Posts Tagged ‘Gallery’


CAMP is the new group exhibition launching at Dalston Superstore on 07.02.19. It features the work of photographers Anna Sampson, Spyros Rennt and Emily Rose England.


Is there a common thread between your work as artists?

Anna: We all shoot on film, and we all document and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities and communities.

Spyros: The fact that we all photograph our surroundings, the people close to us, intimate moments – and of course the queerness of our subjects.

Emily: We all come from various queer communities and whilst or work differs in aesthetics it is obvious to me that our backgrounds and involvements within our respective communities is a major influence and shape on our work. As a result, our work has a tendency to explore and celebrate queer identities.

What does camp mean to you?

Anna: I’m a huge fan of Susan Sontag; and after re-reading her “Notes on Camp” a few weeks ago it seemed the perfect title, in relation to our work. Camp, to me, means glamour, decadence, flamboyance, fearless, exaggerated, androgynous, gorgeous.

Spyros: Camp stands for visibility, resistance, unconventionality and worlds unseen.

Emily: Freedom & fabulous queer identity.

How does queer identity inform your work?

Anna: In Gender Trouble, this collection very much challenges the notion of gender identity by merging and blurring gender clichés and stereotypes – and by photographing and representing these androgynous, sexless, queer beauties, I look to subvert and overthrow this male/female; active/passive binary, to demonstrate that gender, like sexuality, needs to be respected as fluid and non-binary.

Spyros: I live my life as a gay/queer man and my work is about the documentation of this life. My circle of friends and acquaintances, the places I frequent, the music I listen to: queerness surrounds me like a warm blanket.

Emily: I document the life and community around me: the queer community of East London. It was never an intentional thing to go out and document the queer scene for the world to see, more an organic progression which has become an internal view into our community – as opposed to an external view which can often result in work becoming exploitative. Although it wasn’t intentional to capture our community for the world to see I’ve realised over the years how important it has become. With the recent rise in far-right groups and ideologies who would love nothing more than to erase our existence it is important to capture and celebrate our loving, beautiful and creative community. it is important to show and celebrate that or identities do exist and are completely valid.

What other things/artists/themes influence your work?

Anna: I find my influences mostly in gender/sexuality/feminist/queer theory. I owe so much to theorists like Laura Mulvey, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir – as well as artists such as Kathy Acker, Valeria Solonas, Cindy Sherman, Claude Cahun, Ren Hang, Robert Mapplethorpe, …. the list could go on and on and on.

Spyros: As much as I love all the great artists that came before me and paved the way, I also enjoy following the work of my contemporaries. Instagram, despite its many negatives, works great for me in the sense that it helps build a community of creatives with whom I can actually interact with and exchange opinions. And of course my own life and experiences influence the work I produce.

Emily: As my work is about capturing what is around me, things such as different nights put on and art and movements created by my peers is a massive influence: us existing is an active rebellion against patriarchal hetero normative society.

How and why did you get into photography as an art form?

Anna: I was a painter, yet grew too impatient to see a painting through, so took up photography (accidentally) in the final few months of my degree. I simply bought a cheap red leather point-and-shoot off eBay to take with me on nights out – but this quickly became the main outlet for my artistic practice/voice. I think it suits my style and sensibility perfectly. Seeing as most of my favourite artists are photographers I guess it was just a matter of time before I started shooting, too!

Spyros: Photography was always spoken to more than the other art forms, maybe because it was the most accessible to me. I like it as a documentation of events transpiring. My memory abandons me some time but photos are always there to remind me of feelings, faces and actions.

Emily: I’ve always been creative and drawn to creating art from an early age. Photography was a natural step for me, I mean essentially you are still painting but with light instead of paint! Once I had begun working with it, it completely made sense to me to pursue it as an art form. I have always been fascinated with its ability to capture a moment or idea like a snapshot in time.

What is your most memorable superstore moment?

Anna: Just a few weeks ago it was my staff Christmas party and we ended up at Superstore. I was very anxious this day, so almost didn’t go out but ended up dancing on the bar, and woke up covered head-to-toe in bruises.

Spyros: The last time I was in London in October: a packed Superstore, watching some drag shows with good friends, spilling my drink left and right (as I said, it was packed), flirting with cute boys – it was quite a night!

