The Haunch of Venison’s current exhibition is an entertaining, raucous, brash, anarchic rampage through the rebellious era of the British Punk movement. It consists of a vast amount of Punk memorabilia collected in the late 70s to early 80s by the artist and fashion designer Toby Mott. He amassed the collection from the age of 14 when he started attending Punk Gigs in Pimlico, and became involved with a gang of kids at his Secondary School who called themselves the ASA (Anarchist Street Army).
This exhibition is defined by that flagpole of teenage rebellion, self assertion, youthful identity and belonging: the poster. The Punk movement utilised this vehicle of advertisement like no other. A poster can be seen as a physical embodiment of the Punk ethos: cheap, unapologetic and ephemeral; they can be pasted up as quickly as they are ripped down. They advertise gigs, anti racism rallies and ironically the Queens silver jubilee. There are also magazines, flyers, fanzines and leaflets that were used to spread the punk ideology to its recession bound, disenfranchised youth. The Haunch of Venison gallery commented, “This exhibition seeks to capture Punks cataclysmic collision with the cultural, social and economic views of the time and show the enduring legacy left in its wake.”
Punk and its aesthetic are widely known through the bands that embodied the ideology; The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Slits and the lesser known The Snivelling Shits to name but a few. Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten’s unmistakeable violent snarling lyrics drove kids all over the country to abandon the boredom of their grey 70’s post war lives and to embrace the “Do it yourself, Do it now” ethos. Mott commented that most ephemera of the time were created by “kids in suburban bedrooms and garages with scissors, paste and photocopies.” In fanzines such as “Sniffin Glue”, with its marker pen scrawls this DIY ethos is starkly apparent.
The exhibition represents the punk aesthetic galvanised in iconic posters such as Linda Stirling’s subversive acid yellow poster for the Buzzcocks single “Orgasm Addict”, released in 1977. It features a photo collage of a naked woman with lips for nipples and an iron for her head. Likewise the infamous Sex Pistols “God save the Queen” poster designed by Jamie Reid and released to coincide with her 1977 Silver Jubilee. It features ramshackle newsprint covering the Queens face and a safety pin through her nose. Reid, the most well known and influential graphic artist of the Punk era is widely represented throughout the exhibition. For example there is a rare Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK tour publication magazine he designed featuring “Soo Catwoman”, a well known punk icon in London at the time, with her black winged eyes, dog collar, skull earring and horns immortalised in black and white print.
The weekend I saw Loud Flash, I had been trawling through numerous amount of shows across London, and this one captured my imagination. It represents a snapshot of post war Britain, from the Rock against Racism gigs to the rise in popularity of the National Front to the patriotic propaganda coinciding with the Queens Jubilee. The fragments of ephemera on display exemplify the fast, aggressive, expendable ferocious outburst that was Punk. In the words of Johnny Rotten, “Don’t accept the old order. Get rid of it.”
The Mott Collection: Loud Flash: British Punk on Paper is showing at The Haunch of Venison Gallery until the 30th October, 2010.