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Miami Trip 3
13 June - 20 July

Soup presents the gallery’s eight exhibition, Mitch Vowles’ debut solo exhibition ‘Miami Trip 3’. Vowles (b. 1994) is a British artist living and working in London. He received his BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Arts in 2017, and will begin his postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools this September.

Vowels’ multi-disciplinary practice consists of repurposed and recontextualised found or facsimile objects and imagery, presented in settings that allow for a questioning of their innate socio-cultural significance. Playing off the presupposed concepts of status or the unavoidable ingrained associations tied to snooker tables, Levi 501s or coin-operated machines, he is able to elevate the everyday or the overlooked. Developing a deeper dialogue that reflects his own personal preoccupations and societal concerns, Vowles is able to broach broader contemporary conversations surrounding artistic identity, counterculture and the class system. By challenging convention and interrogating the accepted understanding of ‘art’ and ‘the artist’, he is able to draw attention to colloquial spaces, vernacular vocations and demonstrate art’s accessibility and ability to bring people together.

In preparation for ‘Miami Trip 3’, Vowles immersed himself in the idiosyncratic subculture of funfair art enthusiasts. Akin to trainspotters, these fairground fanatics travel the length and breadth of the country to catch a glimpse of their favourite thrill rides, doggedly documenting each one on Facebook pages or online forums such as Trip Art (522 members, at time of writing). Popularised in the 1970’s by the late Paul Wright, these elaborate, eye-catching, airbrush-painted panoramas often appropriate imagery from blockbuster film franchises and the top pop stars of the time, rendered in hyper-realistic high-definition. Replacing the classic sign-writing, brush-painted scroll and letting designs of the early amusement parks, these bright and bold backdrops reflected the fast-changing cultural landscape of the late 20th- century, as well as the increasing technological advancements of the rides.

Such aforementioned fan sites also serve as a space for artists to advertise themselves and their trade, a vocation threatened with eradication due to developments in digital printing and a growing disregard for the handcrafted or homemade. And so, for his debut solo exhibition, Vowles has collaborated with Malcolm Murphy, a sign-writer and airbrush theming artist based in Cardiff. Across a large multi-paneled ‘back-flash’ and three accompanying ‘splats’, conceived and designed by Vowles before being painted by Murphy, we witness a contemplation on coming-of-age told through early 00’s icons. A personal reminiscence on that period of adolescence when one begins to form their own identity, finally old enough to choose what you wear, what you listen to, finally tall enough to ride the ride. Eminem, Beyoncé, Kurt Cobain and Kelis appear alongside parental influences in the form of Donna Summer and Elvis, as well as more eclectic references to the 2001 solar eclipse, Margate’s Dreamland arcade and artistic inspiration found in the late Ashley Bickerton’s ‘Seascape: Floating Costume to Drift for Eternity II’ (1992).

Unfolding across both floors of the gallery space as a deconstructed Miami Trip, a ride synonymous with both Paul Wright’s painting style and a burgeoning British interest in the Americana, each piece is adorned with an abundance of unlit fairground lights. A nod to those dedicated devotees keen to document the rides at the beginning or end of day (for fear of the lights interrupting the perfection of the painting), as well as a subtle denotation to the decommissioned, an homage to the dying folk art tradition.