The Whoresley Show at The Outsiders
The Whoresley Show is a celebration of Sebastian Horsley, libertine, artist and writer, who died in 2010. The show takes its name from his affection for prostitutes, a subject he wrote about in The Observer.
The show consists mostly of oil paintings featuring flowers, skulls and Christian religious iconography: paintings of crosses line the walls and there’s a pair of crucifixion nails in a small glass case. Life and death are the motifs running loudly through the exhibition. Some quirky bits and pieces break up the skulls, crosses and flowers – “This is not a brothel,” declares a plaque on one wall. Amusing, though in Soho you could, perhaps, mistake it for a public service announcement on behalf of the gallery.
Crucifixion is film footage of Sebastian Horsley being, quite literally, crucified in the Good Friday rituals of some northern Filipino villages. Shown in a small, cavernous alcove with a low ceiling, the parallels with the tomb of Christ are theatrical but it is easily the most engaging piece in the show and deserves attention.
You get the idea this show should be deep and thought-provoking. The various flower paintings supposedly “brood with menace” – they don’t. There’s not enough of a scene to build a sense of menace to them; they are nice close-up oil paintings of yellow flowers, but unless you’re starkly determined to drag some meaning from them, you’re not going to have much to work with.
In today’s cynical world, rows of skulls and an upside-down cross might cause a person to wonder how big a diamond they will be able to make from their ashes in 20 years’ time, or whether they should have lasagne or a Chinese takeaway for dinner. The crucifixion film is somewhat harder hitting, though potentially more for the spectacle than as an artistic piece. The paintings are nice enough to look at, but there’s something very obvious and archetypal about flowers and crosses when dealing with the big life-death subject. They remain aesthetically alluring, but on their own they are commonplace.
Photos: Jay Shaw-Baker
The Whoresley Show is at The Outsiders until 14th September 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.