Hackney Wicked 2017: art, protest and summer of love
The Hackney Wicked Art Festival began in 2008 and now takes place every summer over a 3 day period to showcase the work of artists based in the Hackney Wick area who open their studios to the public or show work using local galleries and other creative spaces.
Hackney Wicked is organised by curator Anna Maloney and refreshingly artists are not asked to pay a fee to take part in the event, they just need to have local links. This year the event chose to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 'Summer of Love', exploring the themes of unity, love, protest & revolution.
As you walk around the various sites and chat to people though you cannot escape the fact that beyond the 'summer 'and the 'love' many of these artists are in fact making a stand against the aggressive development of the area and the resulting negative impact on the local creative community, who feels excluded from the planning process, including the loss of artist studio spaces to make way for flats and other developments.
I was invited by Danielle Parkinson, an artist who has been rented a studio in Hackney Wick for a year, to discover some of the highlights of the event. Our journey started at the Here East venue where a space had been set up at the Press Centre to show the work of 60 artists in a show called ‘Inside Out’. This is where Danielle showed her work, an intriguing painting based on her interest in conservation and animal welfare. The painting is based on the critically endangered Amur Leopard, native to south-eastern Russia and north-east China, and the subject is among the most illegally hunted species in the world. The work is part of series of six works that reflect on various endangered species, the threat of poaching and how we treat animals in general. Danielle has an undergraduate background in Art History where her thesis focused on Synaesthesia and she followed this line of enquiry with a Two year Masters degree in Social Anthropology and extensive travel which continue to inform her work. Following a series of corporate jobs in the Maritime Security and Risk Industry she mentioned that she feels like a release and affinity, enjoying the calmness of Fish Island, to focus on her creative activities, which as well as painting, include script-writing and photography.
(pictured: Danielle's work 'Amur' in her Hackney Wick studio)
One of the main exhibits of 'inside Out' was a temporary recreation of Gavin Turk’s artist studio, reminiscent of the recreation of Francis Bacon's in a Dublin Gallery. Turk is one of the many artists losing their studio and has to move out of the space he has occupied for 16 years to make way for new flats. His installation was a fascinating insight into his working environment, inspirations and tools as well as a stark reminder of what is being lost.
Another of the most striking and effective contribution to the space was a poster provided by artist Rebecca Feiner who has rented a studio in the area for 9 years and also finds herself having issues with her studio space. The poster frankly and simply related how the relationship with developers had broken down and prevented her from accessing her work.
My eye was also caught by an exhibit by artist Dion Kitson who helped installed the exhibition. Dion, who is also a studio technician for Gavin Turk, having installed everyone else’s work was inspired by finding an abandoned cardboard box and an old tape recorder lying around the space. The box became a plinth for the tape recorder which he used to record conversations and sounds during the event private view, creating an odd, muffled sound landscape, which includes 'drunken conversations', and that visitors are encouraged to play.
(pictured: Dion standing next to his exhibit)
Another highlight were the large, playful and colourful paintings of women by Spanish artist Christina BanBan. Her works lifted the reflective and defiant mood of the rest of the show and reminded us that art can also be fun.
During the afternoon Danielle took me around various venues pointing out as we walked how local cafes and arts organisations work with local artists to create a vibrant and collaborative scene. Another highlight of the event was the Stour Space Gallery ((where 25% of all proceeds on the Hackney WickED 2017 weekend were donated to artists rents) and its display of large, expressive paintings and playful installations as part of its 'Artigon Presents: Emerge' show.
Hackney Wick is a vibrant example of a thriving creative enclave (described by Hackney Wicked organisers as 'the world's most concentrated creative community') that has for years allowed artists to develop and show their work while benefiting from affordable studio rents and spaces. It would be a shame if it were to lose the uniqueness of this area and for Hackney Wick to become another Hoxton/Shoreditch where those who make the area interesting in the first place are kicked out as it gains in popularity.
You can find out more about some of the artists and spaces mentioned in this piece at: