'Imagination will take you everywhere'
The Alan Cristea Gallery is a compact, contemporary space down an unassuming street, just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street. The road is called Cork Street, however it should be renamed ‘Art Street’, due to the plethora of tiny little art galleries situated along the road – it’s as if all of London’s hippest little galleries have been condensed into one place. But the Alan Cristea Gallery is the one to visit; with its commitment to displaying a diverse spectrum of artwork from legendary masters (Michael Craig-Martin has a forthcoming exhibition there), as well as championing emerging artistic talent within a range of creative disciplines, such as painting, sculpture, print and photography.
The latest jewel to behold within the gallery’s walls is the marvellous work of Richard Hamilton, entitled Word and Image, it focuses on his love of printmaking with prints from 1963 – 2007. So instead of paying around £14.00 for entry to the Richard Hamilton retrospective at the Tate Modern, why not enjoy the serenity and intimacy of this gallery – which is completely free (and allows you to take photographs). There is less artwork on show compared to at the Tate, however I think this allows you to really study each individual one and also displays a distinct connection between the small (but perfectly formed) collection.
Alan Cristea knew Richard Hamilton well – he worked closely with the artist for over three decades; therefore there is a significant personal element which pervades the exhibition. You get a sense that this work visually demonstrates what Richard Hamilton was like as a person. And what a person he was; the undeniable inventor of pop art, the movement which has continued to grow and diversify to this day. Hamilton once described pop art as being “Popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and Big Business.” I would say these words perfectly encapsulate the vibe of the work on display (minus the low-cost and mass-produced). An expressive jamboree of experimental prints which present simple subjects, such as landscapes, interiors and portraits, yet somehow lifts them from the everyday into the celestial, whilst exploring political issues and social change.
My favourites are the photomontages which convey a narrative; the famous one being, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? It’s colour, vibrancy and humour doesn’t disguise the serious message displayed through the iconography of all the material goods: it depicts the world’s rampant consumerism and need to spend, spend, spend in order to show status and class, which is just as relevant today as it was in the late 1950’s. The work has an ironic, satirical edge as it is essentially a social parody – mocking the Western culture of material comfort, as well as displaying technological advancement. Hamilton is commenting on how modernity has changed the way we live our lives in a dynamic and highly entertaining way, something he does very well. Here are a few of my favourite Richard Hamilton prints…