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Double Vision Exhibition for the Thirsty and Illiterate

Pubs across the country are often named after animals, trade tools and even reference the alcoholic elements of the drinks they serve.

In the past, found objects, such as an old boot or copper kettle were hung above the public house have also been known to act as a sign. So there was no problem for those who couldn’t read or were too drunk to see the establishment before them.

It's a boot

It’s a boot

Celebrating the art of the pub sign, painters, printers and illustrators have each created their own to be displayed in an exhibition at The Lauriston, Victoria Park Road.

With typography being a core element to the design, artists who were up for the challenge answered the Double Vision brief put out by curator, Mr Gresty.

Double Vision Exhibition_5

Mr Gresty said: “The target of Double Vision is to create a strong image that brings together two things that a thirsty and illiterate onlooker could identify.”

The sixteen artists selected did not only have to be “creative minded” but also had to have a sense of humour.

Double Vision Exhibition_2

One such artist, VJ Von, has created a piece called The Cock and The Pussy. Designed in true, British pub-sign style she playfully uses the famous image of the “Grumpy Cat” that went viral on the internet. Von believes art is a game, and an essential part of her practise is having fun and exploring.

The Grumpy Cat hates the pub

The Grumpy Cat hates the pub

Von said the Double Vision brief was very close to her heart.

She said: “I love fun art with a hint of cheekiness and irony and British Pub signs offer a best formula for a great piece of art.

“I think I just want people to have fun – that’s why we go to the pub, don’t we?”

Double Vision Exhibition_6

Another artist, Dylan White, works in animation and currently supervises post production on a children’s show.

White’s piece, Black + Tan references the traditional 50/50 mix of pale ale and stout, which he thought fitting for the brief. It’s also personal, as White said his Irish relatives told him “awful tales” about the stuff.

Mr Gresty, who has been putting on LHR exhibitions since 2013, works with artists who he admires and by showing their work in the pubs, hopes to raise their profile.

Double Vision Exhibition_4 (1)

A keen collector of objects, Gresty said he hopes the viewer look upon the work in the exhibition, as he does when he looks at his badges and rulers he keeps at home.

He said: “What interests me most in a collection is the comparisons and contrasts of the solutions of creative minds.”

Double Vision opens 7th March and runs until May. For more information see the Facebook page.

The Rise of the Women’s Institute in The East End

There’s a reason why traditions survive through time.

Lots of brides still wear white on their wedding day, despite the obvious, and one can observe the tense atmosphere in restaurants on Valentine’s Day where couples silently compete in loving gestures across a candle lit table.

And in a similar way to eating fish and chips in yesterday’s newspaper, the tradition of the Women’s Institute, which was founded in 1915, is still spreading itself across the country like marg on a homemade scone, and over the last few years has made its presence known in East London.

The original WI spent time with jam.  Lots of jam.

The original WI spent time with jam. Lots of jam.

The latest WI to sprout from Hackney’s concrete streets is Hackney Wicked Women, who had their first meeting in November at Cr8 Lifestyle Centre in Hackney Wick.

Started by Grace Shotbolt, 24, last month, Hackney Wicked Women saw a modest 15 people turn up from the area, including Grace’s mother, Elaine, a keen supporter of the institute and the only member so far representing the 50+ age category.

Elaine, who is 53, said: ‘I joined the WI to support my daughter but also because I’ve lived in London for three years now and have found it quite difficult to make new friends.”

Friendz 4 lyfe

Friendz 4 lyfe

Whilst the majority of the group are women in their 20s, Grace says the group is open to any woman who wants to join, from girls who want to learn craft to those who want to get involved in charity work or just want to meet the neighbours; the whole idea is to bring people together.

She said: “I work in the city which is not very women friendly and I wanted to do something for women and make a difference outside my job.”

In a creative area like Hackney Wick, Grace said that she’s seen a rise in traditional activities like making your own clothes, knitting and crochet which she hopes to encourage in her WI.

Members of Hackney Wicked Women.  Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

Members of Hackney Wicked Women. Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

Another thing that she wants to focus on is bringing in women speakers who have with interesting careers and charity work for which she has plans to work with Free Cakes for Kids, a Hackney based charity who provide birthday cakes for children in low income families.

And with other WIs in the area, including the Shoreditch Sisters and the East End WI, Grace said that there’s no competition between the groups and she’d love to collaborate with them on projects in the future such as supporting small businesses and causes in the area.

President of the Shoreditch Sisters, Martha Wass, 25, said: “Shoreditch is home to many charities and organisations that we work with, such as Women For Refugee Women, who are a local group challenging the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK.

