Sean Dissington || January 19th
On the 13th, The Upstairs Gallery, (51-53 Piccadilly) held their latest exhibition - Selective Outrage by Toby Curtis.
Toby is a painter who was heavily involved in, and informed by graffiti painting - both as an artistic expression and as a sub-culture and the work that is in this show certainly shows this. Whilst each piece has its own palette and story, there is a common theme running through the show of drama, energy and fast motion. It is possible to almost follow the motion of the painters hands in some pieces as a rogue drop of pigment succumbs to physics to land away from the line of paint being laid.
Some pieces are very accessible, pleasing colours and rhythmic patterns that don’t immediately challenge the viewer, yet upon closer inspection have more to reveal sit next to pieces that are more audacious, demanding our attention; colours that we think should clash shout and scream for our attention until we study the piece and see what it truly has to tell us.
The use of various media also adds a further layer of intrigue, these works aren’t “just” graffiti on a canvas; they are the work of a man who understands colour, physics and layering - who wants a piece to draw you in, and draw they do.
The Upstairs Gallery, which sits above 51-53 Store (formerly Entrepreneurs) has hosted a small but growing number of art projects - many of which have local significance. Andy Cooke and Joyce Iwasko’s DUST launch which celebrated the manufacturing heritage of the city through the lens of colour, Bricks by BILOS used graffiti and recovered red brick to make the material itself as much the focus of the art as much as the paint and Goblyn Crew’s exhibition earlier this year was the first skate art show the city has seen. The Upstairs Gallery has always shown work that has an urban feel but with a local relevance, this exhibition breaks that, with an artist who uses abstract forms in a way that employs spray paint as just one of the media he works in. The result is that this exhibition is urban, yes, but it's abstract first. It's of the city, but not about the city.
Upstairs lacks the pretense that you may expect from a gallery. Sitting above 51-53 it is open the same hours as the store, and visitors are welcome. Following a launch evening attended by the artist(s) exhibitions usually run for a month and are promoted on the Facebook page of the store.
The gallery itself is the project of Robert Fenton, one of three friends behind the Entrepreneurs group responsible for 51-53 and Presents workshop at Spode. The Upstairs Gallery is a jewel, it's a small, friendly venue hosting art that's often the first of its kind in the city.
Selective Outrage has three weeks to run, please try and see it - it will repay your effort many times over.
Some content adapted from 51-53 Gallery’s post of the event.