Tuesday 22 November 2011



Does anyone remember the 80s cartoon ‘Penny Crayon’?(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY5zQXYYMaw) About the girl who draws on walls with her magic crayon and those things she draws coming alive. Okay so it really didn’t go down in history as groundbreaking animation but it was the first thing that came to mind when I met charismatic and cheerful artist, Anna Bruder, at her ‘Aline 117’ installation at the Dalston Superstore on Kingsland High Street. Like Penny Crayon, Bruder always moves around with a thick black, flat-tipped marker in her bag, ready to graffiti, adorn, embellish and create wherever she sees a surface of interest. However, where Penny Crayon (don’t worry I’m gonna leave Penny soon) draws in order to bring to life things that are not there, for Bruder this is not always her interest. In the majority of her work, Bruder two-dimensionalises the world reducing it to black outlines with no implication of tone or shade that would add three-dimensionality. Before approaching a space she paints the entire area white, neutralising it of colour and as much shape as possible. She then applies her black marker line, often outlining what is already there. At her recent installation, ketchup bottles are made to be brandless, generic items very unlike how see them today. Flowers lose their sentimentality, romance and sculptural quality. They become under Bruder’s inspection and recreation flat pieces of card with standard flower shapes outlined on them sticking out of a basic container vase.

The real world is recreated as a series of synonymous emblems of the real world, an alternate place that simply points to what was there or could be there. In this way Bruder’s work activates the viewer in two ways. We have to fill in the blanks as it were, to work backwards from her rudimentary drawing to the real world. Secondly we are activated in that we feel a new romance brought out for this new vision of the world we live in. One that leaves behind the hub-bub and literally goes back to basics. Bruder describes her technique as making a ‘Wendy House’ of the world. This aligns her work with a childish view of the world where the wendy house epitomises a simplified existence. It is a creation of a perfect new space for us all to live in, full size rather than miniaturised, filled with humour and personality. Simplified it may be, but paradoxically we start noticing things rather than overlooking them. In other words, we realise we don’t need the detail. 

Viewing ‘Aline 117’ at Dalston Superstore one is filled with the artist’s love for the world rather than distaste for it. It is undeniably optimistic, particularly due to its location in gritty Dalston. Black outlines on the wall describe shelves of wine glasses, cups and champagne flutes hanging mirrors, fireplaces, lampshades, a bowl of goldfish, a solitary and tame pet kitten etc. Above us fly cut-out giant birds and airplanes. Dalston is given perhaps an ironically middleclass view of the world, idealised and deliberately short-sighted while all the while the poverty of the area is viewable from the window. I remember leaving the space for a smoke outside and standing by the roadworks and polluting cars in deadlock on the busy street and thinking that this is what her installation stands in contrast to. Dalston for a short time is given relief from itself. This is not to say that this idyll is what everyone in or outside Dalston aspires. This Wendy House is simply a manifestation of aspiration in a general sense. It is a parody perhaps of our middle class ambitions or our need to live in a perfect world away from the reality of life today.   

In the last ten years, Anna has had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and venues, some more unconventional and prestigious than others. From major art galleries and theatres (Somerset House and The Barbican), to TV commercials and full-scale performances at Wembley Arena, her work successfully translates into many varied artistic contexts. She is planning a series of Pop-up Shops to display and sell her work to interested collectors but before this, on Sunday 27th November, she will be hosting a colouring-in party at the Dalston Superstore to mark the end of her installation. Audiences are invited to come and colour in her black outlines, in a sense activate and personalize them before Bruder’s Wendy House disappears. She invites all to come down and enjoy this experience. It is from 7pm onwards at the Dalston Superstore, Kingsland High Street, E82PB. I would get there early to see the space in all its detail-less glory.

Jana Manuelpillai

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