Do you have any special treats in store for us for the launch?

Anna: I have very few Gender Trouble zines left, so come and grab one if you want. I won’t be re-printing anytime soon, and they are all sold out at The Photographer’s Gallery!!!

Spyros: I am excited to be showing some prints that I have never shown before. I am also bringing a few copies of my book “Another Excess” with me for anyone interested.

Emily: I will have postcards available of my work to buy as well as first opportunity to buy the prints once the exhibition has finished. Also you will be treated to my divine djing skills!

Come down for the launch on 07.02.19 from 7pm xxx

            12138568_10153054455481954_6898427387920960713_o             spyr 2            Gender Trouble #13

Liam Rush

London-born, Bristol based artist Liam Rush brings his first ever one-man show to Dalston Superstore. With only a few weeks left to see his work, we quizzed Liam on his inspirations and working process to find out more…
You’re based in Bristol… in what way does your current environment inspire you?
I wouldn’t say that my immediate surroundings particularly inspire me, I would say that it is the collective environments that I immerse myself in, the appeal of those places and what visual stimulants I’ll find within them. For example I will always find myself naturally drawn to abandoned areas, with their neglected buildings complete with the traces of abandonment impregnated within their surfaces, as opposed to the clean, steel brushed minimalist ‘Ikea like’ zones of the modern day environments that we are becoming more accustomed to. 
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on trying to make money…! Ha, I suppose I’m trying to balance my time between working as a carpenter and designer which pays and then trying to pursue my more expressionist work which I find more therapeutic and balanced. I guess in the long run I’m just trying to figure out what I’m doing creatively and why.
What attracts you to 3-D sculpture as your medium?
3-D work allows me to portait my ideas in the quickest and most thorough way possible. I find myself struggling to express my ideas in words so I suppose it’s my way of communicating to people clearly about what ideas I’m having at the time. And I believe that tangible, 3-dimensional surfaces are more stimulating for the eye and I guess I like to try and encourage people to enjoy pieces as much as I can, I try and express what I find interesting in art across to the viewer in my own work.
How long does each piece take to create?
I’m never quite sure how long they take to make. Because the pieces are composed of so many smaller elements I tend to make a large batch of paintings which I then cut and chop up into the smaller pieces, I then spend a while messing about with the sections before I decide to stick them down. It’s a pretty organic way of working and I don’t ever have a finished piece in my head when I start.
What three tracks might soundtrack No Love Lost?
The three tracks that might suit No Love Lost would have to be…
The Nicolas Jaar BBC Radio 1 mix from 2012 as it’s an incredible two hour musical journey which helped me get into that zone which is the most important place to get into when you’re a creative individual.
Truly by Floating Points would have to be up there also. All these tracks I have had as the soundtracks to the making of No Love Lost; they are by no means what signify the work… they just helped keep me sane.
Do Make Say Think with their stunning Chinatown helped to incite moments of calm.

Liam Rush’s show No Love Lost is currently on at Dalston Superstore.

No Love Lost





Crumbling walls, decomposing surfaces, erosion and fluid colour combinations are just some of the elements Liam Rush draws inspiration from to produce this ever-changing, on-going body of work. Derived from plywood, spray and emulsion these individual timber tessellating squares and rectangles will be constructed to fit the post-industrial walls of Dalston Superstore.

Every exhibition Rush produces is a unique experience, tailored explicitly to the host environment, which won’t be replicated in any other venue. Due to the nature of this work, each time an exhibition is constructed a whole new composition is formed to fit the given space. Each segment exists individually but can be used in combination to create larger

works. Using spray emulsion and plywood Rush creates 3D sculptures that evoke the feeling of eroded man made materials.
He will be engineering the colour and shape of each piece to achieve full visual impact and potential within Dalston Superstore.

Born and raised in South London, Rush then relocated to do a foundation course by the sea in Brighton. In 2007 Rush moved to Bristol to enrol on a degree in Drawing and Applied arts. For the meantime Bristol is home where he is currently pursuing his career as a freelance artist, designer and carpenter.

