Cafe Gallery Projects London (now known as CGP)

To reap is to harvest, and in this case the harvest has been a year-long affair. Organised and curated by Anne Bean and Mark Anderson, ‘Reap’ extends from Cafe Gallery Projects to a series of satellite venues. Dilston Grove is an old church to the side of the park, the ‘secret garden’ is a lost corner of it (once visited not forgotten – be warned!), and the Coleman Project Space is a short walk away.

‘Reap’ is filled with ideas and intrigue, and it is evident that Southwark Park has proved a rich hunting ground for the nineteen artists who have lived, breathed and occupied this space, working off the calendar year to cultivate and produce. Richard Wilson picks out the winter/summer solsticse and spring/fall equinoxes, observing pagan rituals that herald the changing seasons. A mutiny of mythologies, he raises and lowers flags to mark, salute, remember, and mock. The skull and cross-bones’ tattered remains is a comic reference to mortality.

It is perhaps wayward mortality and misfit that in turn drives Dave. Dave inhabits Marcus Coates’ film Life in the Woods, striving to make sense of the modern age through his removal from it. Dave fearlessly embraces nature but his philosophy, whilst pertinent, is skewed. This becomes evident when he justifies his position through an absurdist rant that draws on the popularity of sushi (raw fish – raw living).

David Chapman delves into the lost currency of calendar dates; the vitriolic quaintness and/or popularised contemporary mythology of folk that evokes ritual and its re-invention is at the heart of his video work Observances. On the other hand Emily Richardson moves away from literal translations of time, sublimely masterminding a compelling visual narrative largely through a series of enigmatically composed still frame shots in her film Block. A button below a low voltage bulb which sets the mechanical apparatus of the projector clunking, and a pause before the first 16mm frame hits the screen, adds further to an exemplary work.

The social agenda of the park as a public space, strangely absent in much of the work, is explored in Lucille Power’s Super Bowls. What emerges is an intriguing juxtaposition of image and sound. The seductively calm movement of the gentrified bowlers is cut against clubhouse banter where the chat is often about anything other than bowling. Elsewhere too there are glimpses of social activity. Mark Anderson’s Year in an Image is a three-part photographic montage. Each section is made up from fifty-two strips, and in an otherwise barren parkscape one strip contains children and a bouncy castle. Counting backwards, eight weeks, a summer fête perhaps? In Miyako Narita’s video Yma a girl past and present, shadowed by herself, only ever smiles, is never bolshy, and never emerges in the rain.

While the elements do feature in much of the work they are harnessed most successfully in Mark Anderson’s Light Year. Located in a darkened space at Dilston Grove, the Tardis-like structure periodically cracks with a thunderous flash when stored solar energy is released. In part ‘Reap’ becomes trapped by the complexity of its own demands. It is both exhibition and archive, and at times the two sit awkwardly. The works are similarly divided between those that document and those that don’t, and although these opposing outcomes are not problematic in themselves, their conflicting demands at times leave ‘Reap’ in uncertain waters. Archive or other, ‘Reap’ boldly attempts to make visible the effect of time and place. The works are varied, and while Southwark Park has undoubtedly left indelible marks, here the artists reap revenge and return the favour.