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Reuben Powell at "Hotel Elephant"

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

REUBEN Powell is the Artist in Residence at a new art gallery, “Hotel Elephant”, in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, Britain’s first covered shopping centre. The artist’s studio/gallery is a large shop lent to him by the owners, St Modwen.

As part of his project to document the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, Powell is exhibiting his drawings of the area. On display are 20 large-scale works on paper, a series of limited edition prints and small works on tin.

The £1.5 billion regeneration of the Elephant and Castle is the largest regeneration scheme of its kind in Europe. An area with a strong, quintessentially unchanged, localised identity will go through a profound metamorphosis over the coming years. As a resident for more than 20 years, Powell has some understanding, as well as a bittersweet affection, for this often maligned part of London.

The exhibition is made up of a series of large-scale drawings executed in graphite and oil on paper and smaller works painted on discarded oil tins using bitumen and oil paint. They are produced from extensive research taken from the neighbourhood and then brought to the Shopping Centre studio to be developed into the finished pictures.

The pictures are imbued with a sense of urgency. They are vibrant, rapidly produced images reflecting the scale and speed of change in the Elephant and Castle. They challenge ideas of conventional reportage while expanding the range of the traditional painted medium.

While instantly accessible to all on many levels, like some of the buildings portrayed, there is a subterranean depth to the work; hints of mysteries to be decoded, defiant lives and the passing traces they have etched into crumbling concrete.

“Hotel Elephant” is featured as part of the London Festival of Architecture (June 20 to July 20) which will focus on the Elephant and Castle as one of the festival hubs this year. The gallery will be exhibiting the regeneration drawings along side new paintings by Powell. Also included will be the London Park Hotel Anagram Competition, details of which have yet to be announced.

Dates: until December 31, 2008.

Opening Times: Monday to Friday – 11am to 6pm; Saturday – 1pm to 4pm.

“Hotel Elephant”, Unit 238, Upper Level, Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, London, SE1 6TE.

Telephone: 07710 629317.