Bussey Building, Peckham Rye, London, SE1 54ST
25th Feb – 5th March 2011
All photos: NoLionsInEngland
Headed way down South of the river last night, really far south off the map in Peckam for this week’s Roa show alongside Phlegm and Robots. Roa is up everywhere but this was my first encounter with the wizardry of Phlegm.
Roa hardly needs introduction, his epic birds and beasts display feathers, veins, innards and bones on many London Wall. He rarely does small.
In case you missed his first London solo gig, read a graffito snapshot here
Plegm however is long established, prolific up North and around the continent but rarely if ever sighted in the capital. He has a similar monochromatic palate to Roa, he is more suited to older crumbling walls and the insides of derelict buildings, not unlike Roa and it is easily to see why artistically he works well paired alongside Roa.
The venue starts with a claustrophobic courtyard at the end of a long passage off Rye Lane. The lumpy and irregular lighting, random shape, the ancient brickwork and the looming tower of a workhouse-like building create a classic environment for these two to populate with enormous beasts, skinny people and a Phlegm trademark wobbly looking glass. The building was “when it was built, one of Peckham’s tallest buildings”, according to the web, a wildly extravagant claim to fame it struggles hard to live up to.
Strobing trains rumble past every few minutes making the painted figures leap around the walls like a flickering gothic horror story. Like a bizarre fairytale fabricated to scare the living nightmares out of the kids, this enclosed urban canvas creates the sense one might be trapped inside a walled castle with radiated zombie animals and sundry carcasses for company.
Inside the building, 10 flights of footstep echoing institutional stone stairs and through a heavy pair of dog-legged curtains brings you into a blacked out timber floored loft space commandeered by Phlegm and Robots. The door staff offer you hand held torches on the way in, health and safety obviously forbids that you should blunder around in the dark and bump your head.
Three coarse built but imaginatively fabricated wooden man-robots spread arms and link hands to tower over the cautiously stepping observers. A Phleg wall painting with an added out-of-scale 3D townscape emits eerie and un-nerving rings and ticks. The town appears to be carried of the back of a Phlegm figure who appears to be cradling a prismatic multi-faceted abstract geometric cloud in his hands. The work of both artists combines in a sinister and yet satisfyingly threatening way. The Robots have more than just a touch of the wickerman about them and the scrawny hooded Phlegm figure looks like a fugitive from a post apocalyptic mutant zone.
Neither handheld cameras nor flash photography could convey anything like the mood of this creepy dark installation, so no photos, sorry.
Trying to feel your away around this without the torch is recommended, enjoyment and wonder grows as eyes get accustomed to the dark and in the meantime, enjoy the fun of accidently bumping into other timidly tip-toeing creatures. More art experiences should provide this kind of accidental tactile encounter.
A note on practicalities, the flyer talks of 4 nights of art, bands and such and apparently you’ll get stiffed with a cover charge in the evenings. It’s not clear if the place is open for free viewing before the ents start. Perhaps email them to enquire because it’s a bloody long way to venture from civilised parts.