If you are going to set up an art event themed around a fourteenth-century poem, then the abandoned arches underneath a mainline train station probably sounds like it will deliver the suitable atmosphere to evoke the subterranean hell.
Fortunately, this was an event that not only had an interesting venue, but also managed to pull off some decent art that was actually relevant to the core theme. I have been to rather too many “themed” art events where only a person with a PhD in flimsy excuses could have justified the art selection.
So, Hell’s Half Acre, which was – at the time – advertised by one of those cryptic websites that just says “book tickets”, and which you need to have people screaming about how wonderful this mysterious thing is to let you know that there is a happening that simply must be experienced.
Having been caught out a few times by how unutterably awful these events can be, it was with some trepidation that I found myself around the back of Waterloo Station this evening waiting in a queue with the screams of train wheels on rails above as accompaniment.
Going inside and negotiating the people who managed to ignore all the messages about only turning up with pre-booked tickets, you are invited to enter hell through the mouth of a perpetually, and very noisy, barking pit bull terrier.
Entering into Limbo, you are presented with Chrysalis by Mark Jenkins, which is absolutely self explanatory as a work of art, and certainly evokes the limbo of its namesake.
The next piece was rather harder to explain – being a flotilla of golden sailing ships floating in the air. Quite nice and dramatic shadows, but erm Dante?
Some of the paintings were closer to the topic, and had an interesting mixture of old characters with modern weapons and slogans. A couple of the paintings really appealed to me – although I do quite like the macabre anyway.
As you penetrated deeper into the tunnels, the barking dog of the hells mouth slowly faded to be replaced by a dull rumbling sound that filled the rest of the tunnels.
What at a distance looks like a golden glowing sun is actually made up of hypodermic needles.
Deeper into the darkness, and quite suitable for the theme of the event, was a Charon style figure looming over the visitors in the Stygian gloom, with a rather ominous greeting carved into the wall.
Slowly processing around the tunnels, there are lots of other items on display but eventually you arrive at heaven, a white glowing globe which happens to be a good counter to the yellow “sun” earlier in the tunnels.
Oddly, you then have to go back into the tunnel a bit to get to the exit, which leads you down a graffiti covered tunnel to the exit and for the staff, the outside smoking area.
You’d expect the smoking area to be back inside hell itself – but I guess that’s modern health laws for you.
Lots more photos over here.
The website seems to be still taking bookings for the weekend – so if you have a chance, I would actually recommend this as a really quite enjoyable art event to attend. And its not often that I say that about the usually stuffy art world.