The October Gallery in Holborn promises an exhibition featuring artists who have taken ordinary objects and made something extraordinary out of them. But this exhibition is much more than that. These artists have destroyed ordinary objects. They have shredded, mangled, glued and torn bits of wood, metal, and plastic to make something from nothing, which used to be something. One artist, Jukhee Kwon, has cut up books into thin strips, drenched them in Valentino red, and strung them from the ceiling, formed into what looks like a grass hula skirt for a ten-foot-tall giant. Kwon calls ripping up books "creation from destruction". One of the visitors in the gallery called it a "crime".
Upon entering, the first thing you notice is a giant ball made out of crusty petrol cans, and the first emotion you have is fright, for fear of being trampled by it like a scene straight out of Indiana Jones. The artist, Romauld Hazoumé, has dedicated much of his work to shedding light on modern day slavery in Benin, focusing on the underground economy of petrol in West Africa. Hazoumé's art contributes his unique perspective on the world, as one of only a handful of African artists competing for space in London galleries – there aren't enough African artists to tell us more about the continent's story.
Near this enormous work is another frightening piece titled AK-47 by Laila Shawa. Where Hazoumé highlights slavery and how it still affects many people's lives today, Shawa turns to the hot topic of conflict-ridden Palestine for her inspiration. She has decorated an AK-47 gun with bright, childish jewels and dotted it with miniature butterflies. It looks like an eight-year-old girl's art project, and juxtaposed to the danger associated with such a weapon, it is ironic and disturbing. This piece perpetuates the West's association of Palestine with war: although war is a reality for many Palestinians, how will the West know what else exists beyond violence if Shawa doesn't portray it? Perhaps the conflict is too obvious to ignore.
Be careful walking into the next room, because I bumped into the Quenum sculpture and nearly knocked it off its pedestal. The baby's head jutting out from the bloated wooden body fall in line with his series of sculptures made from recycled, white-skinned plastic dolls – ones that children would be playing with in his home country of Benin. His works embody notions of voodoo, but only superficially, much like the way that Christian or Islamic values, for example, rub off on non-believers in the same living space.
Also on display are works by William S. Burroughs, the American novelist and Beat generation author, which seem to be heavily influenced by Jackson Pollock's drip paintings. However, in their own right, they do not say as much as the other works.
This exhibition falls in line with the current fashion of London art galleries' "return to nature". Landscape paintings and photographs have filled many galleries throughout London, and now artists at the October Gallery are making their contribution by using natural and manmade materials to reflect a love of life, and a hatred for waste.
Environmentalists, Africanists (and those interested in learning more about Africa beyond war, starvation, and poverty), lovers of East Asian art, and political activists will find more than a few pieces here that interest them.