As we walk through the depths of the dodgier end of Hackney, beats, chatter and laughter are the sounds of a one-off art exhibition hosted by newbies to the indie music scene, Gengahr, with some friends at Bombay Bicycle Club, Alt-J and Slaves.
About a hundred people mill around outside in a chilled vibe of the warm evening. The A Side B Side Gallery is a small white room, and this particular exhibition presents 12 pieces of individual artwork by a member of each of the bands. The first two abstract paintings are the creation of almost deaf drummer Thom Green of Alt-J. The first, Pot, consists of a considerably phallic looking shape on a warm red background, and a splash of dark grey paint across the top. Hm. The second, ‘Plane’ sees a horizontal and diagonal line intersect and a splash of blue in the middle, again on a pinky-red washed background. Both paintings have something tangible as the focus, but made unusual by Green’s abstract style – a little like Alt-J, starting with one genre and blending in unusual styles to make it their own unique sound. Green studied Fine Art at Leeds University with the rest of the band, so he must know what he’s doing even if I don’t understand much about it.
The next artist’s paintings are cartoonish and bright with bold, black outlines of different shapes with seemingly no correlation whatsoever – a cactus, bird, snake, eye, pineapple, leaf, grenade – and psychedelic, angular blocks of background colour. Laurie Vincent of punk duo Slaves obviously has a certain style of painting that is fairly childish, and as interesting as it was to see a variety of styles, I preferred the more detailed, intricate work. Vincent’s artwork is quite similar to Slaves’ music: loud, garish and a bit in your face.
Green studied fine art at leeds university, so he must know what he’s doing, even if i don’t understand much about it
Bombay Bicycle Club’s Ed Nash is also presenting artwork in the exhibition, and we chat to him along with Mike from Gengahr. Nash’s two pieces are the most realistic of all the artists that evening – portraits of his friends in almost eerie detail. These incredible pieces show a broad range from the fine lines of eyebrow hairs to a more subdued, watery background and edging. After a brief chat I learn he has been painting since he was sixteen, and that the paintings on display today aren’t particularly new pieces, or even his best work. He tells me his earlier work is much better, and that he painted the female figure on the band’s second album, Flaws. We discuss parties and stolen jackets, and our group merge into the next one over, which includes Hugh Schulte, the bassist from Gengahr and host of the evening. He looks young and casual, if a little nervous. We joke about this being a bit of an ego trip for him – he’s used to being the shy bassist who stays in the corner, and now his own work is on display for every eye to see. I would feel quite vulnerable, but he handles it well.
His paintings are used as the artwork for Gengahr’s debut album A Dream Outside. We ask him about the technique for his piece Bathed in Light as we are so intrigued about the intricate purple pattern and detail. He says it was as simple as folding the paper in half to reveal this amazing arrangement of tiny lines, and we both shout “like veins!” simultaneously. We bond, then discuss the next piece She’s a Witch, which was a painting by Schulte before it was the name of one of their songs. It conveys a woman in an almost Lucian Freud painting style, naked, with a hand between her legs, surrounded by a pale blue wave that encloses and wraps around her. Schulte tells us it was just a life model from art school and it was not intentional to look so sexual. The expression on her face is so intense and real, you can feel the emotion of it just by admiring the painting. He says he’s not really sure what it’s about: “death maybe?”
Ed Nash and Hugh Schulte share a lighter. It is clear that everyone here are great friends, so we thank them and leave them to get on with their incredibly creative, musical, arty young lives.