Shoreditch Sisters in action

Shoreditch Sisters in action

“We are currently working on, Knitted Together, a knitting project which meets twice a month with them, sharing our knitting skills and creating a group blanket/wall hanging to campaign against the ill treatment and lack of support to the ladies sent to the immigration detention centre in Jarls Wood.”

The groups highlight the importance of supporting the community’s organisations, sharing and learning new skills and making national WI campaigns specific to their field.

Colleen Bowen, President of the East End WI says that the “two energetic women”, Niki Stevens and Sorella Le Var were not only inspired by the comedy series Jam and Jerusalem but the idea that you can still be lonely in a busy city like London.

The East End WI give you their hands

The East End WI give you their hands

She said: “The realisation that you can be just as isolated in a heavily populated area like London as you can be in a rural area meant that both Niki and Sorella were keen to set up a group that would welcome all local women, help them make new friends and have fun.

“Up until that time, WI’s has been based primarily in more rural areas, but the desire to build a supportive community of women while sharing and learning new skills is just as relevant in the East End as it is to anywhere else in the country.”

And despite it being almost 100 years since the first Women’s Institute, Martha, Grace and Colleen all agree that the idealogy has hardly changed; it’s still about campaigning for a better community and teaching women new skills.

Mysterious skills at a Shoreditch Sisters meeting

Mysterious skills at a Shoreditch Sisters meeting

But that’s not to say that it hasn’t moved on from 1915.

Martha said: “I suspect that the WI movement is a good deal more democratic and has adopted more modern means of promoting its ideals, though perhaps a little more slowly than we would like.

“Here in the East End we like to just get on with business as quickly using whatever means we can. Sometimes that might mean a bit of craftivism to get our message across, or just being vocal and visible locally.”

When in doubt of being visible, bang on a steel drum

When in doubt of being visible, bang on a steel drum

And in the age where women have demanding jobs on top of home responsibilities, WI’s need to prioritise what really matters to them in terms of their dedication and energy and according to Martha, “it’s the generous spirit of our women that keeps us going.”

In light of the “urban WI” where younger women are getting involved in cities, Janice Langley, Chair of The National Federation of Women’s Institutes said that it shows perceptions are changing and the WI has “something for everyone”.

She said: “Women of every age are attracted to the WI and members have told us that their WI meeting is the only opportunity they have to mix with women of different ages, and have made really good friends that they otherwise wouldn’t have ever met.”

No WI post would be complete without this cheeky calendar girls picture

No WI post would be complete without this cheeky calendar girls picture

With the first London WI starting in Fulham in 2003, Janice says that the cities WI’s are on the rise, with there now being 50 in the capital.

She said: “The East End WI, and Shoreditch Sisters WI in east London are all great examples of the organisation offering something to all women at every stage of their lives, and we look forward to hearing about the range of activities their members choose to get involved with long into the future.”

For more information see Hackney Wicked Women, Shoreditch Sisters, East End WI and The National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

East London and The Fruits of The Forage

With 56 parks, gardens and open spaces, Hackney has the largest expanse of green spaces in London. Perfect for walking the dog, sitting in the sun, cracking open a cold Tyskie or dancing to reggae blasting out of a boombox, locals and tourists alike can enjoy the glorious bounties that Hackney’s green and pleasant lands can offer.

And next time you’re strolling through Victoria Park or Hackney Marshes or indeed, any of the green space in Hackney, instead of taking a deep breath to smell the autumnal leaves, why not take a closer look at what you could eat?

Keen forager and herbal medicine student, Jason Irving says there’s plenty of edible shrubs, leaves, berries and fungi to be found in and around the East End.

Jason and some wild, wild garlic

Jason and some wild, wild garlic

“You’ll not only find things growing wildly, but there are also plants put there by the council such as rowan berries which are poisonous raw but can be made into a jelly and are great with meat,” he says.

“Hawthorn berries are also commonly planted and you can find them in most parks and can be brewed into a tea or used as a traditional medicine.”

Since moving to London two years ago, Jason started his own walks, talks and workshops to teach people how to identify and use wild plants.

There's no slim pickings on this shrub

There’s no slim pickings on this shrub

This year he has led walks around Hackney Downs, Abney Park cemetery and conducted a foraging community class with local food kitchen, Made In Hackney, but the love for foraging has been with him long before the move to the big smoke.

“I’ve always been interested in mushrooms,” he says.

“They are unpredictable with more unknown varieties. You only get to see them for a few days and then they’re gone. It’s hard to get to know them well.”

