It’s not often I head out to explore the arts with somebody else’s children in tow, but one Thursday night, along with my friend and her 7 year old son, I found myself in the enviable position of being invited to the opening of a mesmerising new exhibition by London-based street artist, Louis Masai.
Masai has made a name for himself through painting animals in the urban space, always with a human reference, using his striking visuals to bring to the attention of the viewer a cause that might otherwise feel too large for him to take on. Masai himself makes it clear that he’s an artist, not an activist. Last year’s Save The Bees project is a perfect example, a street art campaign designed to highlight dwindling bee populations and drive public awareness of the effect that this would have on the environment should they disappear.
Batteries Not Included, his solo show for the Lollipop Gallery, is once again a rallying call, documenting some of the most endangered creatures on the planet and challenging the viewer to imagine a world where only film characters, toys and souvenir depictions of these species remain.
Visiting with a 7 year old I realised there there is so much for kids to appreciate in this exhibition. Familiar characters are dotted throughout, whether playing a central role (such as Dumbo and the plight of elephants) or something more subtle, something that they might have to search a bit harder for, such as a hidden Ninja turtle perched upon a picture frame. There’s Angry Birds watching over some of our most precious feathered friends and even a guest appearance by Cheetara from the Thunder Cats. And for those of you who feel that children aren’t mature enough to take on the burden of the theme, you’re wrong. The fact that most of the images are set on discarded and recycled pieces of wood, proved a talking point in itself, prompting consideration around why you would reclaim and reuse items from the world we live in. The alternative artist canvas is a great example of how with a little love, even things that are on the verge of being lost for ever can be given new lease of life.
The exhibition is only on until 30th May, so if you’re pottering around near Brick Lane, or rummaging through the markets in Spitalfields, this is a very welcome diversion. Keep your eyes peeled for the many public murals also supporting the theme, London-wide.
Batteries Not Included: A Solo Show by Louis Masai is at Lollipop Gallery, 58 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LT until 30th May (Tuesday to Sunday, 11am – 7pm, admission free).
Nearby: Spitalfields City Farm is an oasis of calm. As well as your farmyard favourites (chickens, pigs, cows, donkeys), there’s a large vegetable garden, an interactive bug hotel and a full-size tree house that even adults can fit in.