Rush describes his work as, “paintings that focus on the aesthetics of abandoned architectural and constructed situations. I aim to resemble the surfaces of decrepit advertisement boards, peeled and blistered paint and the visual qualities that result from years of neglect and abandonment.” 

The paradox of using artificial weathering to create a pseudo-natural artefact, which is in turn placed in a constructed, unnatural environment, is not to be missed.

For more information:

Come along the private view of No Love Lost tonight Wednesday 27th February from 7pm – 1am.


Alùn Davies

Art director Alùn Davies brings his unique, other-worldly vision to Dalston Superstore in our latest art exhibition DALSTON SÙPERNOVÆ. Having previously contributed to Another, British, Russian, U.S and Italian VogueGQ, and worked with musicians La Roux, Lady Gaga and Peaches; it’s fair to say his work is highly sought after. Davies’ multimedia style, hyper-colour set designs, outré vision and hands-on craftsmanship approach to art direction transforms Superstore into a new world of colourful, futuristic landscapes expressed in a multi-media environment of mural paintings, luminous neon sculpture, 3D props, film, photography and sculpted portraits.

With DALSTON SÙPERNOVÆ set to go throughout August, we caught up with Alùn to ask about his current work, exciting projects and inspirations…

Can you talk us through the various inspirations behind your new exhibition Dalston Supernovae?

When Saskia Wickins (the DSS curator) asked me if I would do a show I initially thought of all the projects I do for fashion and music photo shoots and video’s and I wanted to bring those fantasy worlds to DSS, once on a shoot that Saskia worked on with stylist Kim Howells I made an apocalyptic pink sand beach and under the warm photographic lights the models were transported to another world I wanted to bring this otherworldly aspect to DSS. A lot of my work is made from Object Trouvé and sustainable, so bringing lots of different elements together to make something new. It’s a futuristic vision which Most probably comes from watching too much science fiction as a child, I’ve always loved these queer other landscapes you see in films and then fashion and music embrace the fantasy elements too .

Alun Davies headpiece

Why do you think it works so well with the Superstore environment?

I think people go to clubs for new experiences, a break away from the norm of reality, I wanted to create an installation that was all encompassing for the space a total 3D world, not just a hanging picture. I wanted people to get a feeling when they were in the space, which helped on the private view by also having live artists performing characters by wearing costumes I had made that also feature in the photographs displayed.

You work in multi-media, but what is your preferred material or style to work with?

Well the reason I work in multi-media is that I can be inspired by so many things, I love colour in all varieties and use it in many ways. However directing is my favourite style of working, that way you can have a team of skilled individuals that all help to create the vision that I can see.

There’s obviously a strong relationship between fashion and music, but how do you personally link the two in your work?

Well I’m passionate about both, and for me music and pop culture, watching MTV in the ’90s is what made me start to look at fashion and costumes. All of the musicians I work with have a strong visual drive and so require clothes that can help them transform; high fashion allows them to do this. In the same way that music helps to set the mood for a fashion photo shoot it can really change the energies when you have the right balance it can be incredible.

Who are you favourite designers to work with?

Piers Atkinson (milliner) has a brilliant vision and our styles work so well together he’s an illustrator and also trained in props before becoming a designer so he has a brilliant understanding of the fantasy that can be created with sets and art direction.

Piers Atkinson's work

Aqua by Aqua are also very driven to create a visually strong world their look books will have a theme and recently we created a David Lynch atmospheric set, I’ve also done window displays for them which again embraces sets and props and generally has a very entertaining theme or narrative.

You’ve also worked with Vogue Fabrics in the past- what’s so special about that venue for you?

Vogue, in the same way as Superstore, embraces art and creativity Vogue feels intimate and experiential. It is not only a club but also studio and home to Lyall Hakaraia and so it feels very much like being part of an extended queer family. It is another part of Dalston’s queer elite with out the elitism! 

Can you tell us a bit about the work you did with them at Glastonbury Festival?

Lyall Hakaraia asked if I would co-design a Vogue Fabrics venue at Glastonbury with set designer Anna Bruder, we were to be part of the huge NYC Downlow made by the fabulous set design team Block9. It was a hidden venue and so you either found your way in because you knew someone or stumbled there by mistake. The theme was Benidorm vs Bedlam and so we split the space up one side designed by myself was a hot pink neon suntan explosion of colour the other by Anna was cold stark white tampon wall covered land of darkness. Each side had intimate performance spaces and we were the first venue to ever have sex performers Danni Daniels friend and performer was dominating in his space and Ashley Ryder (power bottom) was entertaining in his. We were the freak show of Glastonbury…. It was amazing!

