April 20 - May 6, 2012
Currently one of the world's most prolific graffiti artists, Belgian street artist ROA scales down his work but stays on theme with a solo show in London, and the release of a new book.
With his gigantic (often multi-storey tall) animal murals spread across a considerable chunk of the planet's urban areas (much of that chunk is concentrated in East London and conveniently clustered round the gallery hosting his show), ROA keeps with his apparent need to sprawl. His Hypnagogia exhibition takes over two spaces within walking distance of each other – Stolenspace gallery at the Old Truman Brewery off of London's Brick Lane and an ordinarily not so arty destination, a monument shop (as in where to get headstones for graves), on Osborne Street near Whitechapel High Street.
Hypnagogia, the show's name, comes from the Greek words hypnos (“sleep”) and agogos (“leading”) and refers to the transitional state between sleeping and being awake. ROA sees this “grey area” as something that exists within “every consciousness” to act as a bridge between realities. However, what's exhibited doesn't seem to match ROA's desire to explore this “interstate” with portrayals of “sleeping animals, whilst quietly around us the world awakens from a long winter, and the creatures [depicted] experience a period of seasonal transition.” Indeed, most of the animals portrayed in the show appear to be awake, startled and alert even … or very much dead or dying.
Mismatched titles aside, Hypnagogia nevertheless succeeds in transcribing ROA's art from the street to the gallery – a feat that can't always be said of gallery shows exhibiting graffiti artists' work. Featuring installation pieces and original paintings on found objects, the exhibition compels while commanding admiration. Allowing and actually encourages viewers to touch and play with the pieces on show, there's an added bit of wonder to visiting Hypnagogia as you pull back a small door or slide a drawer to reveal an extra layer or another vantage point for examining the subject.
Coinciding with the show, is the launch of ROA's first book, ROA: An Introduction To Animal Representation by Mammal Press. The “very much handcrafted” book chronicles the artist's murals over the past year through photography, sketches and reference material. A limited edition of 500 (with only 125 for sell at Stolenspace on a first come first serve basis), each book is unique and priced at £175.
Both show and book serve as visceral reminders that even amid the what often seems an urban void ruined by the human folly, animal life (and death) continues on.