Less Nothern than Lowry, and far more intimate, Dominic Dispirito’s works to date have predominantly also been inspired by the so-called working class. This latest show is no exception, yet where the Pie n’ Mash of the title is a simple food, this art is far from basic.
The central figure here is Jackie Murphy, the Pearly Queen of Hackney. Pearly kings and queens are charitable characters based in London, recognisable by their clothing adorned with mother-of-pearl buttons in public appearances. Dispirito’s impressions of Jackie find her in her Leyton home dealing with much more private issues: looking for her metaphorical marbles (mental health), Smokin’ (addiction) and being alone (age concern) among others.
Jackie was presented with a Point of Light Award from Downing Street in 2014 but these scenarios are the antithesis of a person crowned as “London Royalty”. A smaller work It’s all Gone Pete Tong shows her with green hair, most likely the result of peroxide gone wrong, and a moment of private contemplation in Tiny Dancer.
The exhibition is given a timeless look not dissimilar to the two-colour Technicolour process of 1920’s movies, essentially reds and greens. For me, this evocation is strengthened by the sepia tone of each canvas. Dispirito has used Jeckll Linen, a sack like fabric which he tells me was ‘self-found’. I managed to find it myself too, on Amazon, and it turns out to be a very utilitarian product used for fabric and embroidery, but not painting as far as I could see.
The wide weave is thirsty and appears to suck the paint away from the pencil lines that Dispirito has refused to erase. None of the pigment is lost however, and his strokes and marks are the only three-dimensional relief from the flat, lonely life portrayed therein. I thoroughly recommend seeing these in this Bethnal Green gallery. After navigating the East London streets, and possibly knocking on several doors as I did to find the gallery, it feels like you have been invited into a local residence, if only as a fly on the wall.
Pie n’ Mash is at Anna Kultys Gallery, Unit 3, 1st Floor, 472 Hackney Road, London E2 and runs from 14 March – 13 April 2019. Contact gallery for opening times and days +44 (0)20 3302 6070. Admission is free.