You’ve worked with musicians such as Peaches and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs- who’s been the most inspirational to work with?

Well T.E.E.D. is a new collaborator but extremely experimental for a boy which is great, he embraces head pieces very well so I’m a huge fan of Orlando. Peaches however, I’ve worked on a whole stage opera as production designer and so I’ve had a lot more contact and she took me over to Berlin to design the show I was there for two months and in that time we put on a stage show that was out of this world. It got repeated again last May and there will be documentation in a film format soon. Peaches is another musician that embraces fashion, costume props to transform her and I love a transformation! 

You’re from Neath, Port Talbot- do your Welsh roots have any influence on your work?

The landscapes in Wales are incredible and that is something of a recurring theme in my work, also the Welsh love pop culture and clubs were a big part of growing up as a teenager, I met friends, lovers, muses all in these places as a teenager and a lot of them are part of my life still. 

Are there any Welsh artists or musicians you like to work with?

Perhaps if you cross bred Shirley Basey with Bonnie Tyler (from the 80’s) we would get some some laser beamed crystal encrusted operatic robot (somewhat Grace Jones esque) that would be fabulous!

What’s the craziest project you’ve worked on recently?

At Lovebox we build a VIPenis area as part of the Downlow and Vogue Fabrics, that was a black caravan with black glitter curtains all over and a giant penis riding on top. The inside was gutted out and redecorated with illustrated Penis wallpaper by Victoria Sin. That was pretty crazy!

And finally what other projects do you have coming up over the next few months?

August is the lull before the storm of fashion week so lots of planning and preparation for September. We will shoot Piers Atkinson’s look book end of August and there are more shoots with photographer Thomas Cooksey.

For more information on Alùn Davies visit

Dalston Supernovae








 Alun Davies, art director, known for his other-worldly, off-kilter colour environments showcased in British and Italian Vogue, opens his debut art installation at uber-venue Dalston Superstore.

 Davies’ spectacular transformative installation, curated by Saskia Wickins, opens this July at Dalston Superstore – where the upper bar and gallery space become a new world of colourful, futuristic landscapes expressed in a multi-media environment of mural paintings, luminous neon sculpture, 3D props, film, photography and sculpted portraits. Davies brings together the elements of his meteoric, multi-faceted career to create a gallery of characters who ‘act out’ the age-old narratives of relationships: love, death, battle and betrayal.

 These characters’ costumes form a new collection of work, which is seen for the first time in a gallery context. Davies has drawn inspiration from his own stellar back catalogue of previous work worn by T.E.E.D, Lady Gaga’s Monsterball dance troop and his high-end editorial/advertising commissions. The exhibition fuses together and includes the fantasy elements previously created in the cosmology of Alun Davies Art Direction, as seen in fashion and pop iconography through the mediums of film, photography, installation and operatic stage shows.

 Davies combines the debris of Dalston’s elite with crystal, glitter, Swarovski, mirror and glass in an alchemical process, creating objects that attain the new energies and properties of desirability. His Muses of Metamorphosis are found in the depths (and sometimes alleyways) of Dalston, Berlin and New York: androgynous, futuristic, self-formed characters from another dimension. Friends, lovers and muses contribute their alien DNA, including performer and porn icon Danni Daniels, recording artist Peaches, designer and Vogue Fabrics club owner Lyall Hakaraia, milliner and collaborator Piers Atkinson, stylist Kim Howells, fashion photographer Thomas Cooksey, illustrator Rebecca Rice, curator Eleanor Weber, writer Michael Nottingham, poet Sitron Panopoulos and live artist Owen Parry.

 At Dalston Supernovae expect to see armored battles, paintings, a photography story by Thomas Cooksey and Stylist Kim Howells, a live events schedule and readings.


