Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Art on the Outskirts

The New Gallery

It is to my eternal consternation that I don't get to South London quite as often as I'd like to.  So when the kind folks over at Spoonfed and Art Licks invited me on a tour of the art hot spots in Peckham, I couldn't refuse.

I've been a big fan of Holly and Art Licks since they launched last year. Even though I consider myself as a lover of all things general, there's something great about a niche that really hits the spot. Art Licks is a nifty little website where you can find out what's happening in the world of non-commercial, curator and artist-run art spaces in London. It's organised by openings and days of the week, so if you've got a gap in your Tuesday-night schedule, you can have a quick look at Art Licks to see if there's anything interesting happening.

A group of 15 or so met up at New Gallery on Peckham Road, just across the street from the South London Gallery. I'd been wanting to go to the New Gallery since Practice Architecture (of Frank's Cafe fame) completed a makeover of the ground floor space last year.  The art, clips of old films all spliced together to make an art-student movie montage, wasn't really to my taste but it was nice to finally have a look around, and the relaxed gallery/cafe vibe was top notch. Wish we had more of this in north/east London.


We motored over to Peckham Space to see David Cotterrell's Slipstream, a piece that reminded me a lot of Fugitive Image's photos of residents on the Haggerston Estate from a couple of years ago. Really, there aren't actually that many similarities between the finished work, but there's something very samey (not necessarily in a bad way) about the work of artists who interact with local residents.  David's video is an attempt to map the changes in Peckham's urban landscape over the last 30 years, with a particular focus on the estates of North Peckham. It's a very clever piece, well executed and again, I'd never been to Peckham Space before so it was a good opportunity to meet the people who run the space and their experiences in making community-focused art in Peckham.

In the Bun House pub

I then got slightly confused as I followed the group into The Bun House pub on Peckham High Street. Um, I thought we were looking at art, not going for drinks. It turned out that after a festival a few years ago to match local businesses with arts groups, the collaboration between Field, an artist run collective, and the proprietor of The Bun House was so successful that they've been putting on exhibitions in a small room at the back of the pub ever since.  They put on an exhibition a month in the pub and are taking a show to the Folkestone Triennial. Very impressive.

PhotobucketGuy and Tom from SON

Post Bunhouse, we headed over to the Copeland Industrial Park, and I thought, oh no, not the Hannah Barry Gallery. But I needn't have feared, for it turns out that SON Gallery occupy a space in the same yard as HB.  Another stop on the tour, another great space, this time a small commercial gallery run by artist Tom Saunderson and curator Guy Robertson. Of all the stops on our tour, I was probably most impressed by SON: it's a seriously slick operation, but I also had a good chat with Tom about how one runs a successful commercial space while still keeping hold of artistic integrity.  Also, I reckon they can't be much older than me, and it's bloody refreshing to see young artists and curators just totally going for it. I got this from a most of the places we went to on the tour. These are young artists and curators, frustrated by the lack of opportunity, but turning that frustration into action and opening spaces left, right and centre.  They're showing that you don't need to have a ton of money or an influential uncle or a huge space; you only need a tiny room in the back of a pub, or a small but perfectly formed gallery in an industrial park in Peckham to make an impact.

I hate to jump on the bandwagon and add to the hype, but there really are too many interesting arty things are happening in Peckham right now. Go, go, go! Holly runs tours all the time, so there's no excuse. Check out Art Licks for details. And, if you want to know what's happening at the galleries, Spoonfed is pretty good at keeping tabs.  You can check them out here.


Anonymous said...

Made in Peckham... http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-06/07/peckham-gramophone-design-challenge

Phoenicia said...

Ah, yes. I saw that in the House of Detention during Clerkenwell Design Week. I keep meaning to write that up, but I haven't gotten that far yet.

Anonymous said...

Why is there an animosity towards the Hannah Barry Gallery? It's as important a role in Peckham as every other gallery there for sure? I know she seems to get a bad press but I'm interested to hear actually why. Surely many other galleries have sprung up here because of the press she's got the area in general. Besides this point, the rest of your article is spot on, although the welcomed new arrival of Arcadia Missa is surely worth a mention too. Thanks for keeping Peckham in print.

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