Thursday, 31 October 2013

Cartrain: from the street to conceit

'Mr Trainwash'

Is he a car? Is he a train? One thing the East London spray-canister assailant knows for sure is that he quite frankly, really doesn't like capitalism. Starting off at Leytonstone, he made his way centrewards to Shoreditch and even the Houses of Parliament in the hope the tourist-begot foot traffic will generate the attention he's after. His path is marked with stencils of well-known consumer products, characters and logos against those of political leaders stressing on the gluttonous, consumerism-driven society and the government's exploitation of it.

With works selling for hundreds of pounds, Cartrain gained his notoriety through the skull/pencil scandal with Damien Hirst's ego. After being sued for using Damien's diamond scull in his 'For the Love Of God' collage, he fought back and called him out on being nothing but a commercial money-making machine by taking hostage his cherished £500,000 pencils residing in Tate Britain. That was not the first time this Robin Hood of street art brought to light profiteering laziness masked by the widely-accepted ambiguity of modern art - he put up a cardboard box at Tate Modern in 2008 and superglued a 'Nike' plate in the British Museum in 2006, both of which went unnoticed for hours. And after all that, this year he finally got the chance to host his own exhibition at the Graffik gallery in May. 

Today, he himself capitalises on recognised logos covering his prints that are at once bold and simple, as if they were generated by a graphic designer. The works intend to uncover the hidden cracks within the social order, how we witlessly flock to follow the mainstream and the fact the conglomerates' marketing strings us along like puppets to spend more and more money. Why is it that the poor are working to fill the pockets the rich and are rewarded with horse meat in their burgers and chicken heads in happy meals? These questions raised within his work have been twisted with irony by his move away from producing free public street art to canvas prints the price of which reaches a modest £750. All the pieces sell out instantly - seems that people never got his message of consumerism after all. Cartrain is surely on the road (or tracks) to generating more revenue thanks to the capitalist society he so despises.

 'Warhol Fries Chicken'

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