 Alun Davies contributes to editorials in Another, British, Russian, U.S and Italian Vogue, V Man, Fantastic Man, GQ, Metal, I.D and

 Credits include stage opera with musician Peaches / British Feature film ‘Wreckers’ / advertising and commercial installations and costume props for Adidas, A.S.O.S, Charlie Le Mindu, Diesel, House of Organza, Lady Gaga, Net a Porter, Piers Atkinson, Universal Music and Waddler clothing. Look books for Lu Flux, Piers Atkinson, Sophie Hulme & Toujouri.

 Music Video’s and press imagery for La Roux, Paper crows, T.E.E.D and The Good Natured.

Club installation at Glastonbury for Vogue Fabrics, Site Specific installations for Charlie Le Mindu at Machine A, Store designs for Piers Atkinson. Fashion films for SHOWstudio, Glassmagazine and Vogue Italia online.

 Davies’ multimedia style, hyper-colour set designs, outré vision and hands-on craftsmanship approach to art direction has been well received by the fashion, music and moving image industries. Using a mixture of ephemera, objet trouvé and sculpture, Davies’ productions are often sustainable and ethically produced.

Throughout this unique exhibition new energies will be found each day and night by the transformation of the habitual Dalston Superstore.

 Dalston Superstore: art@dalston


States by Jacob Love


20.04.2012 – 3.06.2012 


Through images of stunning natural America and a group of unique mysterious characters, Dalston Superstore presents States a new body of work by artist Jacob Love.

In Spring 2011, Love embarked on a road trip across America that culminated at a stay in a rural queer community. As he interacted with the living realities of both the community and the landscape around it, an alternative view of the American dream began to form. Here Love presents images where the realities of resistance and change fuse with fantasy and a ’new world’ becomes fully realized.

Love presents a series of landscapes and portraits that through colour, positioning and framing, subvert traditional notions of America in beautiful yet occasionally shocking ways.

The landscapes are presented framed upside down. By inverting these images and removing all human traces from them, Love turns back time, creating magical Utopian worlds that the viewer steps into blinking, blinded by the sun that confronts them. But are these worlds really from the past or perhaps a vision of America’s post capitalist future?

These disorienting and magnetic landscapes are accompanied by a 10 metre panorama that- presented the correct way up – introduces a new visual language to the work on display, one of traditional pastorialism. It is only on closer inspection that the lone figure in the landscape presents himself to you. As you engage with him further you begin to see that he is dressed as a gogo boy, engrossed in his own self-pleasure. Both his virile (and possibly feral) activity and the shocking pink of his leggings jar uncomfortably with his lush and somehow innocent surroundings. As with the inversion of the landscapes, our lone masturbator works to subvert our understanding of the American landscape and how we interact with the world of nature that surrounds us.

At the far end of the bar, illuminated on light boxes are the possible inhabitants of this new world; a collection of people emerging from darkness, perhaps stepping into the sunlight of the inverted landscapes. As with the figure in the large image on the main wall, these personalities embody an alternative, queer idealism at odds with the conservative country they now call home, yet they are embracing the foundations on which America was built and also offering the best blueprint for it’s future.

States will be exhibited at Dalston Superstore from Friday the 20th of April till the 3rd of June 2012. private view is Thursday 19th April 2012 from 7pm

For more information visit:      

Creative Pane




Next week sees a new exhibition takeover the walls of Superstore. Beginning on Thursday 8th March and running all the way through to Sunday 15th April, Creative Pane is the debut curation by Saskia Wickins. Featuring fantastic local artists such as Alex Noble, Anna Bruder, Moses Power and Jonas Ranson, who, amongst others were given a recycled window pane as a starting point.

Saskia tells us, “Using the concept of a view through an open window, this exhibition invites the audience to explore and peer into the unique undisclosed landscape of a studio space. Giving an exceptional insight into the environment of creative process and practice, and the exhibiting artists visual manifestation of this concept.

These windows come in all different shapes and sizes, emphasizing the concept of individual space and vision. With the initial starting point of the window frame, each of the artists have been asked to produce the personal character and style of their studio space. Giving outsiders a chance to witness studio life where anything and everything can serve as inspiration. These representations will be as surreal, abstract, conceptual or documentary as desired by the artist.”

With 16 different artists, designers, stylist, photographers, set designers and illustrators on show, each individual window frames will take their spot to transform the walls of Dalston Superstore and provide an exclusive insight into their creative space and mind.

