Showcase at Café 1001

I must admit it had been a while since I had journeyed to this part of London.

I walked from Liverpool Street to Brick Lane and watched the City suits turn into artists, hobo fashionistas and tortured drinkers, guessing this must have been how Dorothy felt when she went from monochrome Middle-America to Oz.

In the unassuming Café 1001 on Dray Walk off Brick Lane, I found the Showcase exhibition, sold by its organisers as ‘The platform for emerging artists’. I had been told about this fortnightly event by an artist friend and attended the opening night on July 8.

Walking into this café/bar/all day street party, one would not expect to find an effective exhibition space in the back bar. Do not let the front scare you away. Weave your way through the leather sofas, student stragglers and people, who are clearly far more hip than you, and enter the rear room.

It was just by the entrance that I bumped into Mark Farrington, the organiser of the event and himself an artist. He explained to me how he had set-up Showcase because he knew how difficult it was for promising artists to exhibit their work cheaply.

As for the art itself on the opening night, as expected, it was a mixed lot. There were a lot of illustrators, some cartoon images and though not as much painting as I would like, there were no piles of waste or loo seats either. My phrase for the night was ‘consciously rebellious’ as much of the work, not unexpectedly considering the young average age of its creators, was trying to scream out edginess and highlight illicit activity in an attempt to be defiant. Yawn.

A series of paintings by an artist, Keith Harrington, involving several members of the royal family in extremely controversial adult poses, generally fell into this conscious rebellion idea. Though I actually thought they were a provoking idea, if perhaps a little too colourful.

Three artists made my night: Tigz Rice’s brilliant mixed-media photo montages about the story of drug addiction and suicide through the parody of Alice in Wonderland, and another of a doll were wonderfully ethereal; the pre-Raphaelites meets Clockwork Orange.

Leanne Rutter, a portrait artist, had two particularly emotive and beautifully painted pieces of a military man inspired by the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which I found very poignant images. Daisy Carpenter’s work was the first I saw when I entered the room, large ten-feet monochrome paintings of a nude couple and a face and hands. Her work is completely arresting and an exquisite homage to the human body.

As I left Oz and the Munchkins behind and returned to the black and white dampness of Liverpool Street, I was I glad I had come. Showcase is a pleasant stroll through what is to come in the art world and perhaps a glance at one or two of those who might make it happen. Just don’t forget to pack your ruby slippers.

Showcase is every other Wednesday evening from 5.30pm – 11.30pm at:

Café 1001
1 Dray Walk
91 Brick Lane


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