Of the twenty artists involved, I only knew the work of two before visiting the exhibition – Billy Childish (Tracey Emin’s ex) and Dan Cimmermann (whose paintings I’m sure I first admired in the Spitalfields Urban Outfitters?). Once at the exhibition, however, I was drawn to Alex Daw’s collage works Lifestyle and Under the Moon, and was impressed also by the sculptural collage technique of Chris Jones – “reforming flat reproductions into an approximation of the things they represent” (Daw’s words) – in his works Harbinger and Beyond the Pines.
Perhaps my favourite piece though, was Neal Jones’ Crap Angel of the South (Boris) – a crudely-painted figure hovering above a car that has run someone over (possibly a reference to the current concern for London cyclists?). And to continue the ‘incident’ theme, I also enjoyed James Cauty’s police scene diorama Kettle 2 – Extremist Student Thugs Contained, which involves flashing blue lights and a tiny dead dog.
After visiting the exhibition on its opening night, I spoke to Daw about why he chose those particular twenty artists, and what exactly ‘The Bethlehem Boys Club’ is. It sounded to me as if it might be some kind of secret group, and brought to mind Freemasonry – I’ll admit I was slightly nervous about attending the private view. It is, however, in Daw’s words “a fictitious club that, like most art, alludes to something bigger.” He went on to say that “art should be fun sometimes” and that “The Bethlehem Boys Club is about playing with the supposed hierarchal systems and structures that prop up the art-world.”
As for the artists involved, Daw says he purposefully chose “an eclectic mix of artists” whom he felt were “working in an outsider fashion or anarchic way, yet absolutely subscribed to the art world in an ‘insider’ way.”
Speaking about his own piece Under the Moon, Daw says “it is tinged with neglect. It’s the opposite of anything optimistic, and hints at our place in the universe as well as nodding to the digital breakdown of the images we digest on a daily basis.”
Daw was keen to make it known that, despite what the name suggests, The Bethlehem Boys Club is not exclusive, and anyone can get involved. He says “the next BBC show will be in a different space, and may be all women artists.”
The Bethlehem Boys Club will run for at least ten shows, and will announce a special collaborative show in the Spring. This particular show ends this Sunday, 15th December.
Alex Daw was also interviewed by Spindle back in 2011!
Words: Zoë Ellen Bryant