11 June 2017

On the Art Trail

With so much to see on the Art Trail this year, it's not easy to plan a tour of sure-fire interesting spots. Two things quickly became apparent though: firstly, it's much more interesting to visit someone's space and talk to them about what inspired them and how they achieved what is on show, than it is to look at a shop window or an exhibition in a public space. The other discovery was that what looks uninteresting from the short entry in the trail guide can turn out to be absolutely unmissable. Here are some of the highs and lows from the places we managed to cover so far.

St Mary's church has a huge scrawly painting by Hassan Vawda, an unframed canvas suspended above the pews, featuring a rough bearded character who might be biblical but is most likely a self portrait. The high point though, is getting to squeeze up the narrow stone spiral stair to the roof, where you can see across London to the City and Canary Wharf (see first picture). The tour also included a demonstration of bell ringing in the belfry.

At Today Bread there's a board inviting comments on the question "What's the point of art?" A relevant question that deserves a decent-sized space for responses, not the baby-size Rymans notice board they have given it, but then it is a bakery not an art centre. There is some nice photogenic lettering on the window too, but no clues to what "Growing Culture" means - later in the day I googled "today bread growing culture" and got a lot of stuff about beards. "Why CEOs are growing beards" and "Why does God like hairy chins?". Google must think I can't spell.

Invisible Numbers at Winns Gallery in the park is a mixed show of interesting if apparently unrelated artworks, although the common thread is explained in their informative handout. Hannah Ford's circus banners stand out, both for size and colourfulness and for their political viewpoint - an image of Theresa May comes at an especially appropriate time, in fact very possibly just in time. Andrew Baker and Kirsten Sibley's work on early computers (with a Walthamstow link) comes closest to the Invisible Numbers theme. At one end of the gallery are Denise Ford's calm paintings of Suffolk rope-making, contrasting with Rebecca Ward's alien Face Invader, which pumps out techno music and looks too scary to try on. Although a succession young visitors are not so easily put off.

Hewing Wittare Project Space turns out to be an upstairs Warner flat with distressed plaster, work in progress awaiting architectural perfection. It's a show of work by three artists under the title "Shapeshifting Рtactics to combat drowning" and the artworks all relate to the theme of survival, hence the floor of gold rescue blankets. Pictured is one of several papier mach̩ objects by Rebecca Glover, designed to be worn as a mask or perhaps a helmet.

Back in the town centre, Paul Tucker's photographs of trees taken over the seasons are let down by the way the Mall shows them, cordoned off in a desolate spot by the lifts. They deserve to be seen much bigger and without the clutter. We liked the idea of The Mathematics of Plants, shown in the window of XL Hair Design, but we were a little disappointed. The description talks about the whirling spiral patterns found in a surprising number of plants, but the photographs rather conspicuously didn't show that. Danny Coope's Contraptions was also a bit of a disappointment, not because we didn't like his collages but because they are just photographs displayed at the front of his amazing front garden. We definitely wanted to see the originals.

In the next street along, Gomacg - Curious Characters is an open house showing colourful multi-layered paintings on pop art themes. It's well worth a visit.

I would automatically avoid anything that includes knitting in the description, but someone told me the Howard Road House is good, and so perhaps undeservingly discovered the amazing knitted garden up there. Isaac Newton with an apple suspended over his head is a specially nice touch, along with the Smurfs, Dr Who and Einstein.

And finally, I read the description of Danny Neon Open House / Creative Vandalism and decided not to put it on my list, I don't know why because we had an entertaining time looking at the website. Fortunately we went to have a look anyway. The venue is a spacious flat above a High Street shop. Steep narrow stairs lead up to eight rooms including the kitchen and bathroom, all packed with amazing creative clutter and thoughtful and/or provocative artworks. No neon to be seen, but plenty to look at, easily the most fascinating show we saw all day.

Get the E17 Art Trail guide online here