Susan Diamond takes Shoreditch (again!)
Who remembers Shoreditch in the early 2000s? I sure do; it was an amazing time. The neighbourhood emerged from the dank underground in the late 90s into a cool arty area but since about 2010 it has been rapidly ‘gentrifying’. Back in the early 2000s Hoxton, Haggerston and the little warren of lanes around Old Street were almost empty; you could practically see the tumbleweed. Impossible to get a coffee unless you really really knew where you were going. Of course there was nightlife; but again you had to really know where you were going. It was hard to believe really that this was one of the earliest cultural zones in London the place where Shakespeare and others had their first theatres. A place of culture and cutting edge excitement for centuries, it became a district of warehouses, craft workshops and lately, a place of absolutely nothing.
US born London artist Susan Diamond was one of the prime movers of the Shoreditch renaissance with her performance group/post-punk electro-noise band Gobsausage. She created Gobsausage with her partner, poet-performer-singer-raconteur Mark Charles and an assortment of musicians including Takatsuna Mukai and others. Their gigs were incredible: it wasn’t really punk, it wasn’t really performance in the traditional sense at all, but it was an amazing animal jam of both. Always fun, often dangerous, not infrequently banned from the various different places they played, and utterly subversive.
The two of them created a successful fashion label Charles of London, with incredible clothes based on carefully collage printed textiles. Google them; you’ll see shocking things. Wearable art.
Anyway I’ve been familiar with Susan’s work for a long time but I didn’t realise at first that she is a painter. She has a very distinctive style based on punk iconography but transposed to something entirely her own. The principal icon is a powerful, even deadly but ultimately reassuring female goddess-like figure, which has an element of Susan’s self portrait in her – yet we can all recognise ourselves in her persona.
Sadly, subversive underground art doesn’t get exhibited very often, even in a place like London. But one of the most fantastic things was, this summer in Shoreditch under the railway bridge at Old Street where it meets Kingsland Rd Susan was able to instal huge billboards with prints of her paintings. It was absolutely amazing; the incredible colour and the subversive direct punky aesthetics of the pictures just jumped right out into the street. It was exactly what the neighbourhood needed, especially in this time of coronavirus when the last thing I wanted to see was anything depressing. At the same time, the work is sharp and incisive and a little bit scary – which is also good.
I meant to blog about this at the time but then time got away from me. But it’s actually good that I didn’t because Mark has a new band called Mark Charles and the White Reflectors, with Susan collaborating, and they’ve just released their first album. And my God is it ever good. Made in collaboration with a range of great artists from Shoreditch and Berlin and beyond (featuring nkdv, Gene Serene, Valerie Renay, Susan Diamond, Richard Heslop, veevee, Takatsuna Mukai, Andrew Neate and Sebastian Lee Phillip), it’s got fantastic production and sounds absolutely fresh. I’m glad to get the chnace to publicise it a bit here, along with the paintings which brought summer joy to the neighbourhood.
Disobey, by Mark Charles and the White Reflectors “A Throbbing Collaboration of Certified Sounds, Subliminal Punk Stained, Digital Disorder, Gutter Beats, Electronique Force Fields of Unearthed Fantasia.” (that is actually a correct description)
I’ve had it on endless repeat since I received it a couple of days ago and I can guarantee anybody that likes punky post-punk experimental music with a lot of sardonic humour, witty poetry and rhythms that make you just want to throw yourself around the room (or the park, or wherever you happen to be no matter how embarrassing) this is the record for you. Actually, even if you don’t like any of those things it’s probably still the record for you because it would do you some good – go on get it.
I’m hoping that once the corona is done, there’ll be some live gigs.
Susan Diamond’s web page where you can buy paintings and books
The History Lesson:
Gobsausage on video https://www.youtube.com/watch?V=zb_vzdmc3fo