There's no shortage of mushrooms in East London.  They pop up everywhere

There’s no shortage of mushrooms in East London. They pop up everywhere

Having enjoyed walks in the woods and reading up around the topic, Jason began working for his Uncle, a rather famous forager in foraging circles and the biggest supplier of wild foods to restaurants which included clients such as The Ivy and St John Bread and Wine.

And whether the use of foraged produce in restaurants began with local ingredient demand, a prominence of environmental awareness or the nostalgia that comes with eating a dandelion that you could have picked yourself, Jason says it all kicked off about five years ago with chefs becoming more interested in using wild foods which happened to be when he started taking foraging seriously.

But it’s not only top chefs and restaurants that have got on board with the grass and roots; it’s become prevalent on a residential level too.

Chefs George Fredenham and Gerland Waldeck (The Foragers) brought a taste of the great outdoors to The Dead Dolls Club in Dalston with their entirely foraged menu

Chefs George Fredenham and Gerland Waldeck (The Foragers) brought a taste of the great outdoors to The Dead Dolls Club in Dalston with their entirely foraged menu

Jason says that people get into foraging for different reasons and interestingly enough, in urban areas, it’s not nothing to do with eating to live.

“There’s a lot of interest in the survival thing, in bush craft. Then there’s those who are into food in general; cooking and making their own stuff whilst some like the traditional herbal-health and medicine aspect”.

With recent reports of “foraging gangs” stripping Ashdown forest of the finest mushroom crop it has had in years to sell on the black market, it’s important to not only follow the legal guidelines but also be ethical with it.

He knows the rules

He knows the rules

There is yet to be an official foraging code of conduct but Jason says it is all about common sense.

“Don’t take more than you need and be aware of what plants you’re picking and what part of the plant you’re taking,” he says.

“Plants have evolved for grazing; taking the leaves is just like cutting the grass. Take care when picking seeds and fruits and it’s what the plants use to reproduce; if you take them all, it won’t happen”.

Remember, just give the cress a little haircut to allow it to regrow

Remember, just give the cress a little haircut to allow it to regrow

Areas like Abney Park in Stoke Newington are protected which means that foraging is strictly prohibited and Jason says that some parks may not be keen to see people picking their plants.

However, there’s no law against foraging for personal use and Hackney council have yet to set any guidelines. The good news is, it’s definitely not theft.

It's not an offence to forage, so no need to wait for the cover of cloud to get on with your mushroom picking

It’s not an offence to forage, so no need to wait for the cover of cloud to get on with your mushroom picking

It’s also important to not go too wild when eating mushrooms as there are many edible types that look similar to the poisonous ones. Make sure you don’t put any unknown plants in your mouth or eat something you are not sure of.

But Jason says there’s only so much you can read up about foraging before you have to take it outside.

“Foraging is something that needs to be learnt by doing. It’s far more useful to get out there and see and smell things and learn that way”.

You can learn foraging skills in this handy guide by Jason's Uncle Miles, but you'll also need to head out and get some hands on experience

You can learn foraging skills in this handy guide by Jason’s Uncle Miles, but you’ll also need to head out and get some hands on experience

And at this time of year, there’s a field of things to see in Hackney.

You’ll find a flourish of greenery along the canal, nettles and berries in Victoria Park, cow parsley and deadly nightshade in Abney cemetery – a plant used in 19th century Italy by women to dilute their pupils and make them appear all the more seductive.

Aside from accidentally eating something poisonous, Jason does warn about a current contamination in Hackney Marsh; the giant hogweed.

He's not scared of the giant hogweed

He’s not scared of the giant hogweed

An invasive species, the hogweed may cause those who touch it to become photosensitive resulting in blisters and burning skin when exposed to the light.

So next time you’re out having a polish beer in the park to the sound of Bob Marley, have a look around and see what’s up for eats.

For more information about Jason and his walks see his website.

Karin Janssen: GROWTH, The Uncanny and The Artist Run Space

From screaming mouths to kinetic tapestries, the group exhibition at Karin Janssen Project Space on Well Street, GROWTH follows Karin Janssen’s curating debut in April, and shows that she is well able to juggle her personal practise with artist collaborations alongside running the gallery.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #78

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #78

Netherlands-born Hackney artist, Janssen, prides herself on operating an “artist-run space” meaning approaching her approach is more artist-to-artist, rather than as a gallerist wishing walls to be filled.

She said: “We talk about our work, why we make it, what it means to us and the materials and techniques we use.

“It is really quite an amazing thing to be able to do: to see an artist I admire and then to be able to offer them a space and work with them. It’s a privilege not many artists have.”

The Karin Janssen Project Space in full swing

The Karin Janssen Project Space in full swing

From a rather long shortlist of 25 prospective artists, Janssen chose Gemma Nelson, Anna Smith and Rachel Bullock on account of the impulsive way that each artist works, the theme is central to GROWTH.

