On evidence of initial sampling of contributions to this annual citywide gallery event (which offers welcome space to emerging or less well-connected international artists), the bleak has come to roost. At Rodeo, Franziska Lantz’s oppressive room of mobiles fashioned from found-object detritus dredged from the shores of the Thames (a gamut of animal bone fragments, rusted industrial instruments and soiled camouflage coats) speaks of memory, waste and death. A viewer is made to walk uncomfortably amidst the hanging wreckage as a vinyl soundtrack mix of tribal beats and faint electronic pulses plays from a corner-I was astonished that the material has origin in London, as I felt I was in the presence of the sad unearthed casualties of conflict from a war-ravaged Middle Eastern or African nation, or that I had inadvertently wandered into a back woods cabin from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. A similar distress is found in the desiccated figures of Kris Lemsalu’s “Phantom Camp” series in the garret space at Southard Reid, porcelain faces twisted into expressions of tumultuous anguish, hands scraping agonisingly at the face, as if to admit complete and utter defeat, unable to stare directly any longer at a great horror. Most of the bodies are bound amorphously within dirty sleeping bags, appearing mummified, nestling closely as if seeking (and craving) a shelter and warmth that never arrived. The spectre of migrant crisis (or of more localised homelessness) is suddenly and strikingly present. Even Neal Jones’s “Allotment Paintings”, the most anodyne of all the offerings with their relatively serene garden landscapes, are structured with fairly violent finger drags along the canvas. Relief is found at Project Native Informant, with Loulu Margarine’s howlingly psychedelic daisies splayed across the gallery walls, and Yuri Pattison’s playful cityscape crafted out of circuit boards, a trenchant comment upon the ubiquity of technology, the beating heart and venous system that now underpins society. Cut us now and we will only bleed data.
I will explore the East End galleries hosting Condo in an upcoming post-I look forward to more instructively challenging material, hopefully with the same abiding core of integrity as to be found in the works reviewed above.