Urban, gritty and daring, Behold and Believe perfectly reflects the contemporary metropolitan landscape that it both depicts and takes place in the midst of. On display at minimalistic east London gallery The Vyner Studio between Saturday February 25th and Thursday March 1st, the exhibition, showcasing a mixed media fusion of photography, video art and installation work by Hackney based artists Leo Yinka Briggs and Barnabe FrEaKsHoW (real name Barnabe Freixo) demonstrates exactly why the east has over the past few years become the confident and vibrant creative hub of the capital.
Set against the backdrop of the clean, white and almost industrial walls of the warehouse-style Vyner Studio, Briggs and Barnabe’s challenging and intelligent pieces grab, and hold, your attention as soon as you walk through the door. Dominating an entire section of gallery wall, the vast, sprawling, collage that is Briggs’ A Cornucopia of Crime and Punishment is undoubtedly one of the exhibition conversation pieces. An intense, swirling, blend of photography, many containing partial nudity, money and other strong imagery, it tackles the interdependent relationship between crime and the capitalist system. A fascinating visual assault on the senses, it is an intriguing artwork that is impossible to forget.
A resident of Hackney’s often embattled Pembury Estate, Briggs’ photography portrays the complex layers of everyday life in the urban reality in which he lives and works. From the deliberately grainy, CCTV footage style pieces that are La, La and Woo, Woo – a world inhabited by police officers and police vans – to honest and exquisitely shot portraits of friends and family, his is a photographic universe that is both real and relevant. Fresh and original, it is a welcome addition to the capital’s creative scene, giving a voice to a section of the London community that otherwise rarely has the chance to speak in the halls and rooms of its museums and art galleries.
Something of an artistic vagabond, Barnabe’s exhibition pieces speak to the diverse cultural reference points that infuse the work of the photographer, digital artist and musician. Featuring an eclectic and wide-ranging series of photographs from India, Mexico and Brazil, countries that the artist – born in Paris to Portuguese parents – explains have influenced his work, images are pinned to noticed boards and freestanding props in a purposefully causal, even haphazard, fashion. Capturing the pain, beauty, sorrow, joy and simple ordinariness of life in his three chosen nations, Barnabe turns his camera on the world in the vein of the great photojournalists; at times almost brutally authentic but always with something important, something valuable, to say. Something we want to know about.
Interspersing his photographic work with captivating installations pieces, a clothed replica skeleton entitled Self-portrait has a photo album dangling from one of its arms. The sepia coloured photographs may be of the artist’s family but could, in their universal relatability, be of all and any of our families; the eyes of dreams and decades past gazing straight into the camera. Occupying another corner of the room, Oppressed is an installation pièce de résistance. Carrying the explanatory note of addressing “how corporate social labelling inhibits our capacity to express a natural identity,” the bright blue and yellow box functions as an interactive art piece, inviting exhibition goers toto step inside to try it on for size. While perhaps not for the claustrophobically inclined, it is otherwise a must-do, an experience to round off the fascinating, thought-provoking and inspiring show that is Behold and Believe.
Concluding with March 1st First Thursdays event, the once-monthly arts and culture night at which the galleries and museums of east London collectively, and for free, throw their doors open to the public, this is an exhibition not to be missed.
Behold and Believe, Saturday February 25th – Thursday March 1st. The Vyner Studio, 1-5 Vyner Street, London E2 9DG. Open: 10am until late. FREE.