Sweet Toof and Rolf Carl Werner
5d Stoke Newington Rd, Stoke Newington, London N16 8BH
14 Dec 2017 – 14 January 2018
All photos: Dave Stuart
Long time ago in a ghetto far far away, pink gums and teeth chomped sections of roof tops, walls and anything else they could get their bite into. Scarcely a murder, robbery or car crash in the East End of London lacked for gnashing teeth on the walls in the background of the news outside broadcast.
And not to forget of course he was a core member of the brilliant, now late lamented Burning Candy crew.
Just before Christmas, a bright shiny star travelled a long way North and came to hover over three shutters and clearly said unto Sweet Toof… “Paint” and lo, he did, and a wall as well.
Just to pick a few bits out from between the teeth; there’s joy and wit in the appearance of the teeth and gums, a kind of cheeky devilish humour; it looks like Sweet Toof has a lot of fun getting up on walls
Sweet Toof, the artist behind those dental records tuned in, turned on and buggered off to a foreign wilderness but recently emerged back in London for a collaborative exhibition with Rolf Carl Werner at the BSMT space.
Show Flyer courtesy BSMT Space
Sweet Toof met Rolf Carl Werner in Sweden, they painted a bit of stuff outdoors which clicked and so they paired up for this collaborative show. Sweet Toof is actually no stranger to a molar collaboration.
Sweet Toof & Paul Insect (related “making of” video)
One thing stands out about RCW – he seems to be Big In Sweden. Everything about RCW is written in Swedish, he appears to have no internet footprint on his own account and it appears he and his art have never crossed the Swedish border, so this joint show is literally breaking boundaries. Evidently he is a crack illustrator who also happens to have a decent pedigree as a below-the-radar graffiti writer. Not in a “hardly ever done any real graffiti” sense but in the sense that his style and practice was evolved in a completely understated home grown way away from the hip hop and the halls of fame and the metropolitan tracksides and tunnels where the legends competed for attention, RCW kept it local, hardly mentioning even to other artists and illustrators that he did graffiti. Sweet Toof himself asserts that RCW is great to paint with and that he is recognised throughout Sweden, but nowhere else!
RCW has a very illustraterly cartoonish style and that is not a million miles from the Sweet Toof groove. Influenced by hip hop, metal and fantasy, RCS’s work is colourful and phantasmagorical featuring heavily segmented creatures.
Fly Till it Burns is a characteristic RCW work, albeit very large coming in at over 2m high, it features a pair of pair of characters, the tread on the trainers suggests both are RCW, being devoured in a fantasy scene of mouths, flying spraycan caps, flames, smoke and smashed landscapes. Notice the graffiti structure, not only has RCW got his name on the tread of the trainers but look at the Capital R in the smoke, the C in the bizarre ghetto blaster and the way the two pairs of legs make up the letter W.
There is only one of those stupendous oil paintings which Sweet Toof shows used to be dominated by.
Often artistic pairings in shows typically brings together two separate artists each working individually on canvasses with, hopefully but not always, some kind of empathetic resonance, perhaps both providing their own idiosyncratic interpretations of a particular theme. Ok, you can reference Herakut, Faile and a few others who practice as a genuine team but generally a pairing of artists coats a deceptive gloss over the mundane reality that they may not have the strength individually to carry a show on their own. This is definitely not the case in “Cut and Run” where RCW and Sweet Toof paint together on collaborative canvases and objets.
Boner’s part zombie part cyborg face works brilliantly to show how Sweet Toof and RCW’s work compliment eachother.
The Night Dweller diptych has been presented on a shelf with a very urban nightscape painted on the wall and it works perfectly, it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to separate those pieces from the background, though curiously the cut outs are being sold as two separate pieces.
In Flesh Easter, RCW’s futuristic multicoloured illustrations add a psychedelic looking robo-punk aesthetic to Sweet Toof’s ghoulish skeletal zombie heads.
Humanoid Duet is also a piece that works incredibly well together but has been set up so that fans of each artist can just buy that artist’s portion, which is a bit strange but, you know, shit’s gotta sell!
For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting BSMT space in Dalston, it is a fairly idiosyncratic basement with a large main room, a white cube back room, a couple of vaulted brick alcoves and a galley, in some respects it is reminiscent of Pure Evil’s compartmentalised basement gallery back in the early days.
Sweet Toof has made some cool installations in the cellar like brick cubby holes.
Many of the artworks in this show exist as objects rather than paper or canvas paintings. Both artists have contributed a large number of spray painted and acrylic wooden cut outs and in particular, paintings on artist palettes.
I am grateful for the gallery staff who broke it to me that two of RCW’s cutouts represented male and female sex toys. Perhaps it’s something that a Swede would spot easily.
This show ticks a number of boxes: first sighting of Sweet Toof in a London show since his epic 2012 warehouse clearance “Sweet Revenge”; first exposure to Rolf Carl Werner – for these eyes at least; a bright energetic two man show with genuine collaborative pieces and finally, yet another strong show which further enhances BSMT’s very impressive track record for urban art exhibitions
This show opened before Christmas and you’d think that meant plenty of time to bash out a few stuttering and possibly drunken observations and fling some wobbly photos into a blog post but it doesn’t work like that, specially over Christmas specially for Graffoto. So, sorry this is late but at the time of publishing there are still 4 days left before the exhibition closes and one suspects that some of the unsold works may continue to be available through the gallery after the show. If you have the time to pop into the show before it closes then, like all BSMT’s shows, this is definitely one worth making the trek for (look for the small A Frame sign outside a narrow door descending straight down into a basement).