Street art of the east end is the first subject of my festively-themed Facebook Friend… nay, Foul Batchelor Frog… nay for it be Flashback Friday today of course, silly! I couldn’t ignore exactly where we are on the calendar today, however, I thought that rather than trawl out the obvious costume-themed fashion round-ups and spooky make-up and photography fare, I’d go maverick with some tasty. toothy tagging from street artist, Sweet Toof.
The story that sets the scene for this entry happened back in January 2008 (two whole years before the person responsible would rise to the echelons of international recognition), a time of idyllic calm when we weren’t yet in recession, dreams were dreams and it was just about considered socially acceptable to listen to emo, when I came across a striking and terrifying apparition down the east end – and no I’m not talking about those obnoxiously pretentious art urchins they call hipsters!
Your eyes are not deceiving you if you look closely at this towering warehouse and notice a teddy bear on a cross – just one feature among this monolithic facade of ominous boarded windows, snaking ivy and artwork skirting the extremes of visual nightmare fuel.
But Mr. Toof’s aesthetic of sunken-eyed cadavers and mangled gums is not so much a paradigm of gratuitous horror as a quirky, conceptual angle on our treasured gnashers. According to an article by Jess Holland in The London Paper, Sweet Toof is quoted as saying:
“Teeth can be really sexy, or aggressive, but they’re also constant reminders of death. They’re how we get recognised by police when there’s nothing else left.”
According to an account by Olly Beck, Toof’s work resonates conceptually with the Vanitas paintings of the 16th Century – a movement highlighting the transience of life and actual meaninglessness of the material goods we hold dear in the process, which was typically signified by juxtaposing ornate items with skulls. Also, Sweet Toof’s skulls are rather close to the Mexican skull iconography about the honour and celebration of death, much like halloween is to the Mexican skullfest, Day of the Dead.
So, there you have it: skulls, teeth, mortality, transience, conceptual craziness, beauty of death and nature and a sugary high that sends gums into a frenzy. Perhaps this Friday flashback isn’t so off-topic, after all!