An artist mentioned this new space to me during a studio visit at the beginning of the year, and I was immediately intrigued because it is jointly run by artists Alistair McKinven and Peter Doig with curator Parinaz Mogadassi. And it does not advertise itself, relying entirely on the kind of word-of-mouth that eventually got me there. And when you do find your way, between the thrusting towers of the new-fangled City Road to the charmingly Dickensian Micawber Street, the door is just tantalisingly ajar. Without any kind of sign announcing the gallery you have to be a little bit bold to go in. Amid the absurd rhetoric of real estate developers capitalising on the art credentials of the ‘Near East’* – Canaletto and Avant Garde are the self-aggrandising names of two of our new mega towers – the kind of stealth tactic adopted by this new venture is a powerful attractor.
And today’s Dispatch is very much a last chance to see, as the current show’s last day is tomorrow. Matt Copson, who graduated from the Slade last year, is showing the latest episode in an ongoing body of work centring on the character of Reynard. Reynard the fox is a figure originating in medieval folklore. A trickster figure at once cruel, hilarious, irrepressibly vulgar and self-pitying, he has been deployed by many different authors, Chaucer included, as a critical or satirical commentator on the times we live in.
Copson is a musician as well as a visual artist, and also has a keen sensibility for language. The voice of Reynard, a deep, growly baritone of the horror-movie variety, dominates the space – sententiously propounding his thoughts as he circles the earth, despairingly observing mankind. Reynard has become a meteoroid composed of the “accumulated debris of my soul” – and this meteoroid is there in the gallery, a vast rock, with a human leg protruding at an angle. On the blunt end of the rock a black and white animation is projected – the fox running, eyes bulging, or anthropomorphised, bending over to confront the viewer with his puckered fundament and corkscrew pizzle.
It is Reynard’s monologue that captured me: bathetic statements like “it’s so lonely in my tax bracket” punctuate his ramblings and hilariously skewer the one-percenters. Reynard the fox/meteoroid has no more admiration for space than for the earth: “space is boring” he says, “Strauss’ waltz was just gimmicky post production”. But he reserves his sharpest invective for us on earth: “Your gods are apathetic, self-involved pricks… Mount Olympus relocated to Zurich… By all means, keep up your fascination with the facade of democracy but when you need some pragmatic leadership you know who to pray to.”
We have a fantastic tradition in this country of sharp, satirical political commentary and Copson seems to be locating himself squarely in that lineage. If you can get out in the sunshine tomorrow to see this show I urge you to do it. Otherwise keep an eye out for Matt Copson – and for the next show at Tramps.
* Near East: neologism designating Hackney and Dalston in East London
Matt Copson, Reynard’s Fundament, Tramps, 15 Micawber Street, London N1 7TB. Open Friday, Saturday 14.00 – 18.00 and by appointment. Exhibition ends Saturday 3 October 2015. www.trampsltd.com