Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns, Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery - Credit: Archant

Old Street venue hosts a look back at the weird and wonderful work of the Camden Town artist who died last April

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery - Credit: Archant

A retrospective of the weird and wonderful work of Camden Town artist Nancy Fouts opens in a Hoxton gallery this month.

Fags, Birds and A Couple of Guns runs from Feb 28 at the Hang-Up Gallery near Old Street.

The American-born artist, who died last April aged 74, is known for her extraordinary sculptural works which reconfigure commonplace objects and materials with a subversive, playful humour.

From a Madonna with Safeway shopping bags to a customised box of matches, Fouts would splice together religious artefacts, taxidermy, and Old Master paintings in surreal, often ironic juxtapositions. She described her habit of gleaning ideas - collecting objects to modify and putting them together to see if they "come to life" - as "beachcombing".

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery

Images from Nancy Fouts retrospective at Hang Up Gallery - Credit: Archant

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For her it was a way of rediscovering the familiar from a perspective that she likened to childhood naivety.

Renowned for her imagination, wit and boundless enthusiasm for disrupting the everyday, she was hailed as a 'modern-day surrealist' and admired by the likes of Banksy, Sir Peter Blake and her friend Gavin Turk.

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Curator James Putnam, who worked closely with her, praised her generosity of spirit: "Her deliciously infectious smile and dry wit made her a magnet for artists and curators of all ages, coupled with her talent for throwing unforgettable parties at her art-filled Camden house."

Fouts' background was in advertising with her then husband Malcolm Fowler. Together they founded the Shirt Sleeve Studio designing record labels for Manfred Mann and Steeleye Span and adverts for Silk Cut, BA, and Virgin.

Among their most memorable output was a 1986 Tate Gallery By Tube poster for London Underground using squeezed out paints. The pair, who lived in Mornington Crescent with sons Bo and Ben, went on to found the Fouts&Fowler Gallery off Charlotte Street in the late 80s.

Following their 1995 divorce, Fouts exhibited alone and Fowler moved to Primrose Hill until his death in 2012.

Working closely with Fouts' estate, the exhibition features work spanning several decades, including some of her best loved sculptures and framed works alongside unseen pieces from her converted vicarage home and studio space in Camden Town.

Cathryn Wright, Executor of Nancy's estate said; "'Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns' brings together a fabulous collection of her artworks from past to present to make what is sure to be a suitably weird and eclectic exhibition. This will be the first major show of her works since her death last year and we are delighted to be working with Hang-Up Gallery for what will be a fitting tribute to an extraordinary woman."

The retrospective is the inaugural exhibition at Hang-Up's new 2000sq ft gallery space on the Regent's Canal.

Gallery founder Ben Cotton said; "I was lucky enough to be introduced to Nancy's work around ten years ago and instantly became both a fan and a collector. Her wicked sense of humour shines through in all her pieces and it's impossible not to be drawn in. It's a real honour to have the opportunity to show her works in this retrospective."

Gavin Turk once described the home that Fouts shared with partner: "She would take you excitedly down to her magical workshop in the basement to pull open drawers of feathers, watches, shells, eyeballs and jewellery tools.

"Her infectious laughter and flashing eyes would sparkle as she described with her maker's hands her latest conception or discussed the affairs of the day in visual metaphor."

Fags Birds and A Couple of Guns runs to April 24 at Hang Up Gallery hanguppictures.com

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