The Route Less Travelled at 17 Floral Street
The artists whose work is on display at the new exhibition The Route Less Travelled from the Something Else Collective, all have one thing in common – none of them have completed a formal arts degree. Curator Sascha Bailey (son of photographer David Bailey) – himself a school-leaver at 16 – has wanted to showcase a series of young artists who have turned their back on classical arts training in favour of a purer, unbiased artistic expression.
Ollie Sylvester’s colourful, vigorous art is characterised by close-ups of figures aggressively painted using small vertical or horizontal lines. The figures themselves recall graffiti art, with titles like Text Me Back You C**t!, featuring a face looking at a mobile, or Snivel, which shows a man in the middle of wiping his runny nose, recalling Andy Warhol’s The Broad Gave Me My Face But I Can Pick My Nose.
More influenced by the visual paraphernalia of popular culture and advertising are Rich Simmons and Tom Hunt. Like much graffiti, Rich Simmons’ canvases are painted using stencils and spray cans. He humorously satirises famous symbols such as the Chanel N° 5 bottle, held aloft in a skeleton’s hand (Vanities Death Grip) or the pin-up girl gagged by a scarf bearing the logo for Louis Vuitton (Freedom of Speech). Chasing Butterflies (Billboard Cutout) features another pin-up girl in front of a background made of butterflies whose wings are decorated with skulls – a sort of paraphrase of the type of imagery found adorning trucks or leather jackets.
Tom Hunt finds inspiration in comic books and toys: three canvases on display feature masks of famous superheroes. Striking is his close-up rendering of the mask of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. The colours have been changed in such a way as to render the image at first glance reminiscent of a WW2 propaganda poster, with the red triangle that denotes the eyebrows resembling a fighter plane in the midst of a fiery sky.
Beautiful are the drawings by artist Johann Lester, whose contemplative studies of faces starkly modelled by light and shadow were all created using a biro pen. These and many more besides – Charles Harney for example – reinterprets the imagery associated with the gaming world: surrealist canvases featuring cubes floating in space. In its showcase of the art of the “Y-generation”, the exhibition is fascinating, but there is little showing that speaks of true innovation.
The Route Less Travelled is at 17 Floral Street, Covent Garden, until 19th May 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.