Extracts from the Sunderland Echo Arts Guide feature 2009

Art exhibitions aren't exactly the place you'd expect to find hoodies, yobs and chavs. Marissa Carruthers finds out how Britain's ASBO generation is being explored at one art gallery.

We're used to seeing photographs of gangs of kids with their hoodies pulled up, looking menacing on a street corner. Whether it's CCTV footage on the news, police portraits of wanted thugs or mocking TV shows, the Asbo generation is mostly painted in a bad light.

That was until Derby-based artist Emma Tooth launched her latest exhibition, Concilium Plebis - a collection of work that focuses on the chavs, hoodies and scallies who are arguably the life and character of modern day society.

The title of the exhibition is Latin for a Council of the Ordinary People and explores the Asbo generation that has saturated today's life.

Presented in the style of Renaissence paintings and lit and posed like Caravaggio's, the exhibition makes intriguing viewing.

Emma said, "To get the models I literally grabbed strangers off the street and whisked them to a studio where I was able to control the lighting and take hundreds of photographs for reference that I could then take away and work on in my studio..."

Emma is also keen to stress that the images do not poke fun at the models, with the medium and style of the work encouraging viewers to find a gravitas and poignancy in the subjects.

She has tried to take something ugly, threatening or low-brow and find beauty in it, encouraging people to face their fears. And she hopes to have engaged a whole new audience with the world of art - an audience who would probably never have had their portrait painted or stepped in to a gallery.

"I have loved working on this project," Emna said. "It has been wonderful to see an idea that popped into my head perhaps three years ago come to fruition, and it's wonderful to see them all together at The Customs House."

Esen Kaya, The Customs House's visual arts development officer, said: "This is truly a fantastic collection of work which concentrates on an area of society that isn't always portrayed in a nice way. I would urge everyone to come and see the work because it is really breathtaking..."




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