For more information:  

Jamie McLeod

We are pleased to announce that our latest exhibition, Ottoman Fight Club by the wonderful Jamie McLeod, has been so popular that we’ve decided to extend it until the 4th of March. We caught up with Jamie to get his perspective on the show…

What was the concept behind Ottoman Fight Club?

The concept was to fill Superstore with my Turkish Oil Wrestler photos that Alex Noble always adored. He asked for them personally for my first show there called “Jack Off Johnny” and I refused as I wanted to show new work. But second time around I was asked again and I succumbed because Alex has a good eye for what is on the pulse and not many people get asked back twice. The Superstore people were so good to work with I thought give it to them and not be precious.

So that answer is more about why I was invited and to answer the concept question well, Dalston, as we all know, is a Turkish area and Superstore has a mixed sexuality crowd that would appreciate the pics. I had to think hard how can I fill this space with my images to make the most epic and bombastic assault and I found a way by having them screen-printed on fabric to really fill this space and make the images as powerful as possible. These pictures are old for me and I have so many that it was a difficult task to edit these as I have hundreds but really the concept was about how to present these ethnographic/erotic type portraits in a new way so people could enjoy them. And what I really like is to see peoples reactions. I have seen lesbians, homo’s, trans and straight men and woman like them and that really makes me happy. Also I have delivered postcards to some local Turkish businesses in the area that I like and they have really been happy that we are making this show and celebrating a side of their culture. Just that was worth it in itself.

How long have you been preparing for this exhibition?

I have been preparing all my life for this show!! No, really, I have. Ok, the nuts and bolts of the show go back about six months, but that doesn’t include scanning and printing the negatives to prepare. The six months I spent was working with trial and error of composition and printing on the fabric and getting the half tones right for the finished product. It wasn’t six months of continual work but it was six months of preparation off and on. The best thing is, what I first dreamed of making was what I ended up producing, and in the beginning of trying things out they didn’t go smoothly and I thought Oh no I’ll fail with my vision, but I didn’t.

How does this exhibition compare with your other work?

This show is integral and runs parallel to my other work, however it is more classical than how I work right now. This is essentially classical black and white portraiture where as my current work now is more maybe fine art and a hybrid of photography and graphics and design. This exhibition is really about Turkish male masculinity and a study of ethnography and if people find it erotic that is a bonus but that wasn’t the main reason I went to Turkey.

I’m very interested in hyper masculinity and femininity and I have also done a body of work on portraits of Mexican wrestlers and Turkish transvestites and of course performers and musicians and pop stars. I love to blur the boundaries between the “stars and the non-famous” because we live in a culture that is obsessed with fame at any price with people who have very little talent. And there are all these incredible people out there doing amazing things who in my mind are the real “stars” who never get paid much attention so when I find them I represent them the same iconic way I do with the “stars”. I don’t see the difference but I know our society does.

Do you have any follow up work to this exhibition?

Yes I am always working on new work but if i don’t have dead lines I tend to get lazy. Right now I have been making portraits of performance artists and “Dandys” or the what I call the “Extravagance”. That’s people who dress a lot better than me. People who have a refined aesthetic and a hyper-theatrical appearance, who are not just dressing up for a night out but who live what they wear and are super freaks or attention seekers or peacocks. I love these people because let’s face it, our world has become so generic and unoriginal that it depresses me and it needs people like this, even though they get beaten up for looking so different.

What is your favourite piece from the show?

I love the 12 meter composition on canvas because this was made specifically for Superstore’s space. My friend Ricardo Matos helped me print this and to get it correct, with some hiccups. I have heard that Elton John wants the canvas to cut up as curtains and to use as upholstery for a sofa and hopefully Lady Gaga will be buying the same piece to make a toga for the Oscars as she has never done Turkish Oil Wrestlers yet.

What has it been like exhibiting a completely different exhibition in Dalston Superstore?

It has been a real challenge and sometimes I thought I would fail, but because I am professional when I say yes to a show like this I would never allow myself to fail. And to be asked back twice to my favourite bar/club/restaurant in the east end and to work with people that believed in my work like Alex, Saskia, Dan and Matt has been refreshing. It makes me so happy that people want my work and can help me direct it and produce it because, as I told you, if I didn’t have people ask for my work I would lie on my bed all day and become the worst type of friend and probably never leave the house and be 30 stone.      

