I consider Shoreditch my home from home. It's a little bit of Manchester tucked away in East London, that emulates the cool, artsy city that gave us Joy Division, The Smiths, Anthony Burgess, Chris Ofili, and L. S. Lowry.
So Shoreditch, essentially, is the ideal setting for SPECTRA I: the first in a three part survey, as it has been coined, of dynamic colour use in contemporary art. Presented by The Future Tense - which acts as a springboard for emerging artists and specialises in the pop-up art gallery phenomena - SPECTRA I is set inside an old hat factory on Redchurch street. And I'd advise you to use a toilet before you get there.
The show is spread over three rooms that have been left completely basic to enhance the bold use of colour in each exhibit. Behind the scenes you see the true nature of the building - industrial and urban - which reinforces, particularly, the works of Lee Baker and James Marshall. The former explores the incongruous landscape of Japan: the compromise between 'the fragile, intricate cultural aesthetic and the relentless forces of urbanisation,' according to the artist. The latter, Marshall, was a former street artist, and is no stranger to bringing the mundane to life. Nowadays, though, his work is more easily transported.
Upon entering the building, guests are greeted by the innovative product placement of Courvoisier cocktails and Peroni - reminiscent of Nationwide's cash machine in Corrie - and Chuck Elliot's 'Radial / TWO', or Giant Purple Eye, as I like to call it. The pupil is transparent, with light shining through, and the Iris is a hue of purple fire. This, on first interpretation, seemed to me a challenge on the vacuous nature of dealing only in aesthetics, which would have been highly ironic at an art exhibition.
On second thought, however, I was more inclined to think that the piece is making the point that for something to be interesting or beguiling, there doesn't have to be more to it than what you see on the surface. The fire and passion on the outside reflects the light on the inside, meaning to delve would be to end where you started. This thought made me all the more appreciative of Chuck Elliot and his Radial, or Giant Purple Eye, which I now feel a bit silly calling it.
Chuck Elliott and Katrin Fridriks at SPECTRA I. Photograph: Ed Bartlett
In all honesty, I'm more interested in the Future Tense, the curator of SPECTRA I, than the art itself. More appropriately, I'm more interested in what the Future Tense is trying to do for it's artists and for contemporary art in general. A tremendous effort went into the curation of this project; a cinematographer, for instance, noted to me the extremely clever use of lighting at the exhibition. It was only then I noticed how dark it was in the gallery, and how all lighting available was focused directly at the pieces themselves so as to magnify the use of colour in each piece, rather than illuminate the whole gallery and essentially diminish the vibrancy of the art.
Even beyond SPECTRA I, the Future Tense is attempting to transcend the usual constraints associated with the art forum, particularly contemporary art. It wants its artists, and their work, to be accessible and appreciated by all - regardless of knowledge, or lack there-of, of modern art. The involvement in the charitable RE:DEFINE project, an art auction in aid of MTVs Staying Alive Foundation, is not just an altruistic tendency, but also an endeavor to 'paint' contemporary art in a good light, especially when so much controversy often surrounds it. The prestigious, yet notorious, Tracy Emin was featured as part of the exhibition, as was Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, and Katrin Fridriks, who is currently exhibiting at Redchurch street.
The Future Tense has mastered a 'survey' that is most definitely worth a visit, even if it involves the perilously long journey from way out West London.
SPECTRA I, hosted at the Londonewcastle Project Space, will be on view until 18 December