Bloomberg New Contemporaries in South London Gallery

Leily Moghtader Mojdehi “Backseat snacking: cream puffs and cheese puffs”

Bloomberg New Contemporaries rarely disappoints. And this year is no exception.

Established in 1949, this annual exhibition attracts hundreds of entries from emerging and early career artists. 

Spread over the two sites of Peckham’s South London Gallery, and selected by a panel of international renown, the exhibition features the work of 47 artists and a wide variety of media, materials and techniques. You can pleasurably wander amongst paint on canvas, photography, sculpture, installations, moving image, textiles, mixed media and soundscapes.

Andre Williams “Room For Doubt”

The curators have grouped the works thematically into six galleries. That said, the sheer diversity of the show makes it difficult to impose much order. However I left with two powerful impressions; that I had witnessed some very intimate and personal stories  and also been treated to some serious comments wrapped up in witty irreverence.

This is nowhere more succinctly expressed than in Kialy Tihngang’s “Useless Machines” – an amusing but ultimately critical comment on how our obsession with consumption leads to the creation of ever more pointless and indulgent products.

Despite the shadow of Covid, there is plenty of humour on display. Andre Williams’ “Room For Doubt” – a full size installation of riotous forms and colours – appears to be a grand exercise in irony and an example of excessive attention to our immediate environment courtesy of lockdown. “Enter the Fortress: Play well, Eat well, Sleep well” by Meitao Qu is at once a playful and thoughtful glimpse into a world of construction, development and change as the planet succumbs to endless urban sprawl.

Abi Ola “Startled”

Abi Ola’s delightful “Startled’ – mixed media on canvas – captures an individual either caught in the headlights or caught in the act.

There is a more serious undertone in Leily Moghtader Mojdehi’s “Backseat snacking: cream puffs and cheese puffs”. At first sight this is simply a moment of cheery naughtiness, but closer  inspection reveals information about the location and context which suggest a more subversive intent.

There are some genuinely moving and beautiful pieces as well. Lorena Levi’s finely rendered oil paintings tell part of a story and invite the viewer to take it a stage further.

Lorena Levi “And after that my brother saved me”

Josh Clague’s installation is an intimate glimpse into the experience of mourning whose strength lies in its simplicity and immediacy. Nicole Sheppard’s “Entanglement” is a rather tender exploration of relationships which stands in contrast to the sheer drama of Lou Baker’s “Red is the colour of….”

Lou Baker “Red is the colour of….”

There is much more to see and reflect upon in this varied show. It illustrates the depth and extent of emerging artistic talent and provides a welcome and nourishing retreat from a world beset by turmoil and trouble.

Director Kirsty Ogg said “Drawing on personal and universal narratives, from complex identities to notions of memory and story telling, this year’s exhibition demonstrates a rich diversity of voices and approaches…..(given the impact of Covid) it is not surprising that so much of the work selected this year represents and reflects on interior spaces, domestic environments and objects from the home, albeit often transformed by a surreal use of materials and the riotous application of pattern and colour. Self-portraiture and portraits of others also appear in many different forms and media – from painting, photography and moving image to text, installation and sculpture – giving us glimpses of lockdown lives and the sensations of dislocation, anxiety, isolation, loss, boredom and a longing to escape that many of us have experienced in recurring waves over the past two years as we navigated our ‘new normal’”.

The exhibition is free and definitely worth a couple of hours of your time and a short ride on the 345 bus which stops outside the doors of the gallery.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries is on show in the South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, SE5 8UH runs until 12 March 2023. For further information see www.newcontemporaries.org.uk and www.southlondongallery.org

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