Galleries, Street Art, Cafes and Culture, the ever changing art scene of Hackney Wick
Last week I posted about a visit street artist Kef and I made to Hackney Wick. We managed to get on top of one of the old warehouse buildings where the likes of Paul Insect, Sweet Toof and RUN had decorated the roof. Cunningly, the decoration had been made just in time for the London Olympics and the plan was to become a quite obvious point of interest for the numerous news helicopters flying over the area.
Now it’s all a bit faded but it was great to get up there and look out over the Wick which by all accounts has the highest proportion of artist studios in the city. The place is much more expensive than it was before the Olympics but still in comparison with elsewhere in the city can offer reasonable value for someone wanting some creative space.
The Olympics has transformed the area, the stadium nestles on the banks of the Lee and the Copper Box has fully opened now to the public, linking the Wick with Stratford by means of a semi-landscaped walk. The rivers have been cleaned up, the heavy industry has pretty much gone and the gentry have started to move in.
Not that this is a bad thing, the place is just evolving and this can be seen in the ever changing art scene of the area. During our little adventure Kef and I visited four different galleries, a couple of coffee shops and saw a whole bunch of graffiti and street art. The place is alive with art and there is much to see.
The Galleries in particular offer a real mix of things to see and are all in reasonable walking distance from one another. For someone wanting to a spend a few hours wandering around they are all easily accessible from the Hackney Wick overground station (from where you also get some great views of the area).
The Cre8 Gallery can be found as part of the Cre8 Lifestyle Centre at 80 Eastway inside an old swimming baths, recently it has held two exhibitions first from Italian artist Hunto and most recently from Graffiti Pioneer Req. The space is a valuable addition to the creativity of the area although unfortunately wasn’t open on the day we visited. I had wanted to catch the ‘London Muse’ show by Req having interviewed him for this very blog last month. The show showcases his skill with the spray can as Req draws inspiration from his muse, the enigmatic Coco Kole.
Just over the road from the station is the See Studio which was hosting a show by Sweet Toof and Rowdy, this is only a small space but blimey they can pack stuff in. Needless to say it was packed full of colour with lots of trademark pink gums, white teeth and green crocodiles. Next door is the Hackney Pearl, a nice little cafe whose only drawback is that they serve lattes in a tiny glass. Since moving to the area I have never figured out why this happens and it’s not something unique to the Pearl, trendy cafes the length and breadth of the East End do the same.
The Stour Space gallery on Roach Road has a great location on the Lee and a view over to the stadium. The entrance lobby is always full of art and this time they had a group show on. There is a cafe too which serves some great food, I remember having a breakfast there once and it was very nice. I’m not sure about the latte’s I’ll have to go back and see what I get.
Finally the Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery was an unexpected gem to stumble upon. On the top floor of the Forman’s restaurant on Stour Road, it is an enormous dynamic space perfectly suited to hosting corporate events and showcasing big art. It also has an amazing view over the river and onto the stadium. Currently it is playing host to the ‘Marty Thornton presents’ show featuring work from Marty Thornton himself, Schoony and Jennifer English. It’s a really bright pop art themed show with three artists who really compliment one another.
Marty himself was there having curated the show, a local lad having grown up in the East End, he is a man full of stories and is willing to chat about pretty much anything, a really engaging character. It would have been all too easy to chew the fat with Marty for the rest of the afternoon as he regaled tales from his youth and talked to us about his art. Perhaps the subject of a future post?
Finally the street art. There are certain spots which are good to go and those interested should take a look at this free street art tour of Fish Island and Hackney Wick. There are a couple of hot spots though and these are Bream Street on Fish Island, the lock on the towpath of the Hertford Union Canal and the area around the Crate Brewery on White Post Lane.
They actually represent some quite different examples of street art. The Bream Street wall has come alive recently with works from the likes of Edwin, Josh Jeavons, Cranio, Mag Magrela and Alex Senna. The lock on the Canal is a bit more of a graffiti hotspot similar to the Leake Street Tunnel where people experiment with their tags. The Crate Brewery meanwhile is mainly all commissioned art, funded as part of the Canals Project and has some good examples of works from some international artists.
Needless to say the Wick is a great place to wander round for all sorts of reasons not least the art and for some of the best street art on display check out the gallery below.