This show is a complete mess – which, in a way, is actually quite refreshing. It’s an open-submission exhibition, so there’s no trendy curatorial thesis or overarching theme – just works by 48 artists (chosen from over 2,000 applications), in every medium you could name, with nothing tying them together except they all live and work in London. At a push, perhaps, you could try to spin the show as a snapshot of London’s art scene. Yet the scope is still limited, focusing on young or emerging artists, and excluding more established names. It’s never made clear whether that’s a function of who applied or the jury’s selection process.
Yet despite these structural issues, the only thing that really matters in the end is whether the art on display is any good. And the answer is that, yes, a lot of it is. Plus, there’s the fun of spotting serendipitous connections and motifs as you wander around. There are pieces that use construction materials or processes, such as ‘All in a Day’ by Demelza Watts who contracted her bricklayer father to construct a wall that embodies precisely one day’s labour, or Ben Woodeson’s drifting, precariously suspended industrial sheet glass. There are works with an ersatz take on the natural world, from Alexander Duncan’s pile of stones that are actually plastic and styrofoam flotsam, to a video mash-up of nature documentaries and sci-fi films by Salvatore Arancio. Then again, there are also works that are weird one-offs, like Gaia Fugazza’s sparsely suggestive, half-woodblock, half-painted scenes such as ‘Woman Eating Contraceptive Pill’.
Inevitably, there’s some duff stuff, though it’d be invidious to name names. Overall, though, this ragbag show paints a generally inspiring picture of the future direction of British art – or rather of its future, myriad, divergent directions.