Nott in Grove

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Neighbours, everybody needs good…

It’s the age of uncertainty, overuse of the word ‘Terrorism’ and common sense gone digital. If what the astronomers tell us is true, we’ve moved light years away from the cosmic location we were at just four years ago and you can kinda tell. Yet Mario’s key cutters, Poundland, and Tesco’s all seem to have remained in the same location as I look through the eyes of a child.

The said amount of time has passed since we shared, right here on Urban Dandy, how the natural falling of a tree on our block inspired the locals to spill out onto the streets and finally make themselves known.

I don’t know if it’s time, frustration or just karma for me, but it seems that the neighbourly thing is at an all time low. The same eleven-year-olds that used to humbly greet me on my way out the door are now fifteen and just about neighbourly enough to replace those kind words with a nod and an ice grill and if I’m really lucky it may also be the waft of urban incense of the green variety. I can’t tell you how many times my doorstep has been littered with rolling papers, Subway sandwich wrappers, rappers and pitiful young girls, a few months into puberty and possibly a couple of years from single motherhood. They would exchange a type of loud poetry of the sailor type among themselves and upon any young ears that are unfortunate enough to be near their fruitless performance.

I remember the gradual build up to this and the times when my suspicions of drug activity were vague and unsubstantiated, but I never expected to be welcomed home with an offer to buy drugs on my own doorstep.

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It’s a challenge not to compare the rubbish on the balcony with the scene on the street

Yep, it’s certainly a different time and place in space and you’d easily be forgiven if you don’t remember the tree that considerately descended on the very same block, even though, at the time, it was the most activity we had seen and the main focus of conversation for months. Now two years on, teams of mopeds turn the streets into Silverstone as they wheelie up the track block dropping off their illegal supplies under the diffident noses of the police, the housing association, the moon and even the mid-day sun, for that matter.  Rumours spread of the neighbours’ children having knife tussles in the street and of warning shots being fired in a place that celebrities could never imagine while they strut with all their pretense, trying to ignore the echoes of their own name.  It’s hard to believe that one area could support such opposing lifestyles. But Notting Hill is such a place.

The local news is sometimes national news, depending. It could be about the actress Eve strolling through her new manor, a sixteen-year-old laying in a pool of blood, Rita Ora doing a photo shoot, or a mob of eleven police restraining a wannabe thug kid. Considering the later;  this not yet man will no doubt only use this encounter as a badge to show the peer group that he has achieved a Netflix version of manhood.  Meanwhile, the Beckhams will do the school drop off oblivious to this. But all of this in one stretch of concrete.

These are not incidents but everyday life. It’s like a kind of trash bag made of diamonds. It’s odd knowing that Princes William and Harry went to the school up the street and just feet away from that ambitious parent attending a school viewing, hoping to give their child the same Prince Harry experience they may experience the polar opposite. It’s also a Big Issue magnet, a haven for the more ambitious of the homeless. I know this because it took me two years and some strong language to be rid of one such aggressive Big Issue seller and to have him accept that I was a regular guy. He eventually dissolved our tacit contract and moved on to more supportive folk to maintain his structure.

Home and Away

Elsewhere in the world there are at least a few miles between these classes. I find the choice to park in the centre of a spot that could hold two vehicles snooty and sub-civilised, but no less churlish than maneuvering a 60 lb leather sofa into a parking space in front of your own home, but who cares…Damn right it’s an environmental crime but not to be declared in Orwellian style with the hope of profit, but just to dispense a call for the raising of one’s personal standards, empathy and maybe a little shame. Yeah, the mice come out knowing that the neighbourhood ugly gives them hope that there will be a serving for at least four when they carelessly drop pizza and other food items on their own doorstep, but who gives a..?

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The bigger picture

Truth is, beneath all of this is a fight between two demogra-folks, both too smart to actually realise they’re in a war over a silly name. I’m not sure who named Ladbroke Grove Notting Hill but the two gangs have both been co-living on the same turf for some time now. As Notting Hill gets written into the history books, Ladbroke Grove makes its own history reminding us of the area’s past like an immortal storyteller. Immortal because, much to the disappointment of some locals, it just won’t go away. This neverending story is what opened the doors to make it Notting Hill, (Ladbroke Grove or whatever you choose to call it) Marvin Gaye, The Sex Pistols, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, The Rolling Stones and all.

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Rough Trade Records started out in Ladbroke Grove and without moving an inch has become Notting Hill’s musical pride and, somewhat organic, record shop. Yet who remembers when they sold NY W.B.L.S. radio mix-tapes and when people sprayed the bricks with Sham 69? How about, graffiti artist Futura 2000 knocking around with the Clash or Queen Latifa searching the crates for her little-known single?

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Synonymously the neighbouring food equivalent would be The Grain Shop that still lives opposite Tavistock Square on Portobello Road, Notting Hill, or is it Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove? Even regular healthy food got caught in this name politics and was changed to organic without its consent. Even though The Grain Shop still services the area for their food needs, the name of the food they offer, although it’s mostly organic, refuses to boast, because unlike most other things their attitudes have not changed. But you would have to remember Ladbroke Grove to know that. To know that the owners care more about the nutrition that they provide for their community than giving it a fancy name.

Keeping Tabs

Then there’s The Tabernacle: it still sits in Powis Square but seems to be wanting to slide up the hill rather than down the grove. Thankfully it is regulated by culture. Every time a hundred pound designer Champagne creeps onto the drinks menu a Jerk Chicken wrestles it down to the ground, sometimes it’s a saltfish fritter fighting a salad or even an unexpected Chicken Saint Lucia being drowned by the soup of the day.

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*The Tabernacle 80’s. Grafitti artist: Brim (left) with The Krew

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Yep, most of us are just casualties of a war of status and as soon as Notting Hill recognises that it’s Ladbroke Grove is the moment that Ladbroke Grove will see that it is Notting Hill. Gentrification will then become an organic process with the participation of locals. The area’s potential will then be clear and we can concentrate on bigger things like what the fuxit our exit from the EU actually means and how we need each other more than ever, NOW.

Whether it’s your micro neighbour or your macro neighbour we need constructive communication and not snobbery. Coming to accept that there is not, and has never been, a middle class may be a little hard to swallow for some but for God’s sake get over it quick because at this time if you’re not excelling to new financial altitudes whereby work is but a choice, then your choice of neighbours is not a choice at all. It’s Russian roulette, only now there are three slugs in the chamber of the proverbial gun to your head. It’s easier, far easier for somebody to complain about their co-inhabitants rather than to seek resolve with each other. Whether you dropped down from Knightsbridge with high expectations or you have never left the area and cannot quite grasp the gentrific change, it’s time to talk; otherwise, the government (or foreign corporate interests to be precise) will be only too happy to play your friendly mediator.

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If you’re like me and have lived in any of the other communities that are globally accepted as parallels, you’ll know that there is not another area on earth like this one. New York, Paris, and Los Angeles all boast of multiculturalism but even as diverse as they are, the local cultures have enough distance between them to never meet. Not so with us, just look at the size of our streets, somebody sneezes, you feel it across the road. We live in a very claustrophobic space of scraping buses and folding wing mirrors but with that comes the unique advantage of having to interact and survive within each other’s world, without each other in this little village. It makes sense for us to finally define it ourselves with the help of those who bring their foreign experiences if they are only willing to introduce themselves and share rather than seize real land, by any other corporate term.

I believe that on this third rock, in this western hemisphere, in this Royal Borough, while the world divides itself in the hope of the government submitting a plan for re-uniting it we have the potential to become a beacon to the world but we have to stop the selfishness and start participating, preserving, embracing and becoming curious about our homies, and each other’s welfare not farewell.

Angel Lewis

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The subtle language of conflict

   

Dedicated to: *The Krew: Shaban, Drew, Kevin Wez, Nicky and Jeff (RIP).  Song: The Escapades of Futura 2000  – Futura 2000 and The Clash

1 x Tab Breakfast – No Mushrooms, Poached Egg, 1 x Sides – Sausage: New Stories From The Tabernacle.

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It’s pretty interesting to me how, as an Artist I’m always looking for new ways to transform one dimension into another in a multi-dimensional fashion. I find it quite cheeky because really, if God wanted sound to be visual I guess she’d have made it just that yet the interconnectedness of all things fascinates me and compels me to want to share. One such example, whether by human consciousness or universal intelligence, occurred on the  25th of May at a gallery in The Tabernacle in west London.

Artists Emma Mudgway and Alexia Villard created an exhibition of their thoughts and experiences working within the legendary building in a way that can only be described as ‘Personal’.

I met Emma Mudgway (one half of the expression) in Queensway, west London, on a fine, sunny, Thursday afternoon. I asked Emma…

UDL • Is this your first exhibition in London?

Emma • Yes

UDL • Where else have you displayed your work?

Emma • I’m from New Zealand and have exhibited there.  If you are interested in my exhibition history it can be found on my website.

We did precisely that. Emma has exhibited at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Toi Poneke Arts Centre, Wellington, NZ and Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt, NZ.

UDL • Has Alexia had any in London?

Emma • Yes she has…

Alexia has previously worked on projects such as Cinema du reel Festival, Paris Cinema Festival, Cannes festival, Feast Festival and National Portrait Gallery.

Emma Mudgway

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UDL • Is this the first time you’ve done a joint exhibition?

Emma • With Alexia, yes it is. We met in Canada on an artist residency. I was on my way to London, and Alexia was already based here. We kept in touch, ended up working together at the Tabernacle, and often found ourselves sitting around Alexia’s Kitchen Table discussing our work. That’s how the Kitchen Table Collective was formed, and how we ended up exhibiting together.

UDL • What are your feelings about working together with somebody else?

Emma • It pushes you to think differently. You make decisions about your own work that you may not have otherwise made which to me is interesting.

UDL • I know that Alexia is not here but do you think her experience of it is similar?

Emma takes off her shades, it seems this question requires some concentration.

Emma •  I don’t know we haven’t really spoke about it yet, so I don’t really feel that’s something I can comment on.

After trying to answer, a sensitive Emma apologetically replied in the best way she could with a very caring consciousness to not misrepresent the absent artist’s viewpoint.

Alexia Villard
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UDL • I understand. So what is the exhibition about in your own words?

Emma • Our idea for the exhibition was always to do something that related to the space. There are many stories that could be told about the building, its history, and the unique place it holds within the community. We began by looking back at archives from the building, and in the meantime we were collecting little bits and pieces from the restaurant. Alexia collected food tickets and handwritten notes, and I worked from the architectural plans of the building. We were paying attention to the conversations we were having with staff and customers. It grew to be an archive of sorts, of our interactions as servers.

UDL • Were your expectations met from the exhibition, if you had any at all?

Emma • I don’t think I really had any, because I was so busy right up to the exhibition with the work, and with some other important things that needed to be sorted out in my life. I didn’t have time to form any expectations. It felt like it wasn’t even going to go on the wall. If I had a hope for it, it would be that it would engage the people who the work was about, the people who are regulars in the building, and that it would get them into the gallery. People seemed to really like it, and appreciate it, they connected with the work, the people who came to the space regularly.

UDL • Your piece in particular was to me an emotional expression on an emotional expression. By this I mean in the piece you express in words as well as you express in design. How did it feel baring this all with the extra dimension?

Emma • I was a little bit worried about how emotionally honest the work was. I thought people might find the work too earnest, d’you know what I mean? But I don’t….Emma pauses to find the words… Sentimental. I think whatever I’ve made has always been tied to where I am emotionally but I don’t think it’s ever been so obvious. But what was really nice was I might have been speaking about my experiences and interactions and how I reacted to them within that space but people related to it which was nice. People came up to me and told me it made them consider their own experiences, like the last time they cried. A friend said she thought the work was very Human, for me, it was the best compliment I could have received.

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UDL • You painted the walls of the gallery. Is this something you have done before?

Emma • No, that was Alexia’s clever idea. Because most of the work was very white, it made a huge visual impact when it was hung on a black wall. I think whenever you have a show you need to think about how it works as an installation, as a whole. The whole space needs to be considered.

