21st July 2023 - 19th August 2023
Preview: Friday 21st July 17:30 onwards, all welcome!
‘I Left My Cowboy Hat in St Ives’
A new collection of work by Kleiner Shames.
“My childhood summers were spent in Cornwall at my grandparents’ house on the promenade in Penzance. I remember the time (no doubt inaccurately) as a mirage of smooth pebbles, the damp ice cream shop with a sign which sparked a love of sign painting, the amusement arcade, and lots of aimless wandering about, holding my mother with one hand and blithely wielding a toy gun or an actual knife in the other.
These simple rituals were invariably topped off with some or other hat, which I believed to be an extension of myself. The year I was four the headgear took the form of a cowboy hat, which I left behind at a restaurant in St. Ives early in the season and never saw again. This was more than a devastating blow, it was more like a psychic shock and so powerful that during a twenty-year stint graffiti writing I tended to include the shape of that hat somewhere in the otherwise stark, aggressive, hip hop inspired lettering I threw up.
Graffiti requires accuracy and speed. You’re outside and generally outlawed, and once the piece is done, if you haven’t actually been done, then there’s another artist chomping at the bit to take you out. You’re lucky if your efforts last a week. But it’s good practice. It gets you used to the fact that nothing lasts forever but that’s no good reason not to do it anyway.
I rarely paint graffiti now, but the need to paint continues. I must paint. It’s a compulsion. Letterform has gone, or maybe just become abstracted, but the line, the flow, the importance of the negative space, remains, as do things like reading the work from left to right and top to bottom.
I paint directly, without drawing. There’s no plan as such and this is one of the few shows with a story. It’s unbridled nostalgia really. That hat, the silver pillow from my mother’s boxed wine, the compelling turquoise of the Ross Bridge, the colours on my fishing net, long hot days on beaches, St Ives – my conscious and unconscious memory keeping childhood alive.
I still can’t resist putting things on my head for no good reason, and I still think if you pretend to be a cowboy then you are one until someone calls you in for dinner or you lose the hat.”
– Kleiner Shames.
b. Oxford, England 1988.
Aged fourteen he started writing graffiti.
He works with a variety of processes including screen-printing, canvas painting, layered wooden assemblage and sculpture.
He works from a rural studio near Penzance.