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

Yes just to keep working and achieving my next goals which hopefully will be a book on the wrestlers and a show called Punks, Pimps, Cunts and Drags and after this show something called “Dead Behind the Eyes” based on performers that are not alive anymore.

Jamie McLeod’s current show Ottoman Fight Club runs until Sunday 4th March.

Ottoman Fight Club


Private View 12th January 2012

Exhibition runs 13th – 26th January 2012

Following his hugely successful show, Jack Off Johnny, the photo-artist JAMIE MCLEOD returns to the Dalston Superstore, a new exhibitions of his black and white portraits of Turkish Wrestlers, “Ottoman Fight Club”.

Screen-printed in a panoramic style on a 10-metre ream of canvas, giving the appearance of a Pasolini movie. Along side this canvas are other powerful photographic images that could standalone.

Bodies and faces become bruised and bloodied and smashed and the smell of oil, sweat and leather mixed with mud, blood and adrenalin is not something I will forget quickly. It’s a heady mix of emotions going on, you will have some boys crying in pain from an injury or despondent at losing and others in ecstasy and raptures of joy at winning or just having a laugh with their mates. I have never been anywhere with this much extreme drama coupled with brute force and tenderness. It is one photo opportunity after another and I got to take my photos backstage in the passageway before and after the wrestlers go into the arena so I got an angle that the other didn’t. I was interested in portraits and capturing the character and not documenting the actual sport.” comments Mcleod.

 These images are not mere homoerotic fantasy pictures in the vein of Bruce Weber but an in-depth study of Turkish ethnicity and male sexuality through the body. “I’m interested in the sensuality of the male physique and the mystery of the face, and the hidden surprise behind the eyes” Mcleod says. “I’m also fascinated by civilization and heritage. In Turkey you will find the classic Arabic-type face, Ottoman, Asiatic, Kurdish, Gypsy, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Georgian-type faces – all of which encompass the country’s rich and diverse cultural and heritage. Turkey is the stepping-stone between Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East so there is a strong mix of all these people.”

It is not possible to discern what era these photographs were taken, as there is no reference to the modern day world, the photographs look and feel as if they could have been taken anytime over the last 100 years. Mcleod is also enchanted by how brutal and beautiful they are –with their cast of non-classical semi-nudes captured like the warriors and heroes that Mcleod believes them to be.

Anybody familiar with the photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden’s 1930s photos of Sicilian youth will find a direct link to the savage male beauty that is Mcleod’s subject.

Mcleod’s images were taken over an eight-year period at the annual Kirkpinar tournament, held in Edirne, Turkey. This is in what was the ancient area of Thrace where Ottoman soldiers prepared for warfare and instilling fear into the hearts of neighboring Greece and Bulgaria even before the era of Alexander the Great.

In Ottoman times, the sport was taught in athletic schools for warfare but also in spiritual centers. This is what differentiates it from just a sport, as there is a deeply romantic mythological and ceremonial side to the sport. It is also the oldest continuously running sporting competition in the world held in Edirne since 1362.

It not clear where the tournament originates – some saying from Greece with the Turks but more likely it is predated and from Persia from 1065 BC. The oil was added to make it more difficult for the opponent to grip but also mixed with a herb which also prevents mosquito bites. Wrestlers oil one another prior to matches as a demonstration of balance and mutual respect. If a man defeats an older opponent, he kisses the latter’s hand, a sign of respect for elders in Turkey.

The way Turkish men and boys interact with each other, massaging and caressing and laying together resting after the games and before fights. Male tenderness between each other is common in the Middle East and, quite often, it is only an expression of brotherly love – but it is something men in the west are scared to express without being labelled homosexual, Mcleod believes.

“When Westerners see my photos they normally ask me if this is a gay festival and I laugh and say, sadly, no. It’s amazing to think just because men can express open affection towards each other through the way we would normally express it in heterosexuality, we conclude they are homosexual of which most of them are not. However the issue of sexuality in Turkey and the Middle East remains complicated.”

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