Greenwich Market

Like many other privileged middle class types, I occasionally browse through the Greenwich markets. I nibble on tasty snacks, try out classic vintage garments, allow myself to wallow in the gluttony of delicately crafted tasteful goods. When my friend was persuading me to visit a stall selling paintings I expected crass flower paintings and soft pastel niceties, horrible in their desire to appeal to the moneyed public. Lucky this wasn’t what I found. Walking into Libby and Sonia’s stall I was initially repulsed by their naive painting style but on closer inspection to the subject matter and content of the work, I was impressed by the raw but clear messages communicated through their politicised paintings.

Non-art trained Libby and Sonia have been painting together for 10 years. They produce artwork commenting on the state of the country .(1) Their paintings are titled succinctly with the subject matter of the artwork. The ‘Dentist’, for example, shows people queuing in the street to see the dentist. Other figures on roofs carry placards with hand painted messages of protest such as ‘People should not be pulling their own teeth out in modern times. How barbaric do things get before things are done?’ Their approach and impetus is similar to that of Chéri Cherin who exhibited as part the Hayward Gallery’s Africa Remix exhibition. Like Libby and Sonia, Cherin’s paintings are based on and meaningful to the society in which they live. In Cherin’s case The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libby and Sonia, South East London. But Cherin’s work is supposedly more of a celebration (2). than directly critical. Unlike Libby and Sonia, Cherin is art school trained though his intended audience is the local people of Kinshasa not wealthy collectors.

Like a commercial gallery, Libby and Sonia sell their work to the public, but without any pretence of elitist cultural value. Their business is conducted in a humble stall, an antithesis to the chic west end galleries. Instead of turning a blind eye to worsening economic state of the poorest and most needy in contemporary British society, Libby and Sonia tackle these issues head on without melancholia. They seeing through wealth and glamour obsessed ideals that drive many ‘Up the Garden Path’ (3).

I am sure that Libby and Sonia would be happy to chat about their work and the absurdity of the world in which we live.

1.… 12/12/07
2. 12/12/07
3. In reference to a painting by Sonia and Libby titled ‘Up the Garden Path’.