The Fitzrovia Gallery is an elegant new space that has recently opened at 139 Whitfield Street. Owned and run by three long standing local residents, Sarah McDonald, Suresh Pushpananthan and Michael Skelly, their manifesto is to “play a key role in London’s creative and cultural landscape. We believe in the life-enhancing value of art and strive to offer the best experience for both artists and art lovers.”
The first exhibition, which continues to Saturday 18 April, is In Passing, a series of poignant photographs by Andrew Stanney. It is of particular interest to local residents, as the location of the subject matter is just a few blocks north of our patch in a disused pedestrian tunnel that starts in Drummond Street.
Andrew explained: “Shortly after moving to London in 2009, I discovered a passenger tunnel beneath Euston station that had been closed in the 1960s when the mainline station was being redeveloped. This was an amazing time capsule: it contained hundreds of posters from that period, and layer beneath layer the posters went back into time. There were posters for old movies, London theatres, galleries and even the original advert for Hitchcock’s Psycho. It was amazing to find all this stuff still in place and to see these forgotten caverns that people don’t realise are sometimes just a few feet beneath them.”
Looking at Stanney’s hand printed photographs, it becomes apparent that the London we know is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath its familiar surface lies another city, a Hades of buried and forgotten subterranean manmade structures, passages, rivers and sewers. The human race has pierced the ground beneath the city for almost two thousand years. Subterranean London evokes a nostalgia, fear and romance of adventure in the minds of many. It is an unmapped city, from which one might never escape. These photographs document a small part of this fascinating world. Here are the remnants that occupy depopulated spaces. They are mutated with age. Silent witnesses to the millions of people that once past, they haunt their subterranean world, glaring patiently from the walls. As posters, they insist they should be taken as reality, but are too damaged to make a cohesive statement. From close up, it becomes clear that the referential reality of the photographs is a fiction, an effect of the ageing process that produced them. The entire body of work records an orphanage of oddities, frozen forever in compositional decay, producing strange juxtapositions and unlikely meaning. Like the still life painters of the past this work intends to call attention to the significance of things, whose significance we have missed, a photographic post mortem.
The Fitzrovia Gallery, 139 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1. Open: Mon – Fri: 10am to 6pm; Sat: 10am to 5pm.