Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deptford High Street Art and Lai Loi

Well everyone knows there's lots of art in Deptford, and quite a bit of art that takes Deptford as its subject. Some of it's great, some of it feels a bit like artists scenting the territory or crudely plundering the area for raw cultural materials.

For me the more interesting work that is about the area is marked by a greater degree of attentiveness,  a willingness to listen and engage in a dialogue rather than charge in and make a statement, to celebrate the grainy/colourful detail, to recognise the lives of people interacting there rather than just see it as some kind of urban canvas. Of course that's just the starting point - to be any good it also has to be well executed.

I came across Hollie Paxton's work at an event at the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford last year. As well as her rather fine Deptford bracelet, she has made some delightful tin versions of Deptford High Street shops which, when opened, play a recording of sounds from inside the shops.

Hollie Paxton's Deptford bracelet

Hollie Paxton's Deptford tin shops

Hollie Paxton at Master Shipwrights House
One of the shops Hollie recreated was Lai Loi, the Vietnamese shop at 180 Deptford High Street. The same shop was the focus last month for Megan Miao's 'Do you want one' as part of Something Human's 'If on a Winter's Day'. For her piece, as she describes at Deptford High Street, she stood outside the shop giving away oranges and engaging passers-by in conversation. Megan was born in China and raised in Singapore - she also works part time in an Asian supermarket in London alongside her art practice:

'The term “oranges” actually refers to a shocking number of different varieties of the fruit, which originated from South-East Asia. As all citrus trees are interfertile, they are a symbol to me of what happens to culture when travel and transport become more possible; there is a great intermingling leading to cultures changing, taking different forms, and even giving birth to subcultures. In Chinese society they are a symbol of good fortune, with the common practice of bringing a pair of oranges when visiting relatives during Chinese New Year... Deptford reminds me of home, because of its people, the crowds, the sincerity, the wetness of the market, the loud bawdiness and the moments of quiet serendipity, and mostly because all these exist within such a small place'.

Megan Miao outside Lai Loi  (picture from

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