Brixton hosts major art exhibition at Bloc 336

Brixton is well and truly on the visual arts map. Not only is there a major exhibition in a Brixton gallery, it also includes the work of two local artists who have achieved national recognition. Leslie Manasseh spoke to the Brixton-based artists whose work is on show.

With 47 works chosen from over 1,500 entries, the Bloomberg New Contemporaries opens on 27 January in Block 336.

It is one of the most critically important and hotly contested platforms for emerging artists and appeals to a wide audience with works reflecting on, in the words of one of the judges: “the world in which this art has been made … from the intimate to the global”

From comforting to unforgiving

Amanda Moström (right) is a young artist, originally from Sweden, who studied in London and has lived in Brixton for the past two and half years.

She has an interest in public space and common experience and wants to “shake up the art experience and make it a bit more playful – more open and communicative than analytical”.

Her work, Welcome to the Common Ground, brings these ideas to life. It is a large sculpture consisting of swings made out of different materials – bronze, sheepskin, steel and wood.

As a set of working swings*, it is indeed a playful piece which touches on a near universal experience of childhood and invites you to enjoy it once again.

But it is more profound than a playground game and reflects upon how public spaces and facilities are used and experienced in different ways by different groups of people.

The swing seats range from cosy and comforting to harsh and unforgiving, providing shared but very different experiences and a metaphor for the politics and controversies surrounding public spaces.

Humour is never far away however, as Amanda seeks to demystify and democratise bronze – a material with an esoteric artistic tradition – by daring people to sit on it!

* For health and safety reasons the swings are static in the exhibition. A working version of Welcome to the Common Ground can be seen in Amanda’s solo exhibition at Castor Projects in Deptford (50 Resolution Way SE8 4AL) from 8 February.

 

Connected and isolated

Declan Colquitt’s piece Totem is a short video with audio where both images and the written word offer a disturbing take on a world driven and dominated by technology.

Using previously written text, Totem signalled a change of direction in Declan’s work as he realised that video was the art form which could give the most authentic expression to his ideas.

He is moving towards just the written and even spoken word as the most effective medium for him to “mix the cultural, theoretical and personal”. As a relatively early work, Totem uses footage of a telecommunications mast as the evening fades and its aircraft warning lights come on, and a series of written statements to capture Declan’s fascination with the “atomisation of technology … offering you the ultimate inter-connectivity but then isolating you … together alone”. As the totem occupies an ever more central role in society, “geography and cartography are withering away and becoming less and less pertinent” to our daily lives. It is a piece of austere beauty with shifting and disconcerting undertones.

Welcome to the Common Ground and Totem are only two of 47 artworks in an exhibition covering a wide range of artists, media and techniques – from the traditional to the experimental. Go see it, and you will surely find something to engage, amuse, disturb or interest you. Maybe all at once!

The exhibition runs from 27 January to 3 March 2018 in Block336 Gallery, 336 Brixton Road SW9 7AA. Open  Wednesday – Saturday 12 – 6pm.

 

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