Essay by Neal Brown
Paste Table Gallery
@ Biblioteka Peckham
Unit 6 Bellenden Road Business Centre SE15 4RF
THE PASTE TABLE GALLERY, 2022 By
The Paste Table Gallery’ is curated by Nick Cash. Nick and I were in the same year at Holland Park Comprehensive School in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Fifty years after the conclusion of our school education (truanting and dope smoking in Kensington Market, Holland Park, Biba, and the Commonwealth Institute), Nick and I both remain alive, unlike many of our unfortunate and dear friends, who died at a very young age from their addictions. Since leaving school, Nick has played music in famous bands, has established his gallery project and, most importantly, perhaps – this is not a joke –
digs his allotment.
The gallery is an itinerant exhibition space, based on a
modest couple of square meters of table top. Many of Nick’s artists are enduring constants, appearing in multiple exhibitions. (Because of Nick’s status in the music world, his project can be said, using a common comparator, to be analogous to that of a band.) Holland Park alumni who exhibit at the Paste Table gallery include Nick, Matthew Freeth, Ruth Novaczek, Kate Hardy, and Tony Gohagen (ten years later than the rest). non- Holland Park school contributors to the gallery’s projects, including Zoe Ligon, Gaye Black, Ashley Reaks, Alison
Aye, Matt Hale, Giles Leaman, Ken Turner, Kike Congrains, David Gorriz, and Stephen Willats, up to a total of about fifty rare and interesting souls. All share commitment to the specialism of collage, in its pre-digital forms, and most appear to be in some kind of alignment to the background values that constitute a Paste Table Gallery ethos, whether they are from Holland Park school or not.
Social groupings have their own identities, functions, and
well understood, socially agreed meanings. In the same way that an education at Eton has known meanings (that one can enjoy political domination of a country) so do the creative persons from late 1960’s Holland Park Comprehensive School and their associates have a meaning. Holland Park School’s catchment area contained all the privileges and injustices of Notting Hill – a collage community. In Nick’s and my time, all social classes, many colours and ethnicities, nearly fifty nationalities, and male and females equally (in terms of numbers) were represented at the school – a moment of actually realised, social equivalence-idealism, which has never been repeated. Thus occurred a unique, profound, experientially learned, raised social-consciousness among the pupils.
Culturally, this experiential learning was situated in a time
of design excitement, drugs, music, sexual delimiting, and the other things we already know, somewhat to excess, about the 60’s. A context list of the design interests of the time, relevant
to the Holland Park generation of collagist makers, might include Oz magazine and the underground press (Martin Sharp); drug idealism (psychedelia); the Pop Art movement; second hand patched fashion culture; Aubrey Beardsley (flat plane, non-western influence), retro-cluttered Victoriana; Leighton House Pre-Raphaelite painting; Richard Hamilton (Matthew Freeth’s mother Jenni was photographed across a Cadillac bonnet for the cover of Richard Hamilton’s Self-Portrait Living Arts no. 2, 1963); album and poster design – Holland Park pupil Mariora Goschen was on the cover (a cover using a collage principle) of Blind Faith’s eponymous album, and the Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s album cover by Peter Blake was a collage epitome; proto punk (Stooges, Velvet underground); modernist poetry and literature; Beat poetry and literature (William Burroughs etc). Of course, since then there has been a continuance of relevant practices and practitioners – punk, YBA etc – of which there are too many to list here, all of which
contribute power to the Paste Table Gallery artists.
Less obviously, and involving a great deal of interpretive complexity and sensitivity, a further list of relevancies might include: disrupted cognitive visual processes (drugs), feminist theory, euphoria and hedonism, satire, pacifism, collective anarchism, autism (mostly male), addict psychology, race, gender, class, obsessive compulsive disorder, insomnia, monomania, postmodern deconstruction theory, appropriation art, environmentalism (recycling), community and belongingness, therapy, and fun.
Making collage is often pleasurable – an intensely concentrated, mood altering, humorous, rebellious, contemplative satisfaction (depending on practitioner). But instead of being simply happy and satisfied, let’s end on a weird, ambiguously complicated note. Collage has a strong tendency to the nostalgic (the etymological origins of the word nostalgia are the Greek word roots that mean ‘homecoming’ and ‘pain’). Nostalgia – ruination and pathos – is a form of remembrance control, which can weaponise collage practice to literally cut up, and destroy, the visual manifestations of a fearful, unjust, cruel, over controlling world, to reorder it at quiet leisure to the satisfaction of the collagist. In this way, nostalgia’s moods of regret and loss are used against the evil doers.
The many important friends that Nick and I lost, and who
were lost to their families, caused us pain. As were the pains of our parents, school teachers, other significant adults, and our communities, passed to us. Making collage creates a connectedness of homecoming and being, and lessens pain.
© Neal Brown 2022
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