Banksy’s mural of snogging coppers, painted on the side of a pub near Brighton station, has become almost an established part of the city’s tourist trail as the Royal Pavilion and the Brighton Pier. What began life as a piece of subversive street art is now such a valuable commodity it is encased behind protective Perspex. “Poor Banksy,” reads a scrawl of graffito nearby, “they put you in a frame.”
It’s more than 30 years since Joe Strummer sang “You think it’s funny/Turning rebellion into money” and the transition from art-guerrilla to gallery-fodder is now a well-beaten path, as demonstrated by two Brighton-based artists, Ryca and Req, whose work is featured at the Ink_d gallery this month. Of the two, Req’s is probably the most mainstream approach – day-glo icons rendered in Warholesque garishness. Like the Pop Art they imitate, Req’s paintings are perfect for today’s time-starved gallery-goers who like to get in and out of an exhibition without being held up by anything deep and meaningful. Like a microwaved lasagne, this stuff slips down easily and doesn’t invite you to linger.
Req is after something more understated. In a chequered career, he has painted a portrait of John Peel on the side of the Albert pub (near the above-mentioned Banksy), decorated the walls of Infinity Foods, recorded for Skint Records and Warp Records, produced albums for the painter and rapper Kid Acne and played a number of gigs in France. Phew – no wonder he now wants to slow down. His ‘spray-paint realism’ aims to marry renaissance naturalism with hip-hop brio. It’s an ingenious idea. His subject is the female nude and he ably demonstrates how subtle flesh tones can be brought to life through spray paint. Req’s paintings are lovely to look at, but in his rejection of modernism is he anything more than the Norman Rockwell of the North Laine set?
Expect darker and more disturbing visions next month when the gallery features the work of Lidia de Pedro.