Welcome to the dark heart of urban regeneration. For her first solo exhibition, London-based artist Felicity Hammond throws us into an apocryphal building site/neon-tinged shanty town/post-apocalyptic metropolis. Entering the gallery space through a curtain of industrial-strength plastic strips, you’re hit by the glare of fluorescent light tubes scattered around, the smell of fresh timber, and the disorienting realisation that you’re inside part of the exhibition; a moving body trapped between partially constructed walls and ceiling and rubble all around. Using ballast, more plastic and other materials taken from building sites, alongside melting digital prints on PVC and manipulated vinyl, Hammond has created a baleful cocoon filled with the destructive materials and scenes associated with the housing and retail developments that now characterise (or, de-characterise) most of the world’s largest cities. Those awful composite murals featuring people drinking coffee, shopping and laughing that adorn the hoarding around construction sites come slyly into play, while there are also cunning references to luxury materials such as marble, as well as a mirrored trompe l’oeil that creates the illusion of looking down through multiple unfinished floors – a glance into the ponderous hell of an unexceptional structure destined to become ‘luxury’ flats.
The exhibition’s crowning glory is a large, gleaming wall-mounted digital print, which is a composite – another reference to those murals – of multiple construction sites, collaged seamlessly together to create a bleak scene reminiscent of the Blitz. Though despite its subject the result is, frankly, beautiful, due to Hammond’s astute sense of how to breathe soul into digital processes.
Much of the artist’s output is in line with the themes of destruction and regeneration explored here. Hammond is confronting us with a new and shiny form of nihilism: buildings as nothingness. The horror.