17 Osborn Street, London E1 6TD
13 Jun – 6 July 2014
all photos: NoLionsInEngland
It would be easy to sneer “Sell out, same ol’ shit, run out of ideas” in a week when shows by two of the giants of street art open in London*. However, in the case of Roa, the art in his Stolen Space installation based show was breathtaking.
Roa’s art has always played with twin notions of animals rising up in abandoned human habitats and ambiguous dead creatures which left us questioning were the spoils of a successful hunt or a sinister ritual sacrifice. He has frequently employed lenticular imagery both on the streets as with the concertina shutter doors on the now re-developed Cordy House or the series of locker doors in Roa’s awesome London debut show at the Pure Evil Gallery below.
The ROA room (Max Rippon aka RIPO is also exhibited in the front room) is entered through a center hinged revolving door which creates four permutations of the poor creature changes from playful repose to decomposed.
Centre stage is a stunning 8 way optical trick of the eye in which the creatures we are looking at change as we walk around looking alternatively from square on to diagonally into the corners.
This idea of looking into the corners being a critical viewpoint repeats with a couple more installations where mirrored surfaces create a fearsome symmetry.
An intriguing fearsome bat is painted on three staggered surfaces which viewed from one point form a seamless image but form all other angles offer nightmare scary frankenstein juxtapositions. Notice the two way stomach incision flap pandering to the audience that prefers their bats pinned down and partially dissected.
The reduction in the array of cases, furniture, boxes and intriguing old biology lab accoutrements compared to his 2012 Hypnogogia show in this space has allowed the painting to have a bigger impact. Signature dishevelled, bedraggled creature and blue and red gizzards come to the fore and empathise the merits of ROA’s rough but detailed painting style. Virtually all of the images here look like ROA could just as easily have painted these on the streets as indoors in a gallery and it has been a while since there was a show that managed that achievement.
The awkward and ambiguous images of these creatures force us to contemplate our own skewed view of the animal kingdom, are we in love with them as pets, are we horrified by them as scary bats or do we hunt and devour them as ruthless consumers at the top of the food chain? Roa is on awesome form in this show and the brilliance of his art whether on street mural, abandoned buildings or inside in the gallery all amount to the same thing with this guy.
The burning question at the end is does this guy’s name need to be spelt with all capitals or just a leading capital R? Judging by the preview newsletters it is not clear that even the gallery knows!
*Also opening, “Banksy Unauthorised”, Sothebys/Lazarides