a short tour of peckham galleries

28 September 2011 § 1 Comment

Peckham is the new Hoxton – or at least that is what the young and enthusiastic south London art community would like us to believe, and to be fair this is certainly a hotbed of creative activity.

Step out of Peckham Rye railway station – no London Underground ’round this way – and it is a world of pound stores, ethnic wholesale vegetable shops and fake nail salons. There is an energetic, edgy and interesting vibe to the area. Slipping down a side street and ringing the bell on a nondescript doorway I was led in to the Sunday Painter, a tiny gallery effectively sponsored by the artists studios squeezed around the stairwell. A clever video installation Push-Pull from LA-based artist Pascual Sisto fills the space. Steadily flowing traffic is manipulated to flow from a seemingly never-ending tunnel whilst behind you it flows away from you on another screen.

Back across the High Road and in the back passages of a slightly dodgy light industrial estate is the Son Gallery where a loop of Takeshi Shiamitsu films – Heavy Reflections – were playing. He fuses found video material and home-made footage in a riot of images, colour and sounds which makes for quite difficult viewing.

Nearby in the same Industrial estate is perhaps the most well known of the Peckham commercial galleries, Hannah Barry. Her large space is split in to three currently showing Bobby Dowler, James Capper and Viktor Timofeev, none of which particularly caught my eye, but it would be well worth keeping an eye on her exhibitions to spot any emerging talent from the area.

Flat Time House is rather more unusual in that it is the former home and archive of post-war British artist John Latham. Without elaborating too much on his complex Flat-time theory of the cosmos his work basically ‘offers an ordering and unification of all events in the universe, including human actions…’ Using glass, books, plaster, canvas and spray guns his work looks to freeze moments in time. He also equates the building to a body, with the exterior as the ‘face’ (image above). The studio is the ‘hand’ where there is a rotating series of exhibitions. The wonderful films of Motoharo Jonouchi (image below) are amongst those currently on show and feature multiple kaleidoscopic images and a distorted soundtrack which effortlessly drags you in to a strange and disturbing world.

Moca is another artist cum gallery space run by artist Michael Petry. Artist collective LuckyPDF (see them at Frieze) are next to use the intruiging glass wall that faces the pavement with a video installation running 6 to 8 pm on the 30th September.

Last but not least my charming guides Rozsa, Tom and Laura from Arcadia Missa led us to their railway-arch space, again sponsored by artist studios behind the gallery for a talk by LuckyPDF. There are many more galleries too – best found using the South London Art Map.

This is not an area of commercial galleries in conventional spaces this is a place where art is thought about, discussed and created in a diverse range of ways in any cheap and available space that comes to hand. The key words here are ones like collaboration, platform, artist-run, collective, projects, groups and artist space. I highly recommend getting down ‘sarf’ and taking a look around. It is not an easy place to get to and find your way around so to help on the last friday of every month there is an excellent ‘pay-what-you-can’ tour (£5 suggested).

Tours:  http://www.southlondonartmap.com/tours


bold tendencies – in a peckham car park

7 July 2011 § Leave a comment

In Peckham for George Shaw’s Sly and Unseen Day (see previous post) I decided to make the most of the trip and drop in to Bold Tendencies , the 5th annual showcase held here for young sculptors and installation artists. Located on the top two floors of a 1960’s concrete multi-storey car park it is the brainchild of Hannah Barry of the eponymous gallery with the, dare I say futile, aim of positioning Peckham as the new Hoxton.

Impossible to find and virtually unsignposted it is a relief to exit a squalid stairwell (no lift) and discover a temporary booth marking the entrace of the exhibition. About fifteen works are scattered through the open spaces and were created ‘in response to’ the space and each with the help of a £3000 grant. James Capper’s Ripper Teeth has poised half a dozen of these roughly polished industrial objects on illuminated stands. They are interesting objects in a Duchamp Fountain  sort of way, but multiplying them by six doesn’t make them six times better.Kitty Kraus’s Untitled spins a shopping trolley handle meaninglessly on the ceiling whilst cleverly pocketing £2990 and two thousand paperbacks have been scattered randomly by Michael Dean (Untitled) who also no doubt turned a good profit.

Better is a series of polished steel bollards, bent and distorted, which are fixed in to a ramp. They elegantly separate the two (parking) levels of the exhibition. Entitled Ahead Only by Bettina Pousttchi it is the first striking work. Once in the open air on the top level soul music booms out from inflatable rats for no reason. David Brooks’ Adaptable Boardwalk uses forklifts to lift and distort a wooden boardwalk – which is Ok I guess. Elsewhere there were a few metal hoops, a high level hammock, some discarded metal plates and a plastic container in some mud and undergrowth. All rather disappointing.

The stand-out work for me was a caged area with abandoned rubbish, industrial wiring atmospherically covered in dust – an abandoned scene for some once-worthy enterprise. Sadly it turned out to be part of the car park structure. Any installation artist worth their salt should have imediately appropriated it and popped their name on the fence. Watch out for it next year!

Perhaps it was a worthy and interesting exercise – any efforts to bring art to the (largely ignoring) masses of Peckham has to be admired I suppose and I am sure the students found the cash useful. Furthermore if you want a beer with a view and a bit of a party on a rooftop I would recommend it to any local students but as for me – well, I know not to to go again – probably.

Bold Tendencies at Peckham Car Park, 11am – 10pm Thursday to Sunday until 30 September 2011

george shaw – the sly and unseen day at the south london gallery

6 July 2011 § 1 Comment

My schedule for visiting exhibitions tends to follow one of two scenarios. First is to visit at the very earliest opportunity – usually on the opening day or two. The other, equally frequently, is to realise the closing is approaching fast and make some panicky last minute plans. That was indeed the case with George Shaw. Not greatly attracted to the hike out to Peckham I delayed several times only to realise it was the closing weekend.

The Sly and Unseen Day turned out to be well worth the expedition in to the wilderness (only joking Peckham residents). The show featured Shaw’s trademark works – scenes from the urban lansdcape of his childhood – the dreary postwar Tile Hill Estate in the West Midlands. From this source the subjects chosen are removed a further stage – we see the remote, unnoticed and ‘unseen’; old metal fences, graffiti-ridden garage doors, park fences, workmens sheds and muddy puddles. The sky is almost invariably a dull grey, it looks like it has just rained – or is just about to. Nobody is present.

Painted in Humbrol enamel, a paint more familiar for those making airfix planes than fine art, the colours are muted. The scenes become strangely detached, the gloss finish also emphasising the depressing damp. The absence of people creating a sense of displacement and dream.

As with many of the best artists there is no need here to read the artists statment or the gallery notes – the message is clear. There is a sense of overwhelming nostalgia which seems to almost seep from the canvas. These are fragments of memory within which there is comes a pervasive sense of the post-war history upon which modern-day Britain is built. Is this the present or the past? It could be either or both, the art hovers in its own space.

Another artist from the Wilkinson Gallery stable, to which Shaw belongs, commented to me that it was very English. It is, but the themes addressed are so universal that I cant imagine even, say, a Japanese tourist, not getting the implied messages. This art – good art – is universal as a Hopper diner or a Ruscha landscape; one instinctively gets the idea.

George Shaw is one of the  selected artists for this years Turner Prize. Can a painter be a favourite to win? Probably not, but he should certainly be a strong contender. Pity the exhibition is now closed – but keep your eyes peeled for his work!

George Shaw at the South London Gallery until 3 July 2011 (now closed).

Represented by the Wilkinson Gallery. Their next show Where Language Stops opens on the 15 July 2011.

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