Red Hand Gallery: Lupercalia

Pictured: Artist Samual Miller, curator Alice Black, Alexander Mara and Jeremy F

Pictured: Artist Samual Miller, curator Alice Black, Alexander Mara and Jeremy Fox modelling Pascal Wilson’s costume pieces. Photo: Zimon Drake       

THE steady march of fluffy teddy bears and heart-shaped sweeties reached all the supermarket shelves months ago in time for Valentine’s Day. But the Red Hand Gallery is exploring the origins of the romantic festival in their latest group exhibition Lupercalia: Primitive Love.

The title refers to the ancient festival of fertility that was held from February 13-15, sometimes described as the precursor to Valentine’s Day.

“The exhibition is based on the primal force of loving relationships, whether emotional or carnal,” says curator Alice Black.

“It’s inspired by Valentine’s Day but we wanted to combat the commercialisation of the festival. The aim of the show is to revisit our primal roots and reconnect with them.”

The Red Hand Gallery is a dream of a space, the large former function room above the Tufnell Park Tavern operates as the studio for artist Samual Miller and the offices for Alexander Mara and Jeremy Fox of online art gallery Hawkins and Blue.

Read more

Tintype Gallery: Beth Collar

A production still from Beth Collar’s Quarry HandA production still from Beth Collar’s Quarry Hand       

A CLENCHED fist – a symbol of power, anguish, strength and anger – has fascinated artist Beth Collar for years. “It’s a universal gesture,” she said. “It embodies lots of different narratives.”

Various representations of a fist will thread their way through her latest show, Some Chthonic Swamp Experience at Tintype gallery.

You may have passed the contemporary art space in Essex Road and seen a collection of large hazelwood sticks in the window. These will no longer figure in the show but were instead part of a experimental stage.

Beth’s show is the third in an annual series of project spaces where a selected artist is given a considerable amount of time in the gallery to prepare for their solo show.

“Normally, though it depends on the gallery, the work is completed at the studio which, doesn’t give much time for decisions,” she said. “Or to work in the space and try things out in situ, and make experiments in the space.”

When the Islington Tribune caught up with Beth she had been working in the space since January 27 and still had one week to go before opening the show to the public.

Read more

William Benington Gallery: Amy Stephens

Minke (whale bone), 2013  photo Amy Stephens; right: The Controller, 2014

Minke (whale bone), 2013 Photo Amy Stephens; right: The Controller, 2014. Photo Will Marsh        

WHEN Amy Stephens was asked to put on a solo show at the William Benington Gallery last December she instantly began to consider the space for a site-specific installation.

The architectural sculptor has visited the gallery many times since, sometimes walking past at night to trigger her thoughts.

William Benington is no white cube. “The diagonal ceiling beams and uneven walls appeal to me as they offer a sense of charm to the gallery,” she said.

“Overall, the gallery has character and it is always more interesting for me to work with a space and find ways in which to create an architectural dialogue.”

Amy was still making decisions over work while installing earlier this week. She decided to stand a piece of copper piping in cement and only knew if it worked on the day of the opening last Friday (February 21st).

Read more

Vintage Market

Imagine this: warm sunshine reaches into your bedroom and wakes you into a golden mood. You skip over to your wardrobe and pick out a natty outfit. The jeans fit you better than they ever have, the top playfully skips and skims over your arms. You nod, wink and whistle at the mirror, it’s your friend today. And as you stand on the doorstep and look down the street, every man, woman, child, urban fox, pigeon and passing furball is wearing your exact same outfit. You’ve only all been shopping at the same budget international chain store. This Saturday, the So Vintage Market will be selling one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find clothing, homeware, jewellery, books and maps, so you can avoid that little mistake.

*First published in*

Arts Review: Spring 2014


Aram Bartholl’s Dead Drops project allows people to share their favourite data though USBs placed around cities 

Aram Bartholl: Dead Drops

A ‘dead drop’ is the suitably macabre term used to describe the surreptitious transfer of information between spies. Smuggled data would be left hidden at a predetermined location, meaning the two parties would never meet in person. Media artist Aram Bartholl has reclaimed this covert intelligence term for his open source file-sharing project. Starting in 2010, Bartholl cemented USBs into walls, poles and curbs for people to discover, plug into and share their favourite data. The risk of viruses or pornographic images is real, but the beauty of the project is in the trust between strangers and the excitement of hidden treasure. And it has caught on: 1,473 USB locations have now been registered on

Ruth Ewan: A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World

Some scientists believe that humans evolved to sing before we could speak as a way of communicating over distances – sung words travel further and are far easier to decipher than words being shouted – so it should be no surprise that in times of revolt we turn to crafting protest songs. Artist Ruth Ewan has been collecting politically motivated tunes since 2003 for her piece A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World. Visitors are free to browse through the 2,500+ titles helpfully divided into themed ‘albums’ that include ecology, Central America, slavery and feminism. Sure, there are a few usual suspects, Joan Baez for example, but this expanding catalogue offers such gems as The Cutty Wren, a song attributed to the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt, and possibly the first environmental protest song from 1837, Woodman Spare That Tree!

