First Thursdays has been a staple in east London nightlife for a few years now. Every first Thursday of the month galleries in east London showcase their new exhibitions to the public, offering free beers and/or cheap wine to visitors. In my experience it has always been more about the free booze and the beautiful people, rather than being enthused by the art, and it became a regular fixture on my calendar in my late teens. Having not been for a couple of years, on Thursday I headed towards Redchurch street, with BogeArt readers in mind and Maddy at my side, to find out if first Thursdays could be more than just a pretentious way to pre-drink.
At first we headed to a little gallery on Redchurch Street which got our attention purely due to the promise of alcohol, it’s proximity to the overground and a break from the -12 degree night. As is often the case with spontaneous decisions on a Thursday night in Shoreditch, the gallery was extremely underwhelming. The visitors were sparse, as were the film posters on show, and it was hard to find the will to chat to the gallery owners/curators/assistants about anything, apart from the cold weather, when I was barely one drink in. I do not even remember/care what the name of the place was, nor do we have any photos as our camera man (a mate who offered to take pics for us after brandishing my photography skills as rubbish) had yet to arrive at this point.
So on we went to the Londonnewcastle project space which had a large queue outside; it seemed this was February’s blockbuster show. Inside it was packed and rather hot, but the hallway of deer skulls made from wax and sticks were enticing as was the broken bark we were treading over on the floor (how alternative). I managed to push through the crowds to get one of the limited beers on offer, and was ready to continue my cynical approach. Unfortunately for me, it was not long before I was actually rather impressed.
The exhibition on show was Animal by ‘spanishurban’ artist Gonzalo Borondo. It is curated to achieve a wow factor- with things projected onto the walls, hanging from the ceiling, scattered on the floor and a couple little claustrophobic cupboards to immerse us with the artist’s vision. The aim of the show is to ‘explore the conflict between our innate animal instincts and our present lives, which are coated with the dependence of technology and our fear for the unknown’, which on certain levels, I suppose, it achieves. The thing that impressed me most was the artist’s mark making: he painted on perplex glass, he created an animation using paintings and, particularly impressively, drew through etching in to paint on perplex. Interestingly, or ironically, mark making is one of the things that sets us apart from animals, a complete paradox to our ‘animal instincts’, as it is one of the defining features of human civilization. Before we left this exhibition our camera man had shown up so we have plenty of photos and even a video of Animal (see below).
The alcohol ran out, we had been there for over an hour and the edginess of it all was no longer a novelty so we decided to try our luck at Richix. Richmix is a cinema with a couple of exhibition spaces and is a regular fixture on the First Thursday scene. By the time we arrived there was no more free alcohol, and very few people (except those waiting to see Birdman). We bought some popcorn for a bit of fuel before examining the exhibit.
The exhibit was almost as underwhelming as our first stop, but perhaps if there had been a more buzzing atmosphere and free beer I would have given it more of a chance. Democracia real ya! was an exhibition showing Mexican street art, with the usual anti-authoritarian theme that one expects from street art. Undoubtedly in Mexico, with all its corruption and crime, there is perhaps more prevalence and gravity to this kind of art compared to the likes of Banksy. Although unfortunately, to my eyes at least, the format of this work has become so familiar that it is hard not to glaze over it as gimmicky urban illustrations. It’s even harder at 10pm when the lure of the pub was hanging over the group.
So, off we went to The Owl and the Pussycat. At the pub people kept telling me how nice it was to ‘do something new’ with their evening and I definitely had a good time; I suppose enjoying 1 out of 3 galleries isn’t bad. We also asked two First Thursday virgins what they had to say, hoping that they would be devoid of my cynicism:
Shona, 20, student: What did you think about the exhibition? ‘I really like how it was curated. The hay bales, turf, flowers and bark gave the exhibition a real festival vibe, and don’t we associate festivals with ritualistic and often animal behavior? I think everything was displayed very creatively and touched on some interesting issues.’
How has you First Thursday experience been? ‘Its been cool, met some cool people and saw some cool things. It’s nice to be able to discuss the work with others. At museums the norm is to view things quietly. Tonight everyone has been very vocal- not sure how much of it is about the art though!’
Frank, 21, Sudent What has your first impression of First Thursday been? ‘Its fucking dope. I like the free booze’ Anything else? ‘Not really’
Photography courtesy of Aaron Jones
Isabella Bornholt; BogeArt