Today is the birthday of Damian Keeng, owner and operator of Orbital Space Comics, the comic shop in London that's right next to Leicester Square. Once upon a time, its location was the old Photographer's Gallery and over the decades they have used the length of the store for art galleries. But with the newly redesigned store, they have doubled down on that aspect and, rather than a comic store with an art gallery, have become an art gallery with a comic books store. They are running a few evening launch events, but I went down yesterday to see the (mostly) finished new Orbital before its launch that evening.
Walk through the door (and past the Todd McFarlane Spider-Man and drippy Orbital logo on the wall) and it's a transformation, with an opening art gallery.
Before you get into the store, and graphic novels, comics and art books on one side that have more of an artistic bent, from Robert Crumb to Vic Reeves…
And David Bowie-inspired art on the other side…
A second art gallery on the left…
And a third Missed Deadline gallery, with greater emphasis on comic book entrance, closer to the back till.
And just in case you were in need of some classic comic book territory, a little bit of Brian Bolland Axel Pressbutton and other A1-related comic book art.
After all, this is still a comic book shop… just in disguise.
Orbital Space Art Gallery is at 8 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JA, next to the Arts Theatre, and round the corner from Leicester Square tube. There's a comics folk event for tomorrow night, try and wangle yourself an invite, I will be. Here are details of the main exhibitors, but there's also Dave Gibbons, Gary Leach, and Brian Bolland.
- Billy Chainsaw is an internationally collected, British contemporary Pop artist whose work uses a fertile mix of pulp and the arcane to engage with ideas of mortality, magick and sensuality. Through his transformative art Chainsaw has developed a personal armoury of imagery and gestural approaches that are instantly recognizable, yet seemingly open to infinite experimentation. Chainsaw says he has no interest in perfection. He's far more passionate about the ragged edges, the uneven surface and the traces of previous mistakes. All of which combine to provide the volatile seedbed of his works. Chainsaw's previous work has been exhibited in numerous highly regarded galleries such as the Saatchi Gallery London and the Fleetwood Gallery San Francisco
- Gerard Don-Daniel was born and lives in London. Studied at St. Martins in the mid 90's, that's when I caught his eye. His mixed media art incorporates drawing, painting, photography, collage, digital art, illustration, printmaking and found objects. Much of Don-Daniel's inspiration comes from comic books and street art, which he applies to broader, more recognized genres of art history to create a personalized body of work. Having exhibited in several London galleries, Don-Daniel's previous work has been snapped up by many private collectors.
- GirlShit has an art school, fine art background. The British artist's multi-disciplinary approach to making art and asking questions leads GirlShit through positive propaganda to examine the female in art and society through layers of subculture, contradictions and personal memory. Oil painting, collage, printmaking, drawing and sculpture form the framework for GirlShit's narrative led practice, with a flip side of artist merch' that embodies the DIY attitude and aesthetics of punk to create 'art on any surface' and an everyday connection through the work. GirlShit is a force to be reckoned with.
- JRoldan was born in Columbia, raised in the US, and now resides in London. JRoldan's mixed media work embraces the schools of abstract and gestural expression to create an artistic vision that is uniquely his own. As the creator, JRoldan is clearly 'visible' in his art; his work can never be considered passive or one-dimensional. The very action of his art – by splattering, pouring and scraping fingers across canvas – produces a sense of feverish animation. For the observer, JRoldan's work has a demanding forcefulness that immediately engages our attention. Subversive, irreverent and darkly humorous, JRoldan's goal is always to strengthen the visual impact of his statement. Drawing on his love of ancient mythology and a fascination with historical figures, his works deal in underlying and overlying truths. They raise questions about myth and reality. They invite us to see them not only as aesthetic objects, but also as objects of reflection.
- Mister Wim is a London based, Antwerp born, international, art revolutionary. A post-graffiti-sticker-monster, he's been turning heads since '91, doing commissioned and non-commissioned murals in public and private spaces; participating in group art shows; and creating action paintings in bars, discos, music festivals, and tattoo studios and conventions – from Deptford to Osaka. Mister Wim's method of ARTful dodging also embraces graffiti, body painting, tattoo designs, drive-by stickering, and simple drawing. His is a peaceful revolution through art.