Exploring print media through branding, notably via Phillip Morris’ classic Red Marlboro flip-top box, is a fantastic concept especially as once pervasive cigarette advertising now struggles to brand its own product. The current show at PayneShurvell owes its curious name to an anonymous note slipped through curator Andrew Curtis’ mail slot leading him to contemplate the relevance of “print” in the age of digital media.
Twenty artists offer original perspectives on the theme with half of the works created specifically for this exhibit. Dominated by cigarette imagery the show’s introspective pieces extend beyond the realm of marketing into the personal notion of self.
Dick Jewell’s 300 American Tobacconists M-Z offers exactly what you’d expect; 300 Polaroid and black and white photos of industry leaders encased in a multi-cigarette border. Found images of what once was “packaged” in a witty frame.
The distinctively colourful bottles of Jack Newling’s Management and Late Night Shoppers impressed me by melding the generic with the notion of successful totems (think Apple, VW bug and their ilk) whilst raising the spectre of Orwellian monitoring.
Two personal favourites were Bruce McLean’s Their Grassy Places and Leon Chew’s The Crystal Land. Their Grassy Places inspired thoughts on the contemporary fad for personal branding and the eternal existence of vain follies. The work showcases a Daily Mirror picture for which McLean purchased the rights and re-visits in several guises using levity to reflect the temporary nature and lack of grounding in egoism. Chew’s The Crystal Land juxtaposes manmade versus nature in a series of close up images of J.G. Ballard’s car which spoke of desire and permanence in mirrored contrasts.
The sum of the exhibit left me feeling that the brand individuality once so imbued with physical “identity” has become increasingly ephemeral and internal in the digital media era… or has it? PayneShurvell serves up a contemporary exhibition with an enduring nature that offers great scope for contemplation and discussion.
Until 17 December 2011
16 Hewett Street
London, UK, EC2A 3NN