Council block culture: Frank Laws @ Orange Dot gallery

Art, Painting


Earlier this week, I rolled on down to the private view of Frank Laws’ show, ‘London Bits’, at the Orange Dot gallery in Bloomsbury. As this is a pretty cosy (to use estate agent speak) space, there were only a handful of pieces on display – but what was there was honestly some of the best contemporary painting I’ve seen in quite a while. Go.

Based on the run down red brick council estates of East London, the subject matter is distinctly unlovely. But Laws, whose day job is surprisingly as an in-house artist for Louis Vuitton, manages to eke out the romance in these everyday urban dwellings through his moody oil colours and sinister, dusky settings. In a time of rapid regeneration and gentrification in what used to be the capital’s poorest areas, perhaps these high-rises – with their union-flag-draped windows, makeshift washing lines and white plastic chairs – will become artefacts; preserving a small piece of the city’s social and architectural past.

Another untitled work

I’m a big sucker for painting; my favourite artist is Edward Hopper, and Laws’ work definitely owes something to that kind of dark n’ dingy yet inviting aesthetic that comes with painting outdoor scenes containing artificial indoor light. His process is painstaking- he uses a single hair micro-brush for the majority of his work – and he has documented the painting of the show’s centrepiece in a video on his tumblr account here. The old-school-ness of this technique is refreshing in a scene dominated by faddy (albeit sometimes wonderful) installations and found objects.

Detail from the first image

The history of London – and particularly East London, where I live – has always fascinated me, too. I mean, obviously I still shit bricks when walking to my friend’s flat in a (predominantly) council block in Brixton at night like the little village-born white girl I am, but tracing back the origins of these buildings and the changing communities around them is fascinating. Yeah, I wikipedia random areas of London a lot. Is there any way to make this point without sounding like a colossal twat? Probably not. But the moral of the story is, go and see this show. You won’t regret it.

The man doesn’t like titles, alright?

‘London Bits’ by Frank Laws is at the Orange Dot Gallery on Tavistock Place, Bloomsbury until August 24. 

Photos courtesy of the Orange Dot gallery. 


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