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Copyright of Claire Noble

Peckham has long been associated as an area of high crime rates and crumbling Victorian architecture. But, beneath this shoddy exterior lies a bubbling art community that is rapidly declaring its takeover of East-London’s hedonistic art scene.

A chatty crowd assembles outside the doors of Auto Italia. It seems that punctuality is a necessity for members of this club. They are an hour early. And, as the doors open, the crowd pours in. Ladies wearing tea dresses, the majority sporting tomato-red hair, pick up their paint pots and begin to weave their drawing onto one of the eight shop windows. While men, donned in plaid shirts and battered plimsolls quickly find a pane and get creative.

This is Auto-Italia, a project lead space that aims to explore and support the ideas of a growing peer group of artists. Situated in a disused car show room in South-East London, their values are simple; non-hierarchical powers, that allow all ages, all humans and styles to take part in a communal art space. Today hosts Sumi-ink, an ongoing drawing collective by LA based duo, John Finshbeck and Sarah Anderson.

Project coordinators of Auto Italia, Amanda Dennis, and Kate Cooper explain the concept behind Auto Italia as being: “All about inspiration”. “The building was donated; we have no overheads and can concentrate on putting our money into these projects. It’s a fantastic place for young people to express themselves” said Amanda.

Copyright of Claire Noble

“Auto-Italia has been going for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve had over 30 projects here and some in the Tate, but Sumi-Ink is the first of its kind in London. I haven’t seen it done anywhere else.” said Kate. She gestures with red-nailed hands: “Grab a pot and get stuck in”.

Friendships

Paintings range from witty slogans like “don’t milk over spilt tears” to portraits of social issues, nature, the quirky and bizarre.

In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

This quote could not be more relevant to today’s art session as each painting portrays a hilarious, distorted view of reality as they see it.  Hannah Tindle, a fine art student at St Martin’s College is drawing a rather manic looking Edward Norton inspired stick character, she giggles: “I only live down the road from here, I should come more often.”

But these drawings are far from off-putting. In fact these paintings, all shared by strangers help to establish friendships, as while admiring each other’s work, they begin to chat like friends. The concept of sharing each other’s ideas and encouraging artists to work together is a core factor of what Auto Italia represents. Kate Cooper looks around the room and smiles at the large crowd that has now assembled inside, she plops her paintbrush into her plastic pot and says:

“Our primary focus is not allowing the artist to work alone; we all engage and interact with each other.” It helps to bring the art community together. You would think they were a snobbish crowd that is the main perception. But look around you, there not at all. I went to art school for four years and never picked up a paintbrush, now’s my chance.”

Copyright of Claire Noble

The Sumi-Ink club has seen shows in, Chicago, Malmo, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bahal, India.

Peckham Pavillion

Sarah Anderson is floating around the room, busily painting each piece of clear pane she spots. As co-founder of the Sumi ink club, she describes its formation as a way of: “Gathering with friends”. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island and we would always meet in the street. It was our only way to get expressive, and draw our emotions. We could draw whatever we wanted, without constraint, this is what we pride ourselves on today, and it’s non-hierarchal,” said Sarah.

This low-key artist run space has been making the headlines not only in the UK but also in America. The New York Times recently ran a story documenting that the East-End art scene is no longer more and that if you want art, it’s right here, in Peckham.

It heralded the South-East London art scene as a ‘countercultural challenge’ to the ‘established north-of-the-river world of the Frieze art fair and the gentrified East End’.

Auto Italia is just one of the many artist led spaces that are emerging around South-East London. The Hannah Barry Gallery, home to some of London’s most talented artists, and project space Area 51 are beginning to make their mark on the art world. The Peckham Pavilion, an exhibition organized by the Hannah Barry Gallery, propelled her work to fame at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition held once every two years in Venice.

With this commendable set of values, the South-East London art community can only continue to flourish. And maybe, just maybe, tease East Londoners South of the Thames to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright of Claire Noble

The following article was written for my Magazine production class, at the University of Westminster. Together with my colleagues, we are in the process of designing and creating our own glossy style magazine called MUSE,  that will be available on April 30.

I’ll upload my own contributions to the magazine, and also share with you my In-Design layouts.

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