Signature: Simon English is known for his mosaic-like presentation. Photograph: Jackson White

‘Smile, please’ is an oft-used expression – it can (sometimes) cheer up a grumpy toddler, act as a desperate plea after a badly landed joke, or conjure up a picture of happiness from a posse of distracted wedding guests.

It is also the title of Simon English’s new solo exhibition – featuring no photographs, surprisingly – at Peer Gallery in Hoxton.

The phrase, which according to the gallery, was chosen for being “at once both a banal and heartfelt expression”, is among the dozens of snippets of overheard speech, thoughts and personal conversations that grace English’s paper-based works.

The artist shot to attention in the 1990s for his ‘painted drawings’.

Made with ink, pen, graphite and watercolour on sketch-book sized pieces of paper, these works are assembled in English’s signature format: wall-sized grids of drawings, paintings, musings and doodles.

Dive into these sketches, and you’re soon swimming in the cultural imagery of modern London – ‘Don’t be a victim of a foolish heart’, ‘bad apple’, ‘nipples and socks’ – interwoven with both child-like and cerebral doodles.

English’s sculptures are on show for the first time. Photograph: Jackson White

Smile Please also offers a glimpse of new directions in English’s work.

In 2014, the artist began making sculptural installations, and this show is the first time he has put them in front of the public.

The sculptures displayed here are concocted from objects English has picked up walking around London, moulded together with blue-tack and foam.

The window case of the exhibition is given over to a selection of these whimsical sculptural constructions evocative of the Arte Povera movement.

Bringing the street into a gallery, English’s show offers a refreshing take on modern urban life.

Simon English’s Smile Please: Works on Paper and Sculptures, 2014-2018 closes on 22 September.

Peer Gallery, 97-99 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6QL

peeruk.org

Support us


The coronavirus outbreak has meant that the Hackney Citizen has been unable to print a monthly newspaper for the last three months.

The need for quality news and reliable reporting is crucial - however, this is an increasingly challenging time for local journalism.

Our main source of income, print advertising revenue, fell suddenly - and so we are asking you, the readers, for your help.A one-off donation from anyone who can afford it will help our small team get our newspaper back in print and keep the website and social media feeds running through this unprecedented crisis.

Find out how you can donate.

Thanks in advance for your support, and stay safe.