Established in 1949, Bloomberg New Contemporaries has had numerous incarnations over the years, but its dedication to critical engagement and providing an exhibiting platform to emerging artists from UK art schools has always been at its heart.
Over the years, New Contemporaries has attracted submissions from now world-famous artists including Paula Rego, Damien Hirst, Tacita Dean, Mike Nelson and Rachel Maclean.
In addition to the touring exhibition, artists are further supported through one-to-one mentoring, talent development and the possibility of a studio bursary. This continued assistance and endorsement is crucial to emerging art practices.
The selection process is completely democratic. This year’s selectors, Caroline Achaintre, Elizabeth Price and George Shaw, knew nothing of the artists’s background when looking at submissions – there were over 1,000 entries – so their decision was based purely on the artistic merit of the work.
With any collection of art made within a specific time period, there will always be similarities and connections in their reference points, and although this isn’t necessarily reflective of everything that’s coming out of art schools around the UK, you can expect comments on Brexit, gender, social politics, identity and current affairs. Kirsty Ogg, Director of New Contemporaries said: ‘By touring the exhibition to venues within the UK, our aim is to demonstrate the current artistic vibrancy nationwide.’
From the intimate to the global, the 47 artists chosen work in various media including painting, sculpture, photography, and film and video. Here we’ve picked five artists that explore a number of the key themes in the show.
The BA Fine Art Painting graduate from University of Brighton considers herself a painter of modern life, taking the adage ‘an artist’s responsibility is to reflect upon the times in which they live’ as her starting point for her evocative paintings that reflect on contemporary society and her position within it. As a second-generation black British woman, Yearwood-Dan aligns the stereotypical view of her heritage with the realities of her urban existence so her paintings and collages often juxtapose late-night establishments or metropolises with tropical West Indies landscapes.
Power and identity are recurring themes in Magnuson’s exquisite photographic practice that dissects the creation of history. Her black-and-white documentary style – that gained her a distinction in MA Photography from the Royal College of Art – constructs images that blur between fact and fiction due to her amalgam of sources. Working with small communities is decisive in Magnuson’s exploration of the foundations of our socio-political makeup. Her Mississippi series, for example, examines the troubled landscape of the American South.
Another fellow Royal College of Art graduate, Bowden uses functional narrative in the framework of emerging technologies to question contemporary philosophy, public policy and social issues. His short musical film, Oxygen of Terror (2016), is overtly timely as it focuses on a how classmates react to a boy wrongly accused of being an extremist.
The fabrication of self is central to Hazell’s interactive performances, which draw upon anthropology and the concept of obscurity. They involve sculptural elements, and often the help of friends. In the past, the recent BA graduate from Kingston University has used the informal platform of a blog. However, we’re not talking about any regular blog, but Rookie magazine, which was set up by online fashion phenomenon Tavi Gevinson to present working ideas. The young artist also sells her drawings for an exceptionally discounted price of £6.50, so it might be time to start that art collection with this rising talent.
Within the theatrical form of the ‘kitchen sink’ drama, Laycock’s fictional films examine religion, class and nationalism. Using this expressive method, which has become synonymous with the 60s, feels exceptionally relevant considering the current climate of disillusionment with today’s society.
Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2017 is at Block 336, 336 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AA until March 3, 2018.
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