Sartorial Gallery, London
15 Oct – 11th Nov 2008
photos NoLionsInEngland unless stated
Something of huge significance is afoot when you open your week-to-view pocket diary (luddite alert) on Monday lunchtime and find that despite clashing with an England world cup qualifier there is there is barbed wire around a Wednesday evening do. That event is the Burning Candy show, christening Sartorial Gallery’s new premises in the apparently “growing art location” of Kings Cross (street evidence: one ancient Obey Mao paste up and a Tox 03 tag).
Having some art schooling allied to a hardcore collective spirit it is not surprising that Burning Candy – or Before Chrome, various pseudonyms are interchangeable – get some highly accomplished emulsion and spray pieces all over East London, not to mention Bristol and various other locations. The dilemma is not so much where to find evidence of the street pedigree as to sift and shake and generally reduce the selection of street piece down to a short list of photos.
First question to be addressed is what and who is Burning Candy? A tight collective of street artists centred around Sweet Toof, Cyclops and Tek 33 but occasionally extending to Rowdy and recently also Gold Peg. In contrast, most of the works in the show are attributed to the individual members with just a few given as joint between Sweet Toof and Cyclops.
On the streets the most obvious characteristics of a Burning Candy piece are those gums and the skull, though attribution is not always as obvious as it seems as occasionally if one member’s signature element is required but that vandal is missing, his federate crims will happily fill in the piece in his style.
Turning attention indoors, the most striking piece upon entering the space is an installation of text and tags on a variety of bits of wood mainly sign boards, though car body panels and toy prams are also thrown into the melee. The installation has a higher typographic content than the typical street work.
The show is delicately balanced between sculptural pieces and paintings, though the physical space is bisected by a floor painted cri de coeur which also repeats in small details in some of the installations, highly relevant giving the Stalinist buffing underway on London’s East End streets in recent months.
Although Burning Candy are a tight knit crew and gets up as a single entity, the hand of each individual member can usually be distinguished. Sweet Toof’s work is characterised by a cartoonish aesthetic, plenty of anatomical detail, an un-expected amount of detail such as in painted cloth fabrics and of course those gummy grins, without which the Sweet Toof work could be seen as referencing the Mexican dia de los meurtos.
A quartet of large canvasses present himself and Cyclops as some pair of muttering old codgers who, thanks to the gums, obviously have a wicked sense of the bizarre, Cyclops and Sweet Toof ARE Statler and Waldorf.
A repeating theme in Sweet Toof’s work whether on the streets or indoors is a pre-occupation with innards. On the streets the most notable example is this manacled skeleton on the site of the “This Is Not A Bar” squat, apologies for the obstructions in the photos but those intestines reach the floor then meander around the architecture – the character looks like he is plagued by serious gut rot.
Gizzards are worked in amusing ways into many of the Sweet Toof paintings though the comedy muff on some of the scarier looking sculptures doesn’t bear close examination
A Burning Candy creation featuring frequently on the streets is Lenny The High Roller, his components parts are usually gums by Sweet Toof, skull head by Cyclops and sometimes hats or other decorations by street luminaries such as DScreet and Sickboy,
Sweet Toof’s work seems to be the most prominent within the show though, as with the street work, it is possible that elements are contributed by the Burning Candy cohorts.
TEK 33 appears less frequently in the street works than Sweet Toof and Cyclops, mainly due to having better things to do in a Scandinavian sense. When he works on canvas he tags the piece using his real name, James Jessop, maybe Sweden has no extradition treaty with the Met. Tek 33’s three pronged motif is a familiar element in the Burning Candy street work though for this show, Jessop has taken Pink Panther from the film credits as his cartoon character of choice and worked the Pink Panther features into the three pronged tag
Jessop has baggsed three corners of the room for very large and acid bright canvasses, including this piece in reverence of late NY ‘80s legend Basquiat.
Cyclops’ canvasses have a finer indeed almost academic approach, being cluttered with streams of conscious wordplay, invented band names and references to half realised situations and un-finished slogans. The text makes fascinating reading, in the way of someone slowly tuning a radio hears snatches of music and conversations before moving on.
Cyclops’ typographic content doesn’t get in the way of ploughing an animator/cartoon illustrator furrow, particularly with the Peanuts characters Charlie Brown and friend Marcie who appear on canvas and in sculpture
Moving on to the sculptures, a pair of stick characters extend limbs across the floor and will trip up the un-wary. The bodies are built up from what look like found objects including ancient brass oil cans, wood boxes (and sticks) and then erratically coated with a white paste and garnished with all kinds of shiny beads and objets trouve. The obligatory gums and skeletal dark orbs form the eyes, heads and teeth.
Burning Candy is mutated anomaly in being a graff crew with its origin and output more in a street art vibe rather than can control Puritanism of graffiti writing. This show accomplishes that rare feat in the street/gallery cross over of reaching an appropriate gallery standard quality of work yet successfully capturing the high colour and energy of their street work.
Burning Candy caramelised
Visit the dentist – pics of lots more gums, skulls and lady’s bits from the show here