KICK OVER THE STATUES
1 October - 27 November 2016
Ewen Spencer’s celebrated and spontaneous images of youth and music culture in his native UK and around the world, have kept him in demand with style magazines, global brands and the music industry for more than 20 years. His acclaimed zines and books have led to two Channel 4 documentary series.
In this newly commissioned project, Kick over the statues, the artist’s intention is to re-highlight the existence of youth tribes and style. During summer 2016, he has photographed young Londoners along the route of the 2016 Notting Hill Carnival, who communicate their identity and place in the world through the language of clothing and personal styling, drawing on a rich global and constantly evolving cultural history.
"I think the area is due a revisit. Every year, over one million people descend on west London to celebrate the plurality of the city, and in turn the nation. It’s an incredible event that denotes the history of style and youth culture as a setting. If you consider this area of West London as a timeline, it has generated a lot of key moments within popular culture stretching back to Colin McInnes; Absolute Beginners, bohemian squats, jazz and the beginnings of the Modernist movement in the late 1950s." - Ewan Spencer
The gallery installation recreates the way in which photography is often encountered in a modern city with large format images posted onto custom-built billboards. Projected images from Ewen Spencer’s extensive personal archive, including film clips, book covers and records, display his influences over the years.
A Fabrica and Photoworks co-commission. Co-financed by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, as part of a larger partnership project, Understanding Territoriality, for which there is a blog with more information.
Ewen graduated from the University of Brighton in 1997 and began shooting for visually driven style magazines, such as Sleazenation and The Face, with an emphasis on youth culture.
In 2000 he embarked upon a project called Teenagers documenting British adolescents as they were coming to terms with socializing, dating and sex. What separates him from other social documentarians is a sense that he knows and likes his subjects, that they trust him enough to allow him entry into their world, and that he has an understanding of what’s going on without being embedded in the scene himself.
In 2004 Teenagers was shortlisted for the Discovery Award at Rencontres D’Arles curated that year by Martin Parr who tipped Ewen as ‘one to watch’. The work was shown as part of the main festival alongside other nominees. His proposal to the judges at Arles that year was to create a body of work that would eventually be released as the book Open Mic. The work took 3 years to complete, exploring the burgeoning Grime music scene, which was based predominantly in East London. ‘Open Mic’ went on to collect a D&AD award for photographic publishing.
Ewen has continued his interest in youth culture. In 2013 he began self-publishing a biannual photo-zine called Guapamente focusing on global youth subcultures visiting Naples, Marseille, Miami and London. 2013 also saw the publication by Gost of UKG. The project focused on the early days of the UK Garage music scene. As Ewen has since observed; “Garage had all the attributions to any worthy UK subculture, clean living under difficult circumstances. Dressing up and living for the weekend.” UK Garage was exclusive at the time. Today it raises questions concerning style, music and an age when a multi-cultural, working class youth pre-dated social media and the internet. Mobile phones were a novelty but access to designer labels, expensive drinks and flights to Ayia Napa were on the menu.
Ewen’s success with book publishing and also a number of collaborations to create cover artwork for notable musicians including The Streets and The White Stripes has lead to significant commissions from advertising agencies applying his strong visual language to communicate with their clients specific brands. The past 10 years have seen noted outdoor and editorial print campaigns and also bespoke photo-books and zines plus films for Nike, Apple, Adidas and Smirnoff.
Following the publication of UKG, Dazed and Confused approached Ewen to direct a short documentary film exploring the UK Garage scene. The 8 minute short was picked up by Channel 4. Ewen was asked to turn the film into a 23 minute documentary for national television broadcast in March 2014, followed by a documentary about Grime, based on his Open Mic book, broadcast November 14.
After the success of these two short films Channel Four & i-D magazine commissioned Ewen to write, direct and narrate a four part documentary film series called “Street, Sound and Style” Broadcast in May 2015 the films chart the journey of youth style and music from 1980 through to today.
In early 2016 Ewen completed a new body of work called ‘Oh My Mosch’ considering British menswear obsession with flamboyant Italian menswear designers such as Franco Moschino, Gianni Versace and Iceberg. The work was made on location in London and Naples casting British and Italian youth wearing the original pieces from the early to mid 90s. The work was published in Arena Homme + as an extended editorial discussing questions raised in the documentary series Street, Style and Sound.