4 June – 27 June 2009
Burning Candy crew of Bristol and London has knack for pleasing both fans of graff and street art. A crew show in October 08 was followed in short order by a Sweet Toof solo show in Dec/January and now it’s Rowdy’s turn to rock his skills at Sartorial Gallery in London.
On the streets, Rowdy is best known for his crocodiles with their oversize teeth and luminous eyes.
Occasionally cameos come from a scraggy wild faced fox and a prickly hedgehog, which like the crocs are invariably given menacing snarls and grins.
Recent isolated examples of indoor daubings which have cropped up at urban art auctions have suggested a preference for the abstract, it was a pleasant surprise of sorts to find the large upper room full of crocs and foxes familiar from the streets. Indeed, a very substantial mobile of menacing wooden crocs the same as ones which used to be seen glued to road signs, gates and doorways dominates the room. Little jasper will grow up a twisted and terrified brat after having one of these hanging over his crib.
Rowdy’s anthropomorphised animal characters cruise an urban landscape of offices and towerblocks, the town is the swamp and the crocodiles are the king predators. Bold primary colours and a simple style gives the Rowdy panorama the feel of nursery book illustrations. Curiously, about half of the paintings are called simply “untitled”
Rowdy’s vision is clearly a city environment where danger lurks. The menacing half hidden predators cruise the streets and hide behind buildings. What do they signify though? Burning Candy gallery work has historically empathised with the underdog, the outcast and the outlaw, so possibly Rowdy’s characters are criminals. Perhaps they are the authorities, the rozzers, the bodies who would love to catch graff crews in the act. One painting which does have a title is Displaced Bank Manager, the dishevelled appearance and manic stare conveys an idea of a fat cat on his arse through greed and incompetence with only his pension pot to keep him company whilst his mates the crocs continue to lurk deep in the streets. Hang on, we’re back to crims again, a classic case of mixing up your crocodiles and allegories.
A trio of very large canvasses create a night time urban panorama, the black night allow the illumination of neon lights and buildings o develop a luscious glow in these pieces. The cities are built on rivers and crocs patrol these waters. This trio didn’t look like they formed a tryptich but that was impossible to confirm due to the crowds, that’s what you get you place the bar next to the set piece paintings. At least you didn’t have to walk too far from the front door to get you free beer, so who would argue that the priorities were wrong?
Rowdy has a love affair with a double image composition. Street pieces often incorporate double ended crocs, twin-headed with no tail like in the Burning Candy Brick Lane piece photograph at the start, this compositional structure is repeated in the gallery where the cityscape often includes a waterfront, giving him the chance to create reflections. It probably not just coincidence that some of the best photos of Rowdy’s work in the wild involves water reflections.
There is a very architectural feel to the small collection of paintings downstairs which lift the paintings up from the pure abstract like a stone skimming over water. Some of the paintings have an incredible depth, the layers dare eachother to cross the room or burrow back into the walls. The pictures invite you to step into them, perhaps then to turn around and stare back out at the world, who knows, perhaps you’ll see grinning crocs and wild eyed foxes staring in.
Within the abstract pieces, stare long enough and perhaps the vertical and horizontal impressions resolve into proxies for buildings, horizons and rivers (so, not pure abstract then)
Late night car journeys, peering at beacons and neon signs through rainswept windsceens are darkly captured in Botafugo (a place in Brazil), at least that’s what comes to my mind.
You could lose yourself in these for hours. Where the sense of urban landscape fades away to leave just distant horizons, the trick seems to be accomplished by switching from well defined acrylic blobs and runs to bursts of spraypaint.
Rowdy has an effective and evocative technique, but technically probably isn’t quite at the same levels of accomplishment demonstrated by Sweet Toof and Cyclops but that’s a bit like saying the Beatles weren’t brilliant musicians, the effect is the important thing. Rowdy doesn’t lose his street content or skills in transferring to the gallery yet the work stands well in comparison with almost all other shows flying the Urban Art tag this year. And you definitely have to see the pieces in person to appreciate some of the subtle layer effects properly.
The set of pics from the show can be seen here.
Appetites whetted for a recollection of the Burning Candy Show at Sartorial in October 2008 can obtain satisfaction here.
Sweet Toof’s ultrabrite gallery performance in December 08 went up and down, up and down till it was clean and sparkling.