73a Leonard Street
25 Feb – 6 March 2010
all photos: NoLionsInEngland except where stated
A few years back Eelus was a full time working guy making a valid contribution to society when along came street art to ram an exacto knife right through those wh-Eels. The release of Shat At through Pictures on Walls coupled with a street furniture sticker campaign at the same time as the street art rocket went stratospheric forced Eelus into the radar screens of forum bothering Banksy fans .
His most stunning outdoor piece is a version of his career defining Shat-At done in Bristol in collaboration with Xenz.
Although he says he has done very little in the past three years outdoors, that’s forgetting the Butterflies And Watching Eyes last year at Cargo, raven haired at One Foot In The Grove and modestly understating his contribution to the collaborative effort with Little Miss NoLions at Cans Festival in 2008.
Cans Festival 2008, photo Paulo_nine_o
Eelus’s influences come from an enduring fascination with astrology, UF-ology, heavy metal, science fiction and mythology. Among a set of strong new images shown for the first time is this super image based around a photo of a boy in the beach throwing stones at the sun transformed by the fragmenting arrival of a UFO, givng the picture its clever punning title.
In Queen of Cydonia, Eelus touches on a UF-ologist’s pet conspiracy theory regarding extra-terrestrial architecture in the face on Mars and various pyramid structures held up as evidence of lost cities, intelligent life, they’re coming to get us, NASA is suppressing the truth…..run run run. Or a nice semi-mystical painting.
Eelus’s technique doesn’t allow for any shortcuts, from sketches or photos he works up the artwork on computer using a wackpad. The final result is printed out in its different layers, placed on stencil card and cut by hand. The wackpad allows Eelus to achieve the painterly effect evident for example Lung Mixture and in the arrows on We Are All In The Gutter, close inspection of the nicks and irregularities leave no doubt that the work is painstaking in the detail.
A pair of quite spectacular wall applied stencils are prepared in exactly the same way as the smaller canvasses. Eelus manages at the scale of the Icarus on the back wall to give a real sense of his wings disintegrating in the solar glare.
Lilly Stay Put , sold lock stock and barrel “as is” off the wall, shows clearly the influence of Hipgnosis early 70s heavy metal album covers .
Interestingly, in case anyone one suspects shortcuts such as projection techniques, a comparison of the Icarus wall painting with its small brother on canvas provides compelling differences in the detail, on the wall Eelus has even had to change the aspect of the wings to create a composition that fits properly within the wall and also to avoid a horrible boundary overlap between the wing and the body.
Eelus despises the crappy, crudely cut single-layer stencils that thankfully one sees less of on the streets these days, the time taken to create each of his stencil compositions is one of the reasons why he rarely works on outdoor walls these days.
It’s not often one sees urban art furniture so it is novel to find a solid mahogany relief carved chair presented to Eelus as a gift from someone from the East (honestly, the real East, not Hackney Wick).
A recently developed path evident in several pictures is the strong geometric pattern. These are developed in a progressive organic way by creating a stencil for on block, deciding what colour and shape to put next to that and so on, building up the final geometry by intuition and exploration rather than cutting a single layer for each colour. The effect is demonstrated well in Dress Up with the exploding disintegrating technicolour dream frock below and Queen Of Cydonia above.
A stand out piece is the striking and bold We Are All In The Gutter with its hints of glam and metal in the colours and details. Check out the arrows as mentioned earlier for real painterly stencil cutting. This painting follows on from a piece that Eelus did for the Green Day album as seen at the Stolen Space show last year.
There are a few things which might be regarded as unfortunate, given that E is seemingly distancing himself from a street art niche which was never a comfortable pigeon hole for his art anyway. A couple of his compositions will remind anyone of Banksy’s NOLA, Eelus shifts uneasily at the similarity being pointed out but says that he had done the images before Banksy’s NOLA came out and had had reservations about including them in the show them for obvious reasons but had been persuaded.
No More Tears comes desperately close to flagrant flogging of a street art cliché in the angels wings though this is developed more from a reference to quasi religious images burned into the retina from childhood, it is hard to dismiss the impression that the bodily secretion looks more like drool than tears.
Downstairs is a retrospective of many of Eelus’s signature pieces, though Raven Haired is, if one recalls correctly, absent.
The show highlights the strengthening of Eelus’ palette and a growing development of his signature themes. Eelus has managed to maintain a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of prgoress so its good to see this outing as signifying a great leap forward. This self organised show superbly demonstrates his mastery of the stencil form, is thoroughly pleasing to the eye and by common consent at the launch exceeds the expectations of most of the cliché weary street art fetishists. As a bonus, it is refreshing to see the carcass of The Leonard Street Gallery, that former eye at the centre of London’s street art storm, being resurrected by good art and a great opening night crowd.
Apologies for writing this so late in the show’s run but you read this shit so you don’t have to go, don’t you?
More pictures from the show here .