Berlin based British artist Wasp Elder returned to London to showcase his work with the 1963 Gallery at the 5th Base exhibition space just off Brick Lane in the heart of London’s east end.
The spot is a popular one for artists wanting a central venue in which to exhibit and we’ve visited it a few times ourselves recently, most notably featuring the works of Dan Kitchener and Andrea Tyrimos as they hosted solo shows in the same spot.
For Wasp this was his first solo show which also represented a first for the 1963 Gallery which has moved from its previous digs in Dalston to become a roving gallery looking to host pop up shows like this one in venues across the city.
The work itself is a mixture of canvas, sketches and even some embroidered pieces with a mixture of portraits and energetic scenes. Wasp’s style is to use google as a means for searching out images before collaging them on the computer to create the image he likes. Only once he’s happy with the result on the screen only then does he then transpose that digital creation onto the canvas or the page.
It’s a technique and a style which means that the artist can work anywhere. Using the window into the world generated by the internet as his inspiration as soon as he is happy with the work he gets out the quills and brushes and starts to paint.
And the work itself is busy, the resulting collaged images now presenting themselves in oils and paints are full of energy but they are not immediately easy to look at. They have stories to them and it’s like you are looking at a moment in time taken from the lens of a conflict videographer whose recording has been paused and we are only able to see that one slightly blurry frame.
Many of the images used in the show have indeed been taken from news reports, some recent and some older and many from conflict situations from around the world. According to Wasp, painting is how he engages with what is happening around him and his creative process allows him to both find out about world issues and then represent them in his own way. It’s an attempt, he tells me, to make sense of the vast amount of information that is out there.
Called ‘Victims of Circumstance’ the show is about people who find themselves in the circumstance where they have become the victim. As Wasp explained further, “there’s things around you that happen that have an affect on you as an individual,.. it’s about the idea that sometimes you can’t help what happens to you, or you get put in a position or you’re born into a position where the things that happen around you, your circumstance, is out of your control.”
And that’s also very much the theme of the giant wall on nearby Hanbury Street which Wasp recently painted prior to the commencement of the show. Towards the bottom end of the street it’s main image is taken from a photograph found online of the recent protests in Ukraine. Depicting a man who is being grappled by the police it’s a representative image about police brutality and how, in the circumstance of something like the the Ukraine protests, authority figures react to those situations.
Speaking about the mural Wasp said “I wanted to make something that was a little bit different… I wanted to paint something that had narrative and context. But also it’s important for me to use the platform that I have as an artist, especially as a street artist. If I can try and say something and make people think a little bit about what their looking at rather than seeing a nice pretty picture, that’s the reason I choose to paint something with a bit more meaning behind it.”
Victims of Circumstance, the first solo show from Wasp Elder is showing at the 5th Base Gallery space on Heneage Street just off Brick Lane and is curated by the 1963 Gallery. It runs from 13 April 2017 to 20 April 2017. All pictures in this piece featuring the opening night are courtesy of photographer Edwina Rider
Victim of Circumstance opening night gallery
Wasp Elder Hanbury Street mural