What are flowers symbolic of? Beauty? Peace?
In literature or poetry or art maybe so, but in everyday life in London I suppose they are those things that you are more likely to see in decorative forms in shop windows, or pieces of design on a dress that that girl over there is wearing, or perhaps if you're lucky enough you may pass some spots of colour that line your zone 3 street.
Michael De Feo had fashioned a form of identity out of a flower. It is a sign that has become synonymous with his art. He has left them as signatures in various cities all over the world. It's a beautifully simple depiction of a flower that has five petals and a stem with a slight kink. It's a signature to be envious of.
For someone who was holding his first solo exhibition in London, an overdue occasion for an artist who has been daubing the streets with his work for eighteen years, I wonder if he was pleased with the outcome. The Orange Dot gallery is a small creative space found in Tavistock Place, a somewhat unlikely location considering these sorts of places are more commonly found further east. Russell Square is not an area associated with artists or a necessarily established artistic identity, but the gallery seems at home on the small parade of shops where it lives. I visited when it first opened last summer (back when this blog was new and I was enthusiastic and envisaged making entries daily) and what was then a project now seems to have transformed into a professional place to exhibit work.
I was hoping to see more of De Feo's brooding, battle-scarred portraits. The ones where the paint is dripping, the features ignored, and the mood is bleak. Instead the left hand wall of the room was lined with his flowers. Most were an edition of a series, the rest of them presumably being elsewhere, made using differing printing techniques and materials. The space is small though, and there is only so many times you can survey a wall of 8 hanging flowers and feel drawn. The costs of each piece varied wildly, with one on the facing wall costing almost double if sold framed. There was a single abstract portrait, of the series where he used maps as the canvas, and another self portrait towards the back of the room where the two girls were serving beers into plastic cups.
Was it more of a sales show? Most pieces had prices, with a couple having the obligatory 'sold' signs next to them. I stood around in the small space, looking for a friendly face to talk to. The one fraught looking guy I did have a brief chat to was a sculptor, and even he asked me if I was going to buy anything. The other people who filled the room were tall and edgy, who seemed to look at each rather than the work on the walls. After spending around half an hour in there I couldn't shake the feeling of being in a hip youth club where anyone was allowed on the decks as long as they played early 90s hip hop. Let's face it this is what many of these sorts of shows entail; standing and talking, looking and snapping on one's SLR. The art is secondary and that is not unusual. The frustrating thing was it was a combination of an oblivious collection of people, not the best of De Feo's work on show, and most importantly not enough of it. The Orange Dot is more than just a gallery and it's always good to see small organisations acting progressively and getting people involved. The gallery is a great little space that could be used in a range of ways, but it was one of those evenings that the work on show felt a little neglected.
Looking forward to seeing what comes next
Michael De Feo: Coming In From The Outside
54 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RG