Signal Gallery, London
23 July – 7 August
Globetrotter C215 hails from France and burst into the upper echelon of acclaimed street artists with an appearance as one of Banksy’s invited anointees at the 2008 Cans Festival in London. He followed this with a worldwide campaign of gritty single layer portraits of anonymous grizzled street people.
His third London solo show (if we correctly recall one at Pure Evil’s or is that only in our alcohol befuddled imagination?), the second at Signal Gallery, introduces a marked change in subject and style. C215 told us he has spend the last four years working almost exclusively with subjects from the streets, whether they be people or street scenes. He built up a repertoire of some 800 stencil images but used this street stock regardless of whether he was painting on the streets or doing gallery work.
For C215, the key element of his work always has been the street, a homage to that environment and the people who through necessity or misfortune have to make the streets their home. With the epic catalogue of work developed for this theme, C215 says he now feels the freedom to separate his work of the streets from the work on the gallery.
C215 had come to recognise a regrettable paradox between his desire to work for the streets and his growing gallery significance, it discomforts him to feel he might be moving into a genre of artist who profits from the street communities rather than just document, celebrate and give back. With this show C215 marks a clear separation in that the subjects are almost entirely un-touched by the influence of homeless street dwellers.
C215 has dramatically broadened the colour pallete in this work, gone are the almost two tone sweeps and sepia styling of paste compositions. The application of colour on the faces now seems to be more about contour than skin tone and texture, the backgrounds are more about loose abstract rather than the patterned background he preferred in the past.
The coherent direction in this collection is the link between visage and mind. Apparently each of the subjects is based around friends, family and people familiar to C215 rather than anonymous people from the streets. The abstract background becomes a glimpse into the state of mind and various levels of frenetic mental activity. Sometimes the background speaks of confusion, others intense motion and speeding neurons.
Yet occasionally C215 slips down the gears to serenity, almost
With is background as a street artist C215 of course prefers anything but canvas, the compositions here are executed on a variety of bits of recycled wood, “salvaged” street signs and other random bits of metal.
Amusingly, the picture that lends its title to the title of the show is actually a painting of a mannequin
Clearly the greater work that goes into each of the pictures doesn’t transpose easily to the thirty second hit of a single layer stencil but we have recently seen examples of this more colourful direction on some legal walls.
C215 has managed to maintain the integrity of his relationship to the streets by now differentiating his gallery product, he doesn’t do the indoor spectacular or epic stunt installation of some of his street art peers (yet?) but concentrates on producing consistently gorgeous paintings. This is a lush show, well worth popping in to Signal Gallery to experience if you get the chance.
More photos of Midnights Dream artworks here.