Lord Napier, Hackney Wick
18 – 20 Nov 2010
We like our street artists a bit elusive and few come more enigmatic than Mantis. The mystery revolves around the un-signed socio-political work on the streets and the comparative scarcity of paintings and prints. Mantis is a regular street defacer, his repertoire including epic stencils, defaced road signs and his own installed road signs though he has been known to freehand paint some large figurative pieces by the side of canals.
“All Fall Down”, photo HowAboutNo
Quite often attribution to Mantis is process involving “definitely Banksy” followed by “not sure” followed by “not on Bansky’s website” sheepishly concluded with “oh, its on Mantis’ website”. The script goes horribly wrong when pieces are initially attributed to Grafter followed by a consensus that in fact Eelus was the painter
One of Hackney Wick’s particular landmarks is the derelict Lord Napier pub hard by the Hackney Wick overground station.
This has been derelict for years and Mantis has chosen its blackened interior to host his first ever solo show.
In the first room, a granny’s living room, as comfortable as a slipper, complete with tweeting parrot simulates a world of contemporary modernity denied. A rocking chair provides a cosy perch next to a roaring fire – flames by Busk – in which Granny would sit and contemplate the sepia toned on the wall.
A couple of the finely drawn exercises have been seen out on the streets in stencil form, though it seems unlikely that they are stencils on this occasion.
Glimpsed through the open door is the parallel exterior world of grim and congested urban landscapes and threatening spooky weirdness. Hanging on dirt streaked un-painted walls are a series of spraypaint and ink drawings on canvas and wood, celebrating a sort of retro modern architecture on one side and playing with life and death on the other.
The particular fish-eyed perspective of this ink drawing over aerosol spray on wood has the luminosity of Hopper’s Nighthawks combined with a bit of Rushka perspective.
Mantis’ street work combines humour with social commentary and occasionally the humour surfaces in this show like this crushing of the Warholian legacy. A bin below this painting held a collection of empty Campbells soup tins, replica labels made by Mantis.
Several of the paintings explore the future architecture theme, on the end wall the whole planet is covered with skyscraper buildings which chimes with the dire predictions implicit in simple but effective street pieces by Mantis.
In one corner a slot machine plays games with our fate, the buttons teasingly invite us to play or not play, the spinning reels indicate life or death and the nudges don’t deliver on the promises the labels make
Mantis has coyly omitted any sign that the art might be for sale, no drawing labels, no price list, in fact no indication anywhere of even the artist’s name. Self effacement is taken to the limit here. This show is fascinating just for the fact that it is by Mantis and revelatory in the undoubted quality of the drawings. The show runs for just three days and at time of writing closes tomorrow with a party, though we understand the paintings may be removed before the fun begins since it is planned to be a bit of a bop.
Mantis is the kind of artists that delights Graffoto so we are particularly pleased that his debut show should be the subject of Graffoto’s 200th post. Happy 200th something to us – yeeeeeeeeahhhhaaaawwww
More images on flickr here