This piece was written in October 2011 but never published. I recently came across some images and found them as striking five years later as I did then, so I thought I’d share what I remember:
Every year around my birthday, my partner treats me to “something cultural or arty”, and this year , he suggested an exhibition of street art down in the Old Vic Tunnels at Waterloo. Put on by Lazarides Gallery Group with “culinary adventurists” Kofler & Kompanie, “The Minotaur” includes the work of around 20 contemporary artists inspired by the ancient Greek myth.
“The Minotaur” – Beautiful and “deeply troubling”
In turns a bit spooky and then positively arresting, “The Minotaur” at Old Vic Tunnels in Waterloo (London) is an experience I won’t soon forget. [My partner and I still talk about it, years later.] Through the entrance, we head down a dimly-lit staircase and are compelled to navigate the labyrinthine exhibition in near-darkness.
Among the first works we encounter seem more fine art than street art – but with a twist; Boxi’s paintings are actually stencils and Vhils’ portrait is not drawn but rather, gouged out of the wall with some kind of implement.
Then we run into the Minotaur on a crucifix stabbed through with hundreds of nails, surrounded by candles at his feet, and in the flickering light, he appears to still breathe…
And if a life-sized bullheaded man on a cross wasn’t terrifying enough, we stumble our way through Stanley Donwood’s labyrinth…
and nearly fall into this 6-foot high ball of rats!
Yep, this repulsive yet mesmerising “Vermin Death Star” by David Falconer is made of genuine plasti-fied rodents!
Seeking solace from these unsettling visuals (c’mon, a rat meteorite?!), we find some comfort in a nearby room, taking in the dream-like imagery of Doug Foster’s watery projection reflected in a pool of what smells vaguely of motor oil. It is only when I’ve walked away that I realise I might have seen a human figure drifting in and out of the image like smoke…I don’t go back to check.
And this is the last work before the exit into the street, where the graffiti art continues, though not officially part of “The Minotaur” exhibition. There’s a tribute to The Simpsons with Marge and Homer gettin’ busy…
A scary clown…
A mysterious script that intones, “I never want to sleep again”…and I wonder but I’ll never know why…
And the last thing I see is a motif that was first used in human art more than 50,000 years ago…a single handprint grabs the passerby, as if to say, “I was here”.
More about Old Vic Tunnels in Waterloo
- History of The Old Vic Tunnels on Wikipedia – from 2010-2013, the Old Vic Tunnels operated as a performance and arts space; from 2013, Vans operate the Old Vic Tunnels as a skate park called “House of Vans”
- House of Vans – Music, Skate, Art
- Lazarides Gallery Group – Founded 2006, “…international market leader in urban art… the artists on display defy categorisation”
- Kofler & Kompanie – “culture in food since 1823”