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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Hyperlocal then and now - Catherine Stenger's paintings at Brixton East

Keeping eyes on all the local blogs, and especially the Brixton Blog,  am constantly finding out about things I should have know about 30 years ago.

Rival blog, Brixton Bugle, has carried some wonderful local history stuff recently - photos and film archive.  But my eyes are tired after checking out these cataracts of images, and then following links to more and more.  It reminded me that, much as I value hyperlocal blogs, it is still great to get your hands on a real newspaper, if one can be found.

Happily, Brixton Blog publishes a monthly paper, the Brixton Bugle, which publishes and expands on some of the best blog items and rounds up the  news. Among fascinating stuff in the latest issue (get your free copy from the Ritzy Cinema before they run out!) was a piece about a local artist, Catherine Stenger, who was active in Brixton in the 1980s - and the subject of a an ultra-short two-day exhibition at Brixton East gallery in Barrington Road.

The exhibition, in this very friendly, welcoming space in an old factory close to Loughborough Juntion,  is all the more poignant because no-one seems to know too much about the artist.

Catherine Spenger lived in Arlingford Road, just by Brockwell Park, until her death in 2008. She was trained at Byam Shaw, according to one of her own captions in this show. She was also a member of, and exhibited at, the Brixton Artists Collective back in the early tp mid-80, when the group flourished in three interlinked arches in Atlantic Road.

But the group  broke up in 1988, and then, it seems, she was forgotten.
Brixton Artists Collective member Catherine Stenger's work is on display  for the first time in 30 years at a  two day show at Brixton East art gallery
Saved from the skip: Original sketches and finished
 prints of some of Catherine Stenger's portraits on display
for two days only at Brixton East art gallery
This two-day show is being organised by some artists who lived in the house in Arlingford Road for a while before it was converted into flats. They discovered the paintings and drawings and woodblock prints in the attic. As no-one seemed to know much about the artist - even though she is described as being well-known in the local community - they decided to stage this brief expo perhaps to jog a few memories.

Her work is good, even though some of it has suffered a bit in storage. Apparently it was all going to go onto a skip until these young artists intervened - thank god!

There are some lovely paintings of parts of Brockwell Park, and portraits of local people, some strong life studies. There's also a short film giving background on the BAC - and the big role it played in the post-riot revival of Brixton, with its inaugural art festival in 1983.

This is a lovely exhibition, very intimate, a beautiful tribute to a little-known local artist, and there's this extra edge to it, the desire to find out more. It also gives me two big pangs of regret.

First, that at that time I went to the Atlantic Pub about once a week, mainly catching free jazz nights (Courtney Pine's band built up an early following here). I must have walked past the Brixton Artist's Collective dozens of times but never once went in. In fact, I remember it - I used to buy photo supplies from A W Young a few doors along.

Second, it makes me think I should have done something similar for Jonathan.

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