While I’m away from my desk for a few days, I’ve got seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist Maddie Salters filling in to cover Fem Graff, a newly opened exhibition at Lollipop Gallery.
Fem Graff at Commercial Street’s Lollipop Gallery, has one mission: to bring the best of London’s female street artists indoors for a transformative experience. The collection of work sits right on the cutting edge, with stimulating, colourful imagery that contests traditional ideas of art and pushes boundaries, all the while bringing the best of East London’s graffiti culture indoors.
Heading into the gallery at the ground floor, the simple, and unpretentious white walls and strip-planked oak floors place the focus directly on the art, where the smell of spray paint is as fresh as the work itself. Graffiti, usually impermanent, is enshrined here in rare form. While the nebula-faced women tagged by Amara por Dios across the downward stairwell will be painted over one day, the mixed-media pieces on display; inks, oils, charcoal, and the more typical tools of the trade, spray paint and markers; are set up on canvasses and thick art paper around the gallery, framed and set.
The show, which also includes works by bold headliner ZABOU, the technicolor dreamscapes of Amanda Marie, the hectic city vibe of Ashes 57, the ultra-provocative SAKI&Bitches, the candy-coated works of Vinie Grafiti, and the quick-witted juxtapositions of Victoriano, knocks it out of the park. Outside of its natural habitat, the graffiti still commands the space, encroaching on privileged ground with playful accord.
I really enjoyed the exhibition’s vernissage. Records were spinning on a DJ turn table, and women with Fine Art degrees were sipping cranberry-vodkas out of plastic cups and calling the work sexy. I have to agree. Two pieces stood out to me in particular. My jaw dropped in front of SAKI&Bitches “True Love”, depicting a woman in typical pinup position, with nautical imagery reminiscent of a strong-man’s tattoo, the words ‘TRUE LOVE’ emblazoned in Japanese Kanji across the base, her naked limbs bound up in bondage rope.
This type of art challenges the viewer and exposes itself in a messy mix of cultural symbols and traditions. The effect is deliciously irreverent, as in Victoriano’s Atelier. A Victorian-era oil painting that was repurposed by the artist depicts a well-dressed lady in a painter’s lounge. It may take a moment for you to notice her designer handbag and shopping haul, which includes a Dior and other goodies from right off of Oxford Street. Times change, but a la mode is forever.
Ending the night on the wild basement floor, where the mixed-media of the streets provides a playground of paint on the walls, the columns, the pipes, the tiles, and the concrete, I felt I had more questions than answers, and left feeling energised and contemplative.
You can get your dose of modern philosophy at Fem Graff, running from January 24th-February 26th at the Lollipop Gallery, 58 Commercial Street, E1 6LT. The show is free to view. Learn more at lollipopgallery.com.
Written by Maddie Salters, a native New Yorker who has lived abroad for half of her life – from cities spanning Montreal to Osaka. While there’s still a lot on her “to trek” list, she has currently landed with both feet firmly in London. As a seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist, you can find her work on TripAdvisor, and in print in Wanderlust Magazine and other international publications.