Emergence by Angela Smith

Emergence by Angela Smith

The work is allowed to take over in the vulnerable ‘creatures’ of Angela Smith which start with the pouring of paint which is then left to run and Gemma Nelson’s obsessive, cell-like tapestries appear to breed across the canvas.

Flaps by Gemma Nelson

Flaps by Gemma Nelson

Rachel Bullock’s charcoal drawings rise up like a flowing mountain of hair and fur coats while Janssen, whose work here features a paintings of a screaming mouth, plays with abstraction and familiarity in her human body series, Silent Screams in The Valley of Uncanniness.

Morand Lesovil by Rachel Bullock

Morand Lesovil by Rachel Bullock

Janssen said: “In some of the works the artist quite literally started in one corner and then saw where they would end up.

“That comes across in the work itself; you can see the searching and the chance findings.”

But it’s not only the GROWTH exhibition that has emerged from the evolving nature of each artist’s practise, Janssen said that over the last few months, she too has seen a change in the way she works.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #113

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #113

“My practise has evolved a lot in the last few months as I have taken the narrative out of my work; it is pure emotion and flesh now.

“Often I start with a screaming mouth or something that vaguely resembles a mouth and then just see what I feel like drawing or painting around it.”

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #114

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #114

Janssen says that after independently curating her first show, Raw Skin in April, it suddenly became apparent that she needed to “take her work to the next level” and since the exhibition ended, she’s been “exploring the depths of an immense iceberg” in her work, which she says she is “nowhere near finished”.

And with each exhibition she sets up, Janssen says that she comes closer to her personal vision and that it’s important to get the balance right.

Installation at previous show, Raw Skin

Installation at previous show, Raw Skin

“It is truly a privilege to be able to wear those two hats, of curator and artist and to be able to let them feed into each other.

“But, as much as they complement each other, it’s an eternal balancing act, and I am very aware that I am first and foremost an artist; I wouldn’t want the gallery to take over my artistic side.”

After the success of Raw Skin, Janssen felt under pressure in the same way as those releasing the sequel to a best selling novel and said the whole thing was “nerve wracking”.

Growth by Gemma Nelson

Growth by Gemma Nelson


But the proof is always in the pudding and GROWTH, running until 17 November, has given Janssen confidence and inspiration for future exhibitions.

Having set up the Karin Janssen Project Space two years ago in an old hairdressers on Well Street, Janssen says GROWTH ties in with Hackney, in ways she did not initially see.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #141

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #141

“The area is changing and growing quickly, but it happens organically and there doesn’t seem to be a big master plan.

“That’s what makes it such a dynamic, lively and interesting place to live.”

Drawing on the uncanny, the beautiful and ugly in the human body in her new work, Janssen suggests her latest series of paintings create a “repulsion/fascination” in the viewer and has noticed this reaction in the community who visit the gallery.

'Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #117' by Karin Janssen, part of GROWTH in Karin Janssen Project Space, 25 Oct - 17 Nov

“Hackney has a very varied population, you get people from all walks of life here and that is really reflected in the audience of my space.

“I love that, to have to talk about the art I show here to everyone, from a highly educated art audience to teenagers who live down the road, and to see all audiences react strongly, is a big compliment.”

GROWTH runs until 17 November

Karin Janssen Project Space
213 Well Street, E9 6QU

Painting The Way To Men’s Health

Every Movember, men across the world stop shaving and let their top lip whiskers grow wild to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health.

But what happens if you can’t grow a moustache?

The buy-a-beard.  For the hirsutely challenged

The buy-a-beard. For the hirsutely challenged.

For illustrator, Ben Rix, 25, the jostling jibes from friends about his inability to grow a “sponsor worthy moustache” was enough to put down the ‘tache comb and pick up a paint brush.

The Movember Series is made up of watercolour portraits of iconic musicians, all of whom are well known for their moustaches.

You wanna be in my Movember gang?

You wanna be in my Movember gang?

Paintings of Freddy Mercury, Lional Ritchie and Carlos Santana all feature in the show at The Lauriston, Victoria Park Road and Rix said: “I think I may already have a buyer for Lionel!”

One of the most significant pieces in the exhibition is a portrait of Frank Zappa who died of prostate cancer in 1993.

Frank Zappa, the man with the mo

Frank Zappa. The man with the mo.

Ben is also open to ideas for those who want a bespoke watercolour mo-mento.

“I am also taking requests for Movember portraits so if people want to commemorate their tash or have a hairy lipped icon painted they can get in touch and cash from the sales will go towards the cause.”

Although Rix works in different mediums from large scale murals to animation, he chose a different style for this series.

Freddy Mercury.  He knew what he was doing

Freddy Mercury. He knew what he was doing

“I chose portraiture as I find it stirs great emotional reactions in people which is very heart warming and gives huge purpose to my art.”

Rix’s Movember Series was started last year, and despite a great response, a lack of exhibition space meant that there was no platform for sales.

But thanks to spotting an advert in his local pub, Ben got in touch with Mr Gresty, a designer and curator who comes up with creative briefs, inviting artists to get involved with the opportunity to hold their own exhibition.

Carlos Santana.  Mexi-mo

Carlos Santana. Mexi-mo.

Mr Gresty said: “When I first saw Ben’s portraits I was blown away, it was a double take moment, you can be fooled into thinking they are photographs.”

The exhibition also features eight portraits of Rix’s close friends but as the show ran into Movember, Mr Gresty asked if he could include his Movember paintings.

“It all made sense!” he said.

Lionel Richie.  Is is mo, you're looking for?

Lionel Richie. Is is mo, you’re looking for?

For Rix, painting his moustached icons turned out to be far easier than growing a moustache himself.

“The Movember paintings didn’t prove too difficult to execute, just a lot of meticulous layering and fine brush work, especially on the tash!”

The exhibition continues until 15 November
The Lauriston
162 Victoria Park Rd
To submit your own commissioned moustache icon painting see Ben Rix’s website http://www.benrix.co.uk
For more about Mr Gresty’s art projects see the website http://www.mrgresty.com/art-projects/lhr-exhibitions

When in Stalingrad

Stalingrad, Paris.

A bit like Hackney but everyone spoke French.

Martin

I saw a rat die so I wrote this ode in his memory.

He came up from the sewer, you ask me what for?

To have a look around, to come and explore.

He wanted to better himself, wanted to be free,

Martin was a different rat; a maverick was he.

As the bathroom flooded, the water rose,

The drain was the route that Martin chose.

With whiskers a-dripping and tail soaking wet,

 He was like a lone wolf, no other rat met.

 Martin wanted more than this life of his,

Lonely and dark, a rat’s time is.

And all of his friends laughed at his talk,

 Of light and openness, where it isn’t wet where you walk.

As Martin went forth with his quest for the new,

He heard a loud noise and hid in a shoe.

“Uh-oh”, thought he, he’d come the wrong way,

“Did you see something there?” he heard a man say.

 Martin looked around and saw ribbons and vests

 And a rat-hating, blonde girl perching on a chest.

She screamed once and again ‘til her face turned to wood,

Then ran out of the room as fast as she could.

With the door shut, it was dark, Martin was alone,

This is ironic, he thought, I could have stayed at home.

 But he had to think quick, as the door opened a crack

And a cat was thrown in, the door closed, all went black.

Martin dashed across the room and hid behind the bin,

He wasn’t coming out, the cat wasn’t coming in.

The cat attempted to reach him, extending a feeble paw,

But Martin made him jump back with his mechanical roar!

 Now I know what you’re thinking, this cannot be true,

A rat doesn’t roar, that’s what lions do!

But I assure, you my friends, whilst mice may squeak,

A rat is quite different, they are strong not weak.

But what Martin didn’t know, was that Russell that cat,

Had no interest in catching and killing a rat.

 In fact, he resented his owners laying down the law

Saying he wasn’t a real cat if he didn’t catch rodents and eat his meat raw.

So as he didn’t want to chew Martin or scratch him on the nose,

He just made lots of noise so that all would suppose

That out of catly duty he was ridding them of a pest

 Meowing loudly, they would think him the best.

Martin knew what Russell was doing, and he played along,

Ensuring that outside the room they knew a “battle” did go on.

Thought cat and rat, “This is fun!”

More more amusing than the chase and run.

But little did they know of the incoming caretaker,

Terry, the small and bald Londoner; a nightmare maker.

 The cat went out and Terry came in

Started removing furniture, on his little face a grin.

Martin didn’t know where to hide, so he dashed for the door,

And made it out across the living room floor.

But Terry was quick, and ran right behind,

Got Martin into a corner, shoes on the lino whined.

He went at him with his metal claws

But Martin wriggled away, looking for doors.

Now, I won’t go into what happened next,

For those who are fragile may become quite vexed.

All I’ll say is Martin met his end,

As Terry’s shoe went down on him again and again.

So let us learn, next time we see a rat,

They may want to end up as more than food for a cat.

Whilst rat worlds and human’s may never collide,

Let us try to live happily, underneath and beside.

RIP MARTIN

Martin the Rat