“If you’re going to say something, make sure that it really has some meaning, because it might be the last thing you ever say.” Explains Leo Yinka Briggs, one half of group art show Behold and Believe, taking over East London creative space The Vyner Studio between 25 February and 1 March. Fusing the bold, daring and outspoken work of photographer, graphic artist and installation artist Briggs with the keenly socially perceptive output of video director, photographer, musician and digital artist Barnabe FrEaKsHoW (real name Barnabe Freixo), Behold and Believe more than lives up to Briggs’ maxim. An exhibition set to trigger discussion about the complex and multi-layered fabric of today’s society, Behold and Believe has plenty to say and is not afraid to make its voice heard.
“Most of my work is political,” says Briggs when we sit down with the artist in the run-up to the show. Born and raised in Hackney, a resident of the now infamous Pembury estate, the sharply defined socio-political edge so visible in his work developed organically, a natural result of everyday life in the urban landscape that surrounds him. “If you listen to the conversations people have around here, they’re all political,” he says. “It’s something almost intuitive, it’s not necessarily a case of thinking of yourself as a political person, it’s just the reality of life here and the things that happen to you.” Using his camera to document life on the estate and on the streets of Hackney, Briggs seeks to ignite social change through the power of art.
“There is very little guidance around here. Once you leave school it often seems as if the streets are the only option and of course there is definitely no guidance on the streets. So for many people from areas like this, a life of crime and of selling drugs starts to seem like the norm, like the only way to go.” Not one to shy away from difficult subject matters, one of Briggs’ central works in the exhibition, installation piece A Street life Named Detritus, tackles exactly this issue. Taking the form of the kind of chalk outline left by police to mark the scene of a murder, with the outline curled up in the fetal position, the piece incorporates items such as money, jewellery and a replica gun; symbolising the violence and falsehood of the life it depicts. Expressing his belief in social change through art, Briggs comments that “Art is powerful, how could it not be, God herself is an artist.”
In keeping with the socially and politically conscious thread that runs through the show, Barnabe FrEaKsHoW’s work similarly turns a photographic mirror on both the local, national and global community. Blending beautifully observed photography from the artist’s international travels with unflinching protest march shots and other candid imagery, Barnabe – whose directorial short film and music videos work will also form part of the exhibition – does not pull back from challenging authority. A quality he shares with co-exhibitor Briggs, whose expansive collage A Cornucopia of Crime and Punishment is destined to become one of the exhibition talking points. A visual medley incorporating an eclectic blend of photographs and money from around the world, the collage illustrates the ruthless and clearly stratified hierarchy of the street, charging the capitalist system with creating the environment that breeds it.
“Capitalism is the true organised crime. That’s what I’m trying to say with this piece,” Briggs explains. “Capitalism is the most effective form of organised crime and it’s politicians and other decision makers who have set in motion the game that ends with gang culture, because if you disenfranchise people and make them feel powerless, crime and violence will ensue. It’s inevitable.”
Stunning, challenging, captivating and thought-provoking, Briggs summarises the intriguing and varied artistic strands that meet in Behold and Believe as “pretty, gritty and witty.”
The exhibition opens on 25 February.
NOTE TO EDITORS
About the Artists
Leo Yinka Briggs is the founder of Raskal Arts Grafix Studios (RAGS), a creative collective focused on utilising art and creativity to forge a better life for its members, away from crime, violence and the streets. Established at the Pembury estate, the collective celebrates 10 years in 2012 and now has members across London. Based on principles of “respect, share, care and love,” Briggs describes Raskal Arts as “an egalitarian movement.” http://theaccompliceltd.com/leo-yinka-briggs
Barnabe FrEaKsHoW is a photographer, musician, digital artist and film/video director. Born in Paris to Portuguese parents, he has lived in the UK for the past 20 years and his diverse, cross-genre, portfolio of work shares commonalities of depth, originality and insight. His most recent directorial work is the music video for urban London artist Melo’s new track, City on Fire. www.barnabefreixo.com
About the Gallery
The Vyner Studio is located in the heart of East London’s buzzing new arts centre, Hackney’s Vyner Street. Privately owned by Iker Garcia Barrenetxea, the gallery not only exhibits the work of established artists but also supports and showcases the city’s emerging new creative talent. The Vyner Studio also host artist-led workshops on a regular basis.
For more information about the exhibition, contact Nadya Elias, CEO, The Accomplice Ltd
T: 07946 060 576