Sickboy’s brilliant Make It Last Forever exhibition is an example why more street art needs to be shown in art galleries.
Does street art contained in the four white walls of an art gallery make you see and feel differently about the art form?
Type ‘does street art belong in an art gallery’ (a predicted search) into Google and you’ll find many articles (2,090,000 results) from The Independent to independent galleries throwing yes and no arguments into the ring. Street art, it’s in the name so surely it should stay on the streets?
It’s the first time I’ve seen street art in the traditional settings of an art gallery and it’s totally changed the way I think about street art.
How many times do you walk through Shoreditch for example and really take the time to stop and analyse a piece of street art? You might briefly look for five seconds, maybe a little longer to take a photo which then becomes Instagram or Twitter fodder. Make It Last Forever demands your time and full attention if you’re really going to appreciate what’s in front of you.
Because there is a lot happening. A whole universe with many characters, objects and textures colliding together. It can be overwhelming at times, but in a good way. It’s difficult to know where to start looking. You’re eyes dart back and forth as you try to survey the landscape as one picture. And then I step back and see it’s a face staring back at me. It’s almost Sickboy’s version of an optical illusions; do you see a vase or two faces? Stepping back means missing out on a lot of detail. Step closer again and faces appear from nowhere, camouflaged in the busy surroundings.
It’s also the little things like Sickboy’s varied use of shading pattern, the layering of the paint and the application for that matter whether it’s sprayed or applied carefully with a fine tipped brush. Sickboy does away with canvases altogether sometimes using sheets of metal instead, some sheets showing rust and age. And that is the prominent theme behind Make It Last Forever – ephemerality (lasting for a short period of time).
In one piece the human-like beings, seemingly in a zombie state, chase a paint can which is saying ‘celestial’ and a heart both running away. Maybe it’s a social commentary as people continue to find and chase the next quick fix to make us happier or live longer. It almost feels part of a computer game; catch the token and gain an extra life. Meanwhile a giant (or are the others small?) holds a flower, possibly the greatest symbolism of ephemerality.
Words and phrases like relax, forever, life, death, vitality, reality, so happy right now and living in a dream world are scattered throughout the work continue the theme. The theme also takes form in symbolism such as peace signs, smiley faces, diamonds in the sky, a truck with ‘saviour’ written on the side driving away, a copious amount of pills, an apple, a boat with a message that says ‘from here there is no turning back’ and a floating coffin add to it.
If these expansive galaxies were recreated on a wall in Shoreditch complete with their incredible detail, there wouldn’t be many who would give it the time it deserves to be studied, and that would be a huge shame. Giving street artists a chance to showcase their talents with work specifically designed for a gallery setting means more elaborate work can be produced like Make It Last Forever.
Sickboy’s Make It Last Forever is on display until 30th August at The Outsiders in Soho.
Why not check out more of Sickboy’s street art or read more of my art reviews of London exhibitions?