To submit a song visit

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd at Nottingham Contemporary

The Turner prize-nominated artist formally known as Spartacus Chetwynd (and officially titled Alalia Cichosz) is now to be referred to as Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. These theatrical nom de plumes are in keeping with her live performances: riotous carnivals dripping with cultural references. She keeps rehearsals to a minimum to retain that initial unbridled enthusiasm at the beginning of a project and to allow for improvisation. Her latest solo show will see local volunteers perform in and around a giant pink creature based on Brain Bug, the leader of the bug colony in Starship Troopers (1997), who can steal knowledge from the minds of sentient beings. To top it off, Cousin Itt from the Addams Family will be acting as exhibition guide.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd runs from Saturday 25 January until Sunday 23 March. For details visit

Joe Meek Fans Look Back at the Day the Music Died

As 47th anniversary of the death of pioneer Joe Meek nears, fans look back at the day the music died – for a second time

(First published: 31 January, 2014)

FANS of pioneering music producer Joe Meek are preparing to celebrate his legacy this Monday on the 47th anniversary of his death.

Meek produced the groundbreaking record Telstar by the Tornados in 1962 – the first British record to top the US singles charts.

Recognition of his creative genius has been overshadowed by the manner in which he died in 1967 – he committed suicide in his studio at 304 Holloway Road after shooting his landlady dead following a row about the rent.  

But two groups have been championing Meek’s contributions to the music industry for decades. The Robert George Meek Appreciation Society (RGMAS) was formed on the very day he died.

Joe Meek, the pioneering music producer

Jim Blake remembers February 3, 1967, very well. It was the eighth anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death and he and three friends had planned to get together in his Highbury flat to commemorate the date by playing Holly records.

But on the way to the record shop to pick up a Holly album, he spotted the headline “Top of the Pops Composer and A Wife Shot Dead”.

“I immediately guessed it was Joe,” Jim said. “I carried on down Holloway Road and saw there was a crowd outside with policemen. It wasn’t really a surprise because Joe believed Buddy Holly’s spirit was talking to him. I feel sure he intended to kill himself that day.”

That evening he made sure the Meek hit Telstar was blaring. The friends made a pledge there and then to collect everything Meek had produced and to form RGMAS.

Read more

FEATURE: Rachael’s Cafe at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Graham Elwell and Lucy Danser rehearsing Rachael’s Café photo: John Hunter

YOU can now choose from 52 different categories to describe your gender on Facebook. Changes to the social networking site two weeks ago mean that the billions of people logging on each month now have many more options than simply ticking “male” or “female”. An undoubted triumph for self-identification.

The play Rachael’s Café looks beyond a Facebook status to the personal encounters of real-life transsexual woman Rachael Jones who lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana.

It received its London premiere this week at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Angel.

Eric Wininger was first caught dressing in women’s clothes as a five-year-old. He grew up, married and had three children.

But Eric always knew that he wanted to live as a woman and secretly wore female garments under his “male” clothes. When a friend drunkenly outed the 40-year old Eric, he decided to finally live as Rachael Jones.

The real Rachael Jones and Lucy Danser

The real Rachael Jones and Lucy Danser

Read more

Hackney’s newest eaterie-cum-dancehall

Commuters were still streaming out of Hackney Central station, bowed over by that annoying piddling drizzle, as hordes of hacks, bloggers and taste-makers piled into new eat-drink-dance venue Oslo. The large building sits squarely between the cockles seller and the ramp up to the overground station.


Those Victorians really did design buildings with basketball in mind. The ceilings are high and the walls are long but Oslo have countered with a towering stack of alcohol as you enter and a long, long bar. The void above heads has been smartly filled with drop lighting. Perhaps in a hat tip to Victorian morals the bare bulbs have been covered – for decency’s sake – with billowing skirts. While it’s history as a train ticket office is neatly referenced with the seating, plucked straight out of ‘A Brief Encounter’ and stripped bare.

Read more

Hamlet/Thebes at the New Diorama Theatre

FROM modern-day Miami Beach to Nazi Germany, Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted into almost every conceivable era. But there is something wonderful in watching the drama exist in a black box.

In this instance, The Faction rep company opts for subtle lighting changes to conjure a frozen morning on the battlements as Hamlet first meets the ghost of his father, the shiny speech of his murderous uncle, and the gloomy corridors that Hamlet wanders through, plotting his revenge.

Hamlet – the play is in rep with Thebes

Saying that, the brief pockets of more stylised direction from The Faction’s artistic director Mark Leipacher are visually welcome – the gravedigging scene makes brilliant use of a trunk and white facepaint.

Read more

REVIEW: Universal Fragments - Conversations with Trevor Shearer

Universal Fragments is an extremely compelling exhibition. The back story is a fascinating one, Trevor Shearer created works for decades but chose to never show them in public. He did, however, leave specific notes detailing the hang of pieces, even creating special packing cases for delicate works.

Wall, left to right: Trevor Shearer, ‘Mental Exercises’ (2002) and ‘Yellow Painting’ (2011).

Front: Jean-Luc Moulène, ‘Model for Diving’ (2007). photo © Alex Delfanne, 2013


His death last year allowed for his work to be finally seen and shared. Gallerist Charlotte Shepke invited 6 contemporary artists to submit work in reaction to a selection of his pieces and what is striking is the tangible thread of similar themes that run through the different artist’s work. Shearer was an art lecturer and kept up to date with current artistic practice and concerns. So it is both eerie and revelatory to consider that Shearer had been in conversation with these artists for many years but his side of the dialogue had remained hidden. Until now.

Read more