‘Deptford Stories’

Curated by Harts Lane Studios
31 October — 16 November, 2014

Arklow Road Trading Estate
Arklow Road,
Deptford SE14 6EB

Artists: Melissa Alley | Hermione Allsopp | Victoria Arney | Vanya Balogh | Clive Burton | James Capper | Edward Chell | Cedric Christie | Carla Cruz | Alex Culshaw | Mikey Georgeson | Lauri Hopkins | May Yeonok Jang | Caroline Lambard | Teresa Leung | Amanda Loomes | Holly Owen | Matt Parsons | Sam Risley | Ellen Camilla Rose | Pascal Rousson | Paul Sakoilsky | Margot Sanders | Katie Surridge | Paul Tecklenberg | Oscar Tornincasa | Paul Tucker | Tisna Westerhof | Rosalie Woods | David Redfern

Curated by Deptford-based experimental arts space, Harts Lane Studios, and produced by Greenspace, with the collaboration of Goldsmiths’ college, and the property developers Anthology. ‘Deptford Stories’ is, in my opinion, one of those very rare beasts, a must see, vibrant and intelligently curated exhibition, it is one that really works in fascinating ways in tandem with, as opposed to just sitting in, or indeed, working against, the history and ambience of these soon to be demolished and developed historic setting. It is housed in the immense post-industrial buildings of the former site of Arklow Road Trading Estate, buildings that were originally a huge foundry servicing the docks and shipping, and in its last incarnation a very large scale printers. The show brings together an interesting and eclectic array of established and emerging international artists, with works ranging from mixed-media installations, sculpture, prints, paintings, light displays, textiles and tiling. For the two opening events on 31 Oct and 1 Nov, theatre, live music, food stalls and beer from a local artisan brewery also gave the events somewhat of an arts festival feel.

It is curated by three South London based curators and founders of HartsLane experimental project space in Deptford. Cristiana Bottigella, is an Italian curator (formerly working at Cittadellarte- Fondazione Pistoletto), Sigrun Sverrisdottir, an Icelandic Architect and curator, and the Dutch artist/curator Tisna Westerhof. Normally, one would not necessary point out the nationalities of these now adopted Londoners, but I think this internationalism, speaks volumes about the vibrancy of South London as an important element of what is now, truly, a global art world. There is also something in their combined approach and way of working, (to my mind very European in nature), informed as it is by their respective cultures and those cultures integration with the now truly international London that has really created something, if not entirely new, then certainly, that is a very welcome in the current London art world.

One enters the huge space, in what is in effect, a 'pop up' show, and then, by increments, one is happily surprised in ways that give one a sense of discovery, to find, welling up out of and amongst this huge post-industrial space, what amounts to a fascinating museum quality exhibition, at once grand (in relation to the architecture) and intimate. It is a show in which all of the seemingly eclectic works enter into a dialogue with the building, the wider surroundings and each other in vital and challenging fashion. A fact that one understands more and more as one takes in the exhibition.

I am somewhat wary of citing gender but I do not think it accidental, that we have three smart women curator-cultural practitioners here who have created a show that exhibits a healthy balance of high quality female and male artists. Again, this may also have something to do with what amounts to a fine tuned ability to balance the vectors of the buildings’ colossal scale with works and installations that seem intimate, even where some of these are of a large scale. Often exhibitions in such large venues, not in London alone fall prey to a desire to fill every nook and cranny with art works, including a huge number of artists. With thirty, obviously very carefully chosen artists, ‘Deptford Stories’ is very different in this regard. Another common tