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Seeing a city's potential

"It started as a joke," says artist Peter Thompson of the title of the upcoming exhibition Not Bad For London at the Michael Gibson Gallery, "but it seemed to work."

"It's about this comparison, or compromise, people make," says Jason McLean, whose work will be featured along with six other London artists in the show. "Like it wouldn't fly anywhere else, but for London, it's pretty good."

The irony isn't lost on the talent group known as "the drawers." Despite their London roots, the artists' success is largely outside of the city, in the other parts of Canada and abroad.

Their work has been bought and shown throughout Europe and North America, and just this past winter they exhibited together in Sweden.

"There's great stuff going on here but who's hearing about it? You have to have higher goals," McLean says.

Still, the artists: Marc Bell, James Kirkpatrick, Amy Lockhart, Jason McLean, Jamie Q, Peter Thompson and Billy Bert Young, are excited for the show in London.

"We like exhibiting together," says James Kirkpatrick.

"But we don't always get to. It's hard to coordinate and curate but this came together quite naturally."

"It just seemed like the right time," McLean adds.

The artists' work is characterized by drawing.

Using different media they apply a drawing technique to their pieces, creating contemporary art with a cartoonish tone.

This exhibition will feature a mix of old and new work, from the drawers. Each artist will occupy a part of the gallery with individual work, and the middle of the space will house collaborative projects.

The show also incorporates interactive elements, like Kirkpatrick's sound art.

Kirkpatrick is also a musician, and he has created instruments and amplifiers for the show, so the viewer can become a participant.

"People can come in and pick up the instrument and play," he says.

"And they'll make a different sound every time you touch them, any song or melody you make will be unique to that moment."

The exhibit is an exciting display of Canadian talent and has drawn interest from major galleries and at the international art fair this past week in Toronto.

"This isn't new, and it's not odd," McLean says, "We've been doing this for a long time. But are people going to get out to see contemporary art?"

London has the potential, McLean says, but it's whether people take advantage of it.

Not Bad For London opens Friday at 8 p.m. The exhibit will run at the Gibson gallery (157 Carling St.) until Nov. 26.

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