Sep 6, 2011

Old and new spaces on the E17 Art Trail

Painting by Titus Forbes Adam
By Duncan Holmes

The Ruby Stables secret garden is indeed a Walthamstow secret, a rampant garden grown in containers, mixed in with junk, garden furniture and antiques for sale. It isn't new, but showing art there is. As long as the rain holds off, showing oil paintings among the greenery is very effective, the colours sparkling in the sunshine. Slightly naive but accomplished images of summertime parks by Titus Forbes Adam are offset by a psycho portrait by the artist's daughter, Olita-May Forbes Adam.

The Quaker Meeting Room
 At the Quaker Meeting Room next door, a simple white space flooded with light is bare apart from a single church pew and one chair, and four pairs of headphones. What might be mere tedious pretension is in fact an absorbing experience: relax, appreciate the simplicity and subtle features of the room, and drift off on the suggestions the work evokes.

At the other end of the High street, it took quite a while to find the Mill because I wrongly assumed it must be the Coppermill on the Walthamstow Reservoirs site, when in fact it's the former library just off Blackhorse Road. Another clean white space, also recently opened. The doors are wide open all day long and the space is immediately welcoming. Paintings and photographs lent by local artists are on display, mainly not for sale - you'd guess many of the artists are not pros and don't want to part with their work. Furniture and fittings are imaginatively built out of scaffolding boards, shuttering ply and recycled plastic, giving the place a pleasing recycled-chic look, so instead of cheap second-hand chairs there are unique solid wood benches. A programme of three minute films was also showing.

Cutting back along Pretoria Avenue, the recent appearance of the Tokarska Gallery in unlikely surroundings at the bottom end of Forest Road (just up from the fish and chips and fried chicken takeaways) comes just in time for the Art Trail. The background to the gallery opening there is apparently complicated, with their website referring to recent art graduate Nadiya Pavliv-Tokarska, and also to an international organisation of the same name. This was the first time I've seen the pristine new white shutters open, which might explain the slightly damp smell inside. Punk Recruit steals the show with his photographs in muted colour of old mannequins crowded into a dingy warehouse. Barely human, he calls them, which is a way of saying how disturbingly human they seem. It will be interesting to see what comes next in this space.

Finally, rather a disappointment at Barbican Arts open show, where a last-minute visit before closing time really seemed like plenty of time to see what there was to see. Some great photographs, but the paintings mainly left us wondering just what the selection/elimination process might have been- but seeing just one work by an artist is seldom the best way to appreciate what they are doing. None the less, the studio opening next weekend is likely to be one of the highlights of the Trail.

This piece first appeared on Duncan's blog
Duncan has been blogging for the E17 Art Trail in the lead-up to the Trail. His exhibition of photographs and drawings of the American Midwest will be on at 3 Clifton Avenue, 10 and 11 September.

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