Howard Griffin Gallery is an art gallery on Shoreditch High Street situated opposite the Tea Building. The artists that I work with are as a rule from outside the traditional art world and indeed are usually most famous for their works in the open air. I feel that the gallery is unique, first and foremost, because of the uniqueness of the individual artists that it chooses to represent and secondly for the high levels of production that go into making each exhibition spectacular.
Phlegm at work producing The Bestiary
This Saturday, Phlegm will open a large installation based show at the gallery entitled The Bestiary. Phlegm has been working on creating the show in situ for the past six weeks and it represents an extension of the large scale mural works that he has been painting in cities and abandoned places around the world for the last several years. For those who do not know the artist, Phlegm is one of the world’s top contemporary muralists and has a number of murals in the area.
It is a very ambitious show and one which is truly museum standard. The exhibition is also non commercial and there will be no works for sale. Afterwards it will be destroyed. It is an ephemeral art show and the works are not meant to last forever, in line with Phlegm’s philosophical approach to art and also his practice in the great outdoors. My gallery is of course a commercial one, but I feel that it is interesting to produce shows that are not tainted by commercialism lest we forget about the art itself and risk making art nothing more than a commercial entity.
Specimin jars at The Bestiary
G: What would you say has been your most memorable experience while developing this project?
The most memorable experiences have probably been working with John Dolan, who along with his dog George, is well known to those who live and work in Shoreditch. Dolan and George sat for three years on the Shoreditch High Street with Dolan drawing the surrounding buildings and portraits of George to sell to passers by to sustain himself.
John Dolan and George the Dog
I started working with Dolan in October 2012 and in September 2013 we launched his first exhibition at the gallery. As part of the show Dolan collaborated with over 50 of the worlds top street artists and graffiti writers. Dolan drew the ‘Shoreditch skyline’ and the various artists worked directly onto his cityscape. It was like fantasy street art. It was very memorable and satisfying seeing this show coming to a successful fruition and also seeing Dolan, who has experienced 20 years of homelessness in London, develop as an artist. I also think that it was a great show for Shoreditch because the works focussed on Shoreditch and because everybody was really rooting for John and George to succeed.
John Dolan and The London Police collaboration
G: Why do you choose Shoreditch to do this?
I wouldn’t say I chose Shoreditch. A confluence of circumstances and events, some totally out of my control or foresight, brought me here. I have been working here for the past three years on various projects related to art and it was a natural evolution to have a gallery. I see Shoreditch as one of the most exciting places to be in London right now, there is so much potential and opportunity here for everyone. Perhaps John Dolan and George the Dog are the best examples of that.
The opening on John Dolan exhibition
G: Who/what are your favourite Artists/Businesses in the area?
I am quite biased artist wise so to declare my interest on that front I will say John Dolan, Phlegm, Thierry Noir and Pablo Delgado. These are the first four artists with whom I will work with at the gallery. Thierry Noir painted 18 miles of the Berlin Wall illegally in the 1980s and Pablo Delgado is a Mexican street artist with a lot of miniature street work in the area. There are then of course many, many outstanding artists in Shoreditch and many of these I am lucky enough to work with on my other projects. Business wise, I am of course tangentially interested by Shoreditch’s infamous tech start up scene although I don’t have too much involvement with it.
Phlegm on the Village Underground, Great Eastern Street – January 2013
G: What are your favourite places in Shoreditch?
My favourite places in Shoreditch are largely where I know or work with the owners and subsequently find myself spending a lot of time, perhaps because they are generally friendly places also. So here I would say Strongroom for a bar, Francos (legendary) for lunch, Dishoom for a restaurant and Village Underground for a venue. I identify with all of these places and with what they are trying to achieve. I also think that they are all representing the right things about Shoreditch and care a lot about the area – even Dishoom which I appreciate has been a newer arrival.
G: What does the future has in store for you and Shoreditch?
I believe in possibility and the idea that you really can create whatever you want to create. So anything is possible. Just decide. So here I will say some good art shows that everyone in Shoreditch will enjoy.