Shuby's artwork is a genuine love letter to a bygone Soho' Simon Sheridan
20th Jan - 18th Feb 2017
Inspired by movie posters, small ads and tart cards ‘This Is the Spot!’ explores the beginnings of the UK adult film industry. From the early 1960s nudist films like Take Your Clothes Off And Live! to sex comedies like Can You Keep It Up For A Week?, the show focuses on a unique era in UK cinema.
Worldwide film memorabilia has featured widely throughout Shuby’s collages and street art over the past decade. The artist felt it was a natural step for her turn her attention onto Soho cinema clubs and the films they showed in this all-new body of work. She said:
“I love retro film imagery and Soho, so it was a pleasure and an opportunity to research the history of cinema clubs and the films relating to the area. Having grown up by the seaside loving naughty post cards in the ‘Carry On’ era, sex comedy posters appeal to my sense of humor and cheeky side.”
‘This Is The Spot!’ features 18 large silkscreen one-off canvases in a traditional pop art style. The artist has taken newspaper small ads and blown them up to over a meter wide, enjoying the simplicity and rough nature of the printed matter. Incorporating motifs, such as her signature-masked bunny, bananas and googly-eyed bowler hats, Shuby has added her own twist to the imagery. She explains:
“The masked rabbit represents a cheeky playful crusader that could be male or female. My banana motif has always been an ‘up yours’ to convention and the establishment. The bowler hats are a symbol of the city gents of London that flooded into the area to watch films like ‘Come Play With Me’ - the longest running movie in British cinema history starring porn pioneer Mary Millington.”
The Soho area has been at the heart of London's sex industry for over 200 years. Before the introduction of the Street Offences Act in 1959, prostitutes packed the streets and alleys of Soho and by the early sixties the area was home to nearly a hundred strip clubs. Almost every doorway in Soho was adorned with ‘tart cards’ and neon signage, which made the area distinctive.
In this new body of work, Shuby has recreated a calling card she remembers taking from a phone box full of brightly coloured prostitute cards in the 80s. The card advertised ‘The Best Nipples In London’ and has been reimagined on a much larger scale. The artist also honours the less documented male calling card with ‘Fit Fast and Fun’, a colourful silkscreen canvas featuring a strapping young man in three unique colour ways.
In addition to the works on canvas, Shuby has created two editions of five large wall mirrors featuring silkscreen images. One set resembles comical X-Ray Spex, the other are the iconic frames of the inimitable anti porn campaigner Mary Whitehouse, disapprovingly framing scantily dressed ladies.
“While X-ray glasses ads were often found in the back of comics sparking the imagination of a generation of youngsters, Mary Whitehouse was the prudish campaigner who disapproved of female nudity in the media. The mirrored glasses add an extra layer to the theme of voyeurism and who’s watching who.”
Writer, broadcaster and film maker, Simon Sheridan, author of Keeping the British End Up and Director of Respectable: The Mary Millington Story, says of Shuby’s work: “Colourful, cheeky and affectionate, ‘This Is The Spot!’ really resonates today because so much of the West End's original character has been lost in recent years. It's an absolutely beautiful collection of work."
Today Soho continues to feature numerous licencedsex shops, however the area is undergoing considerable development and many establishments are now being converted into residential apartments, restaurants and coffee shops.
With Lawrence Alkin Gallery situated in the heart of ever-changing Soho, the gallery welcomed an opportunity to celebrate the area and its diverse history. Gallery Director, Sam Rhodes commented:“It’s great to host such a location specific show here in Soho. Many locals reminisce about bygone days and there’s a general feeling the fabric of Soho is being lost to developers. Over-gentrification is a real issue and we’re sure many will enjoy the nostalgia This Is The Spot! evokes.”
This Is The Spot! runs from Friday 20 January to Saturday 11 February at Lawrence Alkin Gallery, 42 New Compton Street London WC2H 8DA www.lawrencealkingallery.com @lagalleryart
View More of Shuby's prints here
Covid Creation Capsule
The Covid Creation Capsule is a charitable arts project supporting those suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, both in terms of their health and wellbeing, and economically, including those who are homeless, experiencing domestic abuse, and mental health conditions, as well as the healthcare professionals caring for them.