UDL • As a creator myself my initial conscious expression emerged out of the culture of music in the 90s which was my introduction to the combining of genres that created something  appropriately named Hip Hop. Because of this mind state I enjoy listening to and creating various types of music equally. Sometimes I would attempt to translate in musical expression the feelings of an inanimate object such as a bike represented in phonics. I mean how would a bike talk if it wasn’t seen?  This understanding of merging platforms as an expression of dimension is similar in your work.

Emma •  Artists have the choice to work in any medium that they want and many are multidisciplinary.  It’s really about finding the best way to say what you want to say. What I’m saying is that …Emma giggles… I feel that I have to watch every word that I say..more giggles… No, you find a way that best expresses the idea.

UDL • Yes I love the idea of transferring one dimension into another dimension this is why I was so deeply affected by the work.

Emma • I don’t make work thinking about what I want to say to someone, it’s a way of processing my own thinking. If there is one thing I would like people to take from the work, it’s that it is about interaction and connection, and how that is fostered within a space. No matter how small and insignificant the transaction may seem, even if it’s just making someone a coffee.

Alexia Villard
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UDL • Have you met any other artists in London or anywhere else in the world that you like?

Emma • I have met so many interesting people in London, sometimes in the most unlikely of places; artists, creatives, people from all the around the world. I value their perspectives and have learnt a lot in the short time that I have been here. The access to art and culture here is something I don’t take for granted. Alexia and I met in Canada- I like her work because I feel like she quietly demonstrates that there is beauty and value to be found in places that others overlook. I also work with young adults with learning disabilities in an art class one morning a week, I love the quirky art they make and I find they can be as sophisticated and uncompromising in their vision as anyone else, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

UDL • Now that the pieces are taken down and packed away, what happens now?

Emma • The installation of the work in the space is finished, but there is still work relating to the exhibition to be done. For example, websites need to be updated, and there are some last little admin tasks to wrap up. Most importantly, its time to build on what we have started and the opportunities that arise from the show. On a personal level, that means reflecting on the work I made, and not losing momentum in my own making practice. Its also important to me that the Kitchen Table Collective continues to grow as a platform for our ideas, however they are manifested.

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I feel honoured to be included or at least a thought in both Artists expression on paper. An exhibition that was every bit emotionally, touching and personal, not only to the staff and patrons of the Tabernacle but, also to those who render services (all of us) and  hold such expressions locked up deep within. I have to bow to the execution of the  many forms that these feelings have been transmitted through their Art.

Please explore more of Emma Mudgway and Alexia Villard below. 

Angel Lewis

All Photographs compliments of Alexia Villard

•  Emmamudgway.com   •   Alexiavillard.com  •

“Colours of Africa”: It takes an art auction…. 3.5*

An edited version of this review has appeared on MyVillage.com
An inspiring and moving art collection sees the Tabernacle’s boutique gallery plastered floor to ceiling with colourful sketches and painting.  These disarming works are unique, refreshing and offer an uncontrived view of Ugandan village life. The images created by the children of Masindi are in London as part of an educational fundraising effort that ends 24 September 2011.

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Colourful painting by Vanny Aheebwais
An Aheebwais Original

Numbered pictures are accompanied by delightful business card mini profiles with pictures of each artist.  Bios include informative gems such as talented 12 year old Vanny Aheebwais does traditional dance and wants to visit London or self-taught 14 year old Peter Guma creative, experimental and hoping to study art at University.

Works are “sold” by silent auction and tagged as bids are received so you can see if there is competition.   The money (minimum bid 20£) contributes to a good cause and the winning bidder leaves with an original piece of African art.  A drinks evening will be hosted September 24thallowing for last minute offers and the announcement of the winning bids.

Peter Guma’s Musicians

RedEarth Education provides teacher training: devising methods and strategies for the classroom with guidance manuals so that trained teachers can share their skills and cascade learning.  The current fundraising effort is for the construction of a “Teacher Training and Resource Centre” and the establishment of the first ever Ugandan Nursery Practitioner model facility.

Fruit outline on striped yellow and blue backgroundPick up an original at a snip or, for those with the means, dig deep to empower a worthwhile programme.

Additional works are available for immediate sale.

Until 24th September The Tabernacle
Powis Square, Notting Hill, London
W11 2AY