Nelly Duff, 156 Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
8TH – 14TH Nov 2019
My Dog Sighs has a London solo show at Nelly Duff, well overdue after a long gap since his last London solo show.
This photorealistic extraordinaire has steadily built up a broad array of impressive street art styles, most famous of which are his Free Art Friday cans. The cans feature a crushed and folded cylinder with cute snub hosed faces painted onto the shiny base which were left outdoors for people to discover and keep, they are hugely admired by many, found by few. The concept and discipline of painting photorealistic faces on circular can bases fed into other street art styles, notably in many enchanting paste ups created in collaboration with fellow south coast artist Midge.
My Dog Sighs has also a massive reputation for his incredible murals, his eyeball paste ups, his stickers, his waterdrops and his completely different non-circular non photorealistic stick character.
The humble tool of the graffiti writer, street artist and amateur bodywork repairer is the spraycan and My Dog Sighs art has brought the can right into the art as a canvas as well as a source of paint. This show is all about the cans.
Crylon, the title of the show plays with the phonetics of the name of a major spraypaint supplier Krylon. Back in the early days of graffiti spray paint manufacturers were focussed on industrial applications, particularly car paint and a major source of paint for graffiti writers was the cans of paint sold in car repair shops, not all of it finding its way through the checkout before ending up in the graffiti writer’s hidden pockets. Crylon also speaks to the sad doleful appearance of My Dog Sighs’ characters.
As well as the cans, it’s all about the eyes. Watching My Dog Sighs in action on a public mural is to watch someone painstakingly paint microscopic detail in flecks of colour in the iris and in the reflection on the eyeball. In his exhibition you ascend the rickety wooden stairs of the Nelly Duff Gallery and enter into the Room of Stares.
Engage in a staring match with each of the square eyeball images and in the reflections in each of the eyeballs you will spot different characters inspired by legendary photos from the 1980s era of subway graffiti. One lining up his spray cans is unmistakably Dondi photographed by Martha Cooper and published in graffiti’s Book of Genesis Subway Art. Look right into the detail of the eyeball and you can see that My Dog Sighs has even replaced the Rustoleum logo on the can Dondi holds with the characteristic triple spot of Krylon’s logo.
Flick through your copy of Subway art and you will find spraycans littered, almost literally, throughout Martha Cooper’s photos which embraced the broader context of graffiti culture rather than just the trains themselves.
The wall of stares houses a mix of eyes on canvas, eyes screen printed on paper and in one case screen printed onto metal, each in 5 colourways, though not all on display. This allows us a very unusual opportunity to compare a screen print with the original, and only a publishing house with the quality of Nelly Duff’s in house printer would have the confidence to pull this off. Under close up scrutiny the effect of the varnish layer on the aluminium print is bewitching although really only apparent when viewed in real life, photos don’t do it justice.
The other half of Crylon is a collection of framed faces on cans, the cans are Krylon and Rustoleum and in each one the painted character reflects the colour of that paint can and indeed something of the emotion suggested in the faintly surreal names the colours are given by the manufacturer.
Owl is obviously a quite extraordinary name to give a paint colour so just as well Owl has an extraordinary face.
Nice to see a vintage can of Rustoleum making an appearance, seems that aluminium is a colour now, interpreted by My Dog Sighs as a Silver lady up to some devilment at a masque ball.
The rim of the base has been sanded back to bright metal to make it silver rather than the rust finish seen in all the other vintage cans.
The frame fillet, that colour strip inside the frame that gives depth to the frame is also matched to the colour of the can and at the bottom of each frame is a used spraycan cap, also colour matched.
My Dog Sighs has, in the blink of an eye, doffed his cap to the origins of street art in his homage to the classic Martha Cooper photos and the old school industrial painting spraycans in a nod to the significance of the can as a canvas for his art. He also demonstrates that photorealism can be beautiful art as opposed to the exercise in tedious virtuosity it can appear at times in the hands of others.
My Dog Sighs website
My Dog Sighs instagram
Martha Cooper instagram
all photos: Dave Stuart except where stated