The latest exhibition from Louis Masai once again tackled the problems facing species around the world with an immersive show in the atmospheric Crypt Gallery in London.
The Crypt is exactly that, a genuine catacomb below St Pancras church just across from Euston station. It is a special venue and one which allows for some quite imaginative curation given the amount of little nooks and crannies which of course at one point were actual tombs.
Masai though has always had an eye for presentation and with each piece he paints he is telling a story and raising awareness about the plight of animals and birds which are on the brink of extinction. The species depicted are often shown with a colourful patchwork quilt type of design as what he’s representing is actually a toy. The message being that once the animal dies out, the only thing that remains is the cuddly toy. It’s a play on the absurdity of consumerism by recognising that people will often see these creatures as cute and cuddly whilst in reality they are struggling for survival.
The whole patchwork animal concept is something that Masai has been playing with for a number of years now and was given a major outing during a 2017 tour of America where he painted murals in multiple cities across the country. All represented endangered species within the area in which he was visiting. Called the ‘Art of Beeing‘ the works would often feature bees flying around with a needle seemingly sewing up the patchwork animals.
And this is what he’s brought to the show in the Crypt Gallery. Many of the works feature the bees in the same way that the American murals do. Bees have long played a key role in Masai’s work and he has campaigned at length to raise awareness of their own fight for survival. The bee as a pollinator has a key role to play in the food chain and so it’s demise could have catastrophic consequences to not only the animal kingdom but to mankind.
Elsewhere the exhibition makes more explicit reference to the circumstances in which some creatures find themselves in danger of extinction. A portrait of an elephant endangered by poachers is exhibited alongside two toy AK47’s with spent bullets littered around on the ground. Another portrait of a polar bear meanwhile is placed behind a childrens paddling pool filled with melting ice representing the loss of habitat caused by global warming.
One of the most impactful installations features 24,000 dead bees. All of which died naturally and collected through an arrangement with the Quince Honey Farm. Sitting at the base of a naturally felled tree. Mixed into the bees are faux monsanto corn seeds which is representative of what Masai describes as “what happened not so long ago in canada where 36 million bees co-incidentally died post Monsanto corn crops were planted!” You can read more about what might have happened here.
Missing is a remarkable show and of course, Louis Masai being Louis Masai, it came alongside a call to action in the form of wildflower seeds which were given out to visitors. According to Masai “these seeds create flowers the pollinators like the bumblebee and butterflies of Britain lov. In turn these guys pollinate the food that you love to eat, it’s a wonderful exchange of gifts”.
Missing the latest exhibition from Louis Masai runs at the Crypt Gallery in Euston from 24-27 May 2018. You can read more about the work of Masai by reading this interview with him from 2013 here, his work to save the bees here and his tour of America here.
Louis Masai ‘Missing’ Gallery