Whitehot Magazine

June 2008, Harry Pye & His Friends @ Crimes Town Gallery

 Rowland Smith, Kubla Khan (poem by Coleridge), courtesy Crimes Town Gallery   

Harry Pye & His Friends
Poetic License
Crimes Town Gallery
June 13 - July 6, 2008

We all know that poetry inspires contemplation, reflection, passion,and love. And at London's Crimes Town gallery, The Harry Pye & His Friends Poetry Appreciation Society rallies artists and poetry lovers to share the verses that have inspired them. Harry Pye is one of London's premiere puckish artists and curators, but here he insists, "It's by no means a somber affair but I am taking it quite seriously." As are the sixteen artists in the show, who present paintings, video, drawings and photographs for which beloved lyrical lines were their muse. Pye's own contribution, Miro in his studio thinking about e.e. cummings, which he painted with his signature 'South Park'-like cartoon colors and simplified figures, was not directly inspired by a poem, but rather by a photo of Miro next to a painting whose title reminded Pye of the e.e. cummings poem which Michael Caine reads out loud in Hannah and her Sisters. The creative cocktail of Woody Allen, Miro and e.e.cummings led Pye to organize the show and invite friends to share their own favorite poems.

Edward Ward, Green Grow The Rashes, O (poem by Robert Burns), courtesy Crimes Town Gallery

To attend the opening, guest were required to bring a poem, written on an A4 sheet of paper, which Pye collected to read for his private pleasure. The poems did not need to be written by the guests, only loved by them. Which is poetic enough, since as George Sand wrote, "He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life."

As Pye explains, "I decided to try and make a few paintings inspired by poems that had moved me when I was younger. Robert Frost's Stay Gold poem that's used in the Brat Pack movie The Outsiders is a perfect example. Or the Lloyd Cole songs, like Forest Fire, that I'd hear coming from my older sister's bedroom. I wanted to find out about myself by re-examining the words that explained what my heart felt. I wanted to revisit the poems that struck a chord with me when I was young and impressionable. I then asked a few friends if they wanted to bring poetry based works along and before I knew it I had enough work for a really good group show."

 Harry Pye with Rowland Smith, Miro in his studio thinking about e.e. cummings,
 courtesy Crimes Town Gallery

 Gordon Beswick, A Blackbird Singing (poem by R.S Thomas)
 courtesy Crimes Town Gallery

Included among the show is Rashes (inspired by Robert Burns' Green Grow the Rashes, O), showing a slightly slumpy modern man with a gentle face, glasses and neatly trimmed beard who acts in the role of Hylas for Edward Ward's careful pencil appropriation of John William Waterhouse's Hylas and the Nymphs. By inserting this innocuous, unheroic and anachronistic figure into the iconic image, Ward provides a visual riff on Woody Allen's famous short story The Kugelmass Episode. Allen's satire of every reader's secret fantasy, and post-modernism's 'empowered readership,' tells of a dorky, dissatisfied Humanities professor, suffering from an unglamorous mid-life crisis, who magically projects himself into Flaubert's Madame Bovary in order to seduce Emma. The outcome is not as nice as Ward's drawing but both deftly evoke committed readers' egotistic yearnings to interact with characters and texts that they love.

Ana Finel Honigman, London

Ana Finel Honigman is a Berlin-based critic. She writes about contemporary art and fashion for magazines including Artforum.com, Art in America, V, TANK, Art Journal, Whitewall, Dazed & Confused, Saatchi Online, Style.com, Dazeddigital.com, British Vogue, Interview and the New York Times's Style section. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Ana has completed a Masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She also teaches a contemporary art course for NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development students. You can read her series Ana Finel Honigman Presents.

Photo: Maxime Ballesteros


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