Simon English: Smile Please

PEER presents Smile Please, a significant new body of ‘painted drawings’ by Simon English, accompanied by other recent works on paper and rarely seen sculptural assemblages created by the artist between 2014 and 2018.

Gallery open 12 to 6pm Wednesday to Saturday and by appointment.

21 July to 22 September

Simon English: Smile Please

About this event

Starts: Saturday 21 July 2018 12:00 PM

Ends: Saturday 22 September 2018 6:00 PM

At: PEER, 97–99 Hoxton Street, London

Organised by: PEER

English’s prolific practice is primarily drawing based. Using ink, pen, graphite and watercolour, he pairs, sequences and arranges these drawings in grids often comprising more than 100 works on a single wall. This regular and rational arrangement gives order to what is an overwhelming, changing, seemingly diaristic, kaleidoscope on the artist’s psyche. Gay culture, pop music, love, loss and recovery are key thematic threads in English’s work though spontaneity and action remain, and a giving over of himself to the blank page.

English has created a range of graphic languages, from intricate line drawings of imagined botanicals, to anamorphic cartoon-like people, creatures and buildings that mutate into fantastic, sensual or homoerotic entities. Detail and clarity is weighed against other passages in English’s work that are loosely drawn and roughly painted, where colour is washed and gesturally dripped over large areas of paper.

Writing infiltrates much of English’s work, as interior monologues, doodles from phone conversations, confessions, snippets from overheard conversations, lyrics from songs on the radio, and incidental soundbites from popular culture. By the compulsive act of making, English confronts and works through profound personal experience. The title of the exhibition, Smile Please, is taken from a written element of one drawing and is at once both a banal and heartfelt expression.

Although English’s drawings have been widely exhibited since the early 1990s, he only began making sculptural installations in 2014 and Smile Please is the first UK presentation of a new large-scale sculptural installation. PEER’s street window will be transformed into a huge vitrine displaying assemblages created from discarded materials collected on English’s many walks around London. Some works are simply re-contextualised detritus, others have a more intentional grandeur. Like the drawings, the temperaments of these works fluctuate, but exhibited collectively they exude a playfulness and pure enjoyment at the re-purposing and re-animating of the discarded.

Header Image Credit: SMILE PLEASE Installation view, 2018. Image: Jackson White




PEER was established in 1999 as an independent arts organisation to commission imaginative and ambitious arts projects by international and local artists in the heart of east London. PEER’s distinctive programme combines gallery-based activities with projects in the public realm and educational and community activities and events. As an artist and outreach-focussed organisation, it encourages risk-taking and innovation, presenting art in its dedicated gallery space on Hoxton Street and at various locations in the vicinity, including the new public realm area outside, vacant buildings, the street, the canal towpath and public parks in Hackney.

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