It’s easy to walk past Hang-Up, the art gallery on Stoke Newington High Street. With its sleek black shop-front, hidden away along the eclectic north London street, I missed it the first time. The only thing setting it apart from the other shops is the giant picture of Donald Duck’s nephew, re-coloured and with brand names superimposed over his face, which fills the shop window. The artwork, created by A.CE!, sums up Hang-Up’s raison d’être: showcasing the latest urban and contemporary artists in all their iconoclastic glory.
[IMAGE: A.CE] Polka Duck
Hang-Up Collections Volume 1 is meant to be innovative as it will “evolve and change” over the next few weeks, showing new and different pictures all the time: what I saw could be totally different from when you visit. Despite this, the theme of the show will stay the same throughout: highlighting the latest urban and contemporary art and artists alongside already established creators like Tracey Emin and Banksy… and all for sale, of course.
Even so, all the pieces on display are part of a broader theme: the artwork is often satirical, funny or thought-provoking. Prints of Banksy’s graffiti hang alongside trippy collages and strange sculptures like a dead baby bird hanging from a balloon. Spread over two floors, you may have a smile on your face the whole time.
Urban art is often confrontational, but the pieces in Hang-Up can be better described as irreverent. One artist, Connor Brothers, has tongue firmly in cheek with his defaced covers of Mills and Boon novels using crude speech bubbles to mock the tone of the image; another of his pieces, called “The Critics” seemed to mock art enthusiasts trying to find deeper meanings to the work on display. Similarly, David Schieman’s compositions blending Elvis Presley and Marilyn Munroe into one grotesque face seems to mock the very idea of celebrity.
[IMAGE: David Scheinmann] Elvis / Marilyn
Some of the pieces, while still irreverent, are also trying to be political (or at least make a statement). This is unsurprising, considering there are half-a-dozen or so Banksy pieces; but Dolk’s images are just as cutting, if bleaker. Mark Powell’s collages are similar: Supernova, which shows a skull superimposed over a birth certificate, could be seen to chronicle life and death in a single image, while Carbon Emotion criticises capitalism by placing a rotting heart on top of foreign bank notes.
Less pointed works include the collages by Chemical X: images made up of tiny repeating patterns which are mindboggling to look at with their warping, almost 3D effect. Yet they are a welcome change with their bright imagery, adding colour to the gallery.
The variety of styles is also notable: painted skulls and deer antlers; stencils sprayed onto vinyl records; collages; montages and posters; painted doors! Everything is fresh and fascinating to look at (though you do need to be open to modern, contemporary art).
[IMAGE: Eddie Peake] PRECIPICE. RECIPE. EPICENE. PCI RIC EPE. ÉPÉE. ECEP.
Some of the pieces even play with space: for instance, Pure Evil’s (seriously, only half the artists on display seem to have normal names) artworks stretch past their frame and down to the fall in pools of painted tears. On the other hand, the iconoclast within you might appreciate Stanley Donwood’s artwork. He gets a whole wall for his black & white landscape visions of potential apocalypses; for £299 you can own a picture of the London skyline on fire.
On the whole, it’s a bizarre and eclectic selection (much like the street it’s on) but while the pieces on display are clever, entertaining and irreverent, it’s far out in the middle of north-east London and I’m not sure what point it’s trying to make other than “hey, check out these guys!”
Hang-Up Collections Volume I
16 August – 22 September
56 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 7PB