After a summer of playing festivals across Europe and beyond, some of the UK’s most successful musicians are transforming the gallery wall into their latest stage. Gengahr & Friends present… is the first exhibition of paintings by members of Gengahr, alt-J, Bombay Bicycle Club and Slaves. Schön! previewed the exhibit at A-Side B-Side Gallery in Hackney Downs Studios to meet the ‘super-group’ of artists as they unveil their work for the first time.
Practically overflowing with guests, the buzz surrounding this unique event was impossible to miss. Many of the attendees were fans, excited by the prospect of meeting their musical idols. According to Catherine Magnani, the co-founder of A-Side B-Side Gallery, the mixture between music and visual art has helped to boost the scale of the event. “It brings a new audience into the gallery space, people who wouldn’t normally come in,” she explains. “With this particular show it’s a younger audience. An event like this is great for people to see, it adds a different dimension.”
Genghar’s Hugh Shulte was the mastermind behind the idea. “I went to college with Ed [of Bombay Bicycle Club], obviously he’s been doing his thing and I’ve been doing my thing,” he explains. “We’ve always had drunken late night talks about putting something together.” A few months ago he finally decided to make the plan happen, an example of the drive that has undoubtedly helped him to achieve such success in music. Schulte’s designs can be recognised as the artwork for Gengahr’s debut album A Dream Outside, and occupy an artistic space between dreams and reality. His abstract works focus on relationships between colour and texture, using a variety of mark making techniques to create contrasting surfaces. Retaining a remarkably human quality, figures are present in two of his paintings, although this is more successful when the figure is implied. Schulte’s Bathed In Light is certainly one of the highlights of the show.
This fragmented reality continues throughout the exhibition, as the artists mix total abstraction with realist figures and domestic objects, teasing the viewer by offering mere glimpses of the familiar.
For Bombay Bicycle Club bassist Ed Nash, showcasing his work in such a different environment has been nerve-wracking to say the least. “To be honest, I was more nervous than I would have been walking on stage, by a long shot,” he admits. “It’s a different kind of thing. Performing I’ve done so many times, it’s a different experience. There is anxiety towards any show you play, but this is the first time I’ve shown paintings for years.”
Nash believes that the creative energy he uses to paint feeds into everything that he does. “The way of thinking about things doesn’t really leave you. If you’re thinking about music, I’ve had a lot of input into the album covers. I painted the cover for our second album. It’s one way of thinking really.”
Laurie Vincent – one half of punk duo Slaves – was another highlight of the show. His graphic depictions of everyday objects are humorous and playful yet conceptual, subverting traditional notions of taste and seriousness in the gallery environment. His smaller works were particularly successful, cropping images of tropical plants against a backdrop of vivid pink. “Painting and music are two things that I’m really passionate about, music just worked out first.” Still, judging by the reception of his work it seems that painting isn’t working out too badly either.
Speaking of the legions of fans attending the public view, Vincent admits, “It feels great to have the platform to do this, and it feels good to be someone other than ‘that guy in the band’. This has given me confidence to go bigger with my work, I’ll definitely do something like this again”
With plans to stage more exhibitions and include more artists, Gengahr & Friends hope to expand our understanding of the relationship between visual art and music, a move that we are excited to witness.
For more info on the gallery click here.
Words / Louis Staples
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