From Lambeth to Peckham, South London's galleries are explored in the latest instalment of our 3-part tour of Condo, the unique international exchange programme that offers an alternative tour of the capital
The second instalment of our 3-part review of Condo takes a trip to its South London galleries. Set up in 2016 by Vanessa Carlos of Carlos/Ishikawa, Condo is described as a collaborative exhibition. 36 galleries have been invited to display work across 15 London galleries, in an international exchange programme that sets out to shake up the art fair model.
London’s diversity plays a key role in Condo, and each exhibition is shaped not only by the host gallery’s architecture but by its surrounding area. Visitors following the Condo trail will find themselves in Peckham, Lambeth, Soho and Whitechapel, to name a few. To reflect Condo’s unique tour of London, we have divided our review of the exhibition highlights by area. Last week, we visited East London. Next up, we review the highlights of South London. Central London will follow.
As Vauxhall, Brixton and Elephant and Castle erupt around it, Lambeth has been sitting a little quieter than its noisy neighbours in the last few years’ gentrification race. With a popular song from the 1930s and Cockney dance craze named after it, Lambeth Walk – now home to new gallery Chewday’s – has a long history as a centre of working class culture. However, after much of the area was bombed during WWII, regeneration pushed out much of those working class communities and now, with house prices predictably soaring, the presence of the middle class in the area is threatened. Contributing to this conversation from behind the former shopfront facade of ‘Grace and Mercy’s Fashion Enterprise’ on Lambeth Walk’s shopping parade is The Middle Class Goes To Heaven (2005-2006), a slide projection and audio piece by Nicolás Guagnini. It is this piece from which this exhibition takes its name, provided by Chewday’s guest for Condo Galerie Max Mayer.
As fragmented images of brutalist architecture flicker by, a looped recording of voices in French, English, Spanish and German intone familiar expressions inherent to the modern middle class experience: “medium-term goals”, “long weekend”, “couples therapy”. On the walls alongside is a series of Jef Geys’ pressed flowers and photography pieces, whilst these contemporary works are complemented by the surprising inclusion of a number of ancient Egyptian funerary objects, such as statuettes and pots, from Chewday’s collection of prehistoric artefacts. Geographically sandwiched between Parliament and post-war housing estates, the show takes a pertinent but foreboding look at the future of the middle ground in a space that is stuck between a sprawling city elite and the shrinking average-income family. With The Middle Class Goes To Heaven positioned centrally, surrounded by Geys’ flowers and ancient ceremonial funeral objects, this small show shrewdly sets up what can feel like an untimely send off. MR
Just a 10 minute walk from Chewday’s and up a narrow flight of rickety stairs, you’ll find ‘These Architectures We Make’, a small one-room group show of international artists curated by Greengrassi and Proyectos Ultravioleta of Guatemala City, who will be hosted by the gallery throughout the month in a collaborative exhibition that seeks to consider the affective and physical architectures that human beings construct. From the coarse surface of Karin Ruggaber’s gently pastel coloured geometric cement tiles to the playful renderings of water pipes in felt and fabric by Johana Unzuela, the show elicits in the viewer the desire to engage in a tactile way.
The urge to touch these representations of architectural elements subtly reminds us of the relationship between building and protecting, between the human and the inhuman. It is an impulse that reflects the wider aim of the exhibition, setting out to question how our energy for building things ever-increasingly surpasses our energy for caretaking. The enquiry into the ways in which we maintain the very structures that protect us is a poignant subject, especially when the rapid regeneration of the urban landscape in the surrounding area is considered. MR
The popular Peckham gallery, situated inconspicuously between a newly-opened tapas bar and the Brick Brewery, consists of a small bright upstairs space, which looks out onto the Blenheim Grove beauty shops and an evangelical church. For Condo, the gallery hosts a strong showing of work from an impressive three galleries. One of the artists representing Sao Paulo gallery Jaqueline Martins is the artist Adriano Amaral. Interested in transforming objects through physical procedures, he presents a series of UV bulbs that have been melted into marbled rods. On the adjacent wall are four sketchy charcoal drawings of Warsaw apartment blocks by the Polish artist and filmmaker Wojciech Bąkowski. Their solemn style is intriguing, with buildings and interiors skewed and distorted behind repetitive dark lines so that the structures and forms are barely visible.
In the corner of the gallery, Emma Hart brings a lighter touch. In her sculpture INK LOW BUY MORE, ceramic pages descend the gallery wall as if spewed from a broken printer, forming into a pair of messy, fleshy legs. Beside it, a set of glazed black and blue clipboards containing negative feedback are propped against the wall. Here, Hart’s signature use of ceramics brings an unusual beauty to the mundane. It is the transformation and reconfiguring of the everyday, echoed in the other works by Bąkowski and Amaral, that pulls together for a compelling show. HL
Just around the corner from The Sunday Painter, under a railway arch and beside a car mechanics workshop, is now well-established gallery Arcadia Missa. Founded in Peckham in 2011 by Central St Martins graduates Rosza Farkas and Tom Clark, it serves as one of the few London galleries dedicated to showing and promoting work that covers digital experience in a socio-political context. For Condo, they present a group show in collaboration with the Oslo gallery VI, VII. Set in the central space and representing Arcadia Missa is a series of hanging tent-like silk paintings titled You Do Not Belong To You (Universal Story) by the British artist Emma Talbott. In a style that feels like a psychedelic graphic novel, she paints scenes of menstruation, birth and motherhood over mystical star scapes and swirling patterns, blending memory, mysticism and real life.
Showing with Oslo gallery VI, VII are three other artists, including Than Hussein Clark and the British artist and rising star Eloise Hawser. Hussein Clark presents a series of two sculptures, made from a concoction of blown glass, enamel, steel, led and electrics, shaped into futuristic art-deco lampposts. Propped up on the floor beside one of these sculptures is Hauser's Circles, Dots and Gons, a woven polyester work with a security pattern, that characterises Hawser’s use of industrial processes to repurpose everyday objects. In Brad Grievson’s multimedia work Captive, torn coloured paper shapes are taped onto a white canvas, creating a series of empty frames from the blank surface. The works are diverse in their style and form and yet somehow meld together as if it was meant to be. Guided by Talbot’s central piece, they form into a carefully constructed mish-mash of pastel hues, geometric lines and contorted shapes. HL
Condo runs across London from 14 Jan – 11 Feb 2017. For more information, visit their website.