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Phlegm's "awesome" beasts to be destroyed within weeks

PUBLISHED: 16:11 03 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:05 03 February 2014

The Bestiary, photo Marcus Peel

The Bestiary, photo Marcus Peel

Archant

Renowned street artist Phlegm has spent the past six weeks transforming an empty Shoreditch gallery into an intriguing home to half real, half imagined beasts - but the ambitious work will be totally destroyed in six weeks time because he doesn't believe in the commercialisation of art.

The Bestiary, photo Marcus PeelThe Bestiary, photo Marcus Peel

Phlegm paints his distinctive black and white long-limbed half-human, half-woodland creatures in run-down spaces and abandoned factories around the world, and in the area he’s known for his work on the old Foundry building in Old Street.
But now the Sheffield-based muralist - who first developed his fantastical dream world illustrations in self-published comics - has launched his first gallery show in Shoreditch.

He has turned the empty walls of the Howard-Griffin Gallery into a bestiary - an illustrated Medieval compendium of animals which set out the natural history and moral significance of each beast, reflecting the religious belief that every living thing had its own special meaning

While some descriptions of the animals in a bestiary were scientifically accurate, others were completely fanciful.

Phlegm’s bestiary brings together all the creatures he’s painted in the streets and in his comics in one place for the first time, in some kind of “taxonomic categorisation” – as they are all collected in jars.

Phlegm's BestiaryPhlegm's Bestiary

The effect is more akin to a museum showcase than an art exhibition according to curator Richard Howard-Griffin.

“It’s unusual to have a show of this ambition and magnitude in Shoreditch, loads of work has gone into it,” he said.

“But it’s ephemeral and afterwards it’ll be smashed up, it’s not for sale in line with Phlegm’s philosophy as an artist to just make art for the sake of art, he’s not motivated by the money side, he’s motivated to produce it.

“Often in the art world art becomes really commoditised and this commercial product, but Phlegm doesn’t identify with that as much.

Phlegm's work on The Foundry in Old StreetPhlegm's work on The Foundry in Old Street

“Even if someone offers lots of money he won’t take it.”

He added: “A lot of his imagery is related to medieval styles in the way it’s very intricate and the dark feel.

“You walk in and there’s this natural history element to it where these characters are harvesting from nature and they are taking it back to a depository where everything is in jars.

“It’s a bit like a cave and then there’s that thread of muralism taking it back from the ancient times and pulling it into the now, with pieces akin to the Lascaux Caves paintings.

“I think it’s awesome, I’ve seen it develop over time, it’s been really interesting to watch it grow into something this big.”

Phlegm who likes to maintain his anonymity would not speak to the Gazette about his work.

The Bestiary can be seen for free until Tuesday March 4, at the Howard-Griffin Gallery, 189 Shoreditch High Street, for more information see www.howardgriffingallery.com/exhibitions/the-bestiary.

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