude packages below for instance. They ‘reflect our quick-fix obsession with mental health’.
Fast food packaging depict either graphic sexual acts/messages or sad women, which ‘express our distaste for their product’.
The insane clowns and depressed women on the fashion bags are ‘metaphors for the lengths we go to look beautiful’.
Chanel and Dior bags from left to right:
row 1: Coco Pops, Somewhere In Space, Sale, Disconnect
row 2: Excess, Fashion Lover, The Day You Went Away, Fashion Victim
row 3 features icons taken from Shepard Fairey and comics: Obey Chanel, Joker, Bat Out of Hell, Cowabunga
The exhibition appealed to me on various levels. First of all there’s the primary visual level: the paintings are bright, bold and portray funny cartoon figures. Then look beyond the surface and recognise how by isolating famous mainstream icons from advertising and entertainment and re-contextualing them, Frost creates a confronting and controversial statement.
His works are clearly inspired by pop-art and his big-eyed, desperate looking women made me think of the work of Roy Lichtenstein. Also his choice for using medicine packaging reminded me of Damien Hirst‘s installations that re-create pharmacies and medicine cabinets.
If you want to see more of Ben Frost’s playful mash-up, collage-style, pop-art works (and the more ‘spicy’ paintings that I avoided posting here and on social media), then I highly recommend a visit to the exhibition at StolenSpace Gallery. The show is on till 2 August, free access.
BEN FROST website
17 Osborn Street
London E1 6TD
Tuesday – Saturday: 11:00am – 7:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm
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