Sunday, 18 April 2010


Riflemaker was one of those galleries on my listings I'd never got around to visiting. Their shows always sounded pretty avant garde - nothing too traditional or old school. I assumed they were part of the proper East End art massive I would discover as soon as I could be arsed going beyond Liverpool St on the Central line.

So imagine my surprise (and self-loathing) to realise that not only was Riflemaker squarely in the middle of Beak St. Soho but also one of the most fascinating and original gallery spaces in London.
Set within the magical post-ironic Dickensian ambience of Riflemaker's rickety four storey hovel-turned-gallery space (a Georgian riflemaker's workshop dating from 1712), Alice Anderson's ginger hair installation was a fascinating, dream-like experience. Luckily the pretentious, long-winded catalogue notes explaining whatever the piece was meant to signify escaped me and I was able to read the exhibition at face value. Which essentially meant a ginger's revenge on her insufferable mother/nanny-figure by turning herself into a lifeless doll...sigh....The nine minute film 'The Night I Became A Doll' - despite moments of self-conscious amateurism - was a reasonably effective companion piece to the installation.

Anderson's wax or rubber 'life mask' was creepily disconcerting behind glass in the manner of a Victorian bell jar. Still, what was meant to be read into it I could only guess and though I did find each separate element of the show interesting, they seemed to lack an overall cohesion (especially the upper-level stand alone sculptures). Even without the film and mask, Anderson's work still packed a powerful punch on account of the show's grandiose centrepiece hair installation. This was the truly macabre draw-card, the visually arresting auburn explosion magnetising all manner of Saturday afternoon Beak St pedestrians into the premises. Riflemaker's lovely friendly attendant even had to concede that it was not the possibility of rain that was an issue of concern for the gallery owners, rather the possibility of Soho's shitfaced pub revellers damaging the delicate piece. Luckily, so far people have been remarkably respectful.


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