The third in a series of four exhibitions focusing on the dichotomies of the 'city', this features six artists who critique or blur boundaries between the ideal and the mundane. It also cites its curators as 'detectives' who 'unveil underground artists' – which, along with the show's subtitle (from a hammy '50s movie), may be taking its film noir references a little too far.
Setting the bar is Liz Collini's site-specific window drawing, 'Restlessness' (2011), in which the title word is transformed into a diagrammatical rendering of scribbled measurements and instructions that imposes a physical structure on top of literal meaning. This play with illusion is echoed through other works, such as Sophie Hoyle's 'Cityscape II' (2012). Frustratingly, though, Hoyle's metropolis, formed from jagged fragments of photographic collage, pasted directly on to the wall, is let down by a messy execution.
Susan Eyre's print-based curiosities marry the rural with the urban. Using plastic packaging as a frame, she encases printed imagery of nondescript city locations with kitsch wilderness scenes. In a more dystopian vein, Joseph Steele's monochrome mix of drawings and photographs reduces London to a digitised rubble, in a mimicry of Victorian painter John Martin. But it's Steele's presentation of a supposedly found, handwritten manifesto by a 'Sister Ruth' (2011) that captures the attention most, with its polemical outbursts against the perceived injustices and corruption of authority.
On paper these artists share a commonality, but because they create 'no places' in their work, put together in an exhibition they can also create a sense of emptiness in the viewer – even if the best works are unfortunately overshadowed by too many ineffectual propositions.
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I disagree that this show got such a low star rating. Any galleries taking risks by showcasing new work by promising new artists should be celebrated. It's not pitch perfect but working with new artists is always a risk - you don't always know what you're going to get. I've seen the whole series of exhibitions and am really looking forward to the final Exhibit D. Way stronger than a lot of shows I've seen in bigger galleries with more clout.
Amazing show, quite a find on Deptford High Street. Loved the moody Film Noir appeal of the exhibition and unearthing some of the cool artists involved. All good stuff from a great gallery.