14 September 20 November
Chronic Epoch is a collection of works by various hands, a group show that isnt really reducible to that rather tired curatorial conceit. Its more a kind of unpacked, pinned up archive than a chronologically coherent staging of objects rooted in the moment of the exhibitions immediate form. Documenting ten years of Beaconsfields rather complicated history, the show brings together paintings, archival material, videos, text-based works and performance-related props, staging a display that is as attractive as it is diverse.
Whats important about Beaconsfield is not so much the success or otherwise of each of the many projects this artist-led space has carried out during the period covered by the present exhibition. Rather, its long-term concern with the novel, the performative and the experimental is what made this venue a key point of departure for a number of overtly polemical practices within the London art scene and beyond.
Located in the former Lambeth Ragged School, the didactic aspects of such investigations are echoed by the buildings history and architectural arrangement. The unorthodoxy of the upper gallerys sloping floor and high roof is mirrored in its productive particularity by the large arch-shaped space downstairs. Both areas are impressive resources for the presentation of performance work or the showing of large-scale films and videos. Its as though the conventions of the modern gallery have been scrutinised and replaced with physical structures of a more individually assertive disposition.
These galleries are also capable of comfortably holding more traditional types of work. Keith Coventrys small process-based painting Crack Pipes (1998-99) paradoxically looks like a sleek video monitor, whilst Mikey Cuddihys Pig Head Girl (2005), a vastly scaled-up page from the artists notebook, suggests both the personal journal and the blatant affrontery of the propaganda poster, whilst in fact being a carefully transposed composition of scribbles, slashes and incidental effects. Susan Collis The Necessary Brio (2005) is a massive wall-mounted splash reminiscent of thrown ink but which is in fact a laborious Biro drawing, a discreet but intriguing visual deceit.
At one end of the arched room Eija-Liisa Ahtilas video Ground Control (2001) repeats ad infinitum. The image is vast, the narrative line intense. A young girl glances through the kitchen window at a woman, who is apparently her mother, lowers herself into a muddy puddle, goalposts are literally moved, and the sequence begins again. Opposite this projection a large wooden platform acts as prop for performances by Hayley Newman and Ian Hinchcliffe whilst being an imposing edifice in its own right. There are also works by Bob and Roberta Smith, John Isaacs, Shane Cullen, Bruce Gilbert and about a dozen other artists in Chronic Epoch. The mix is eclectic, the aesthetic quirky but astute.
First published: a-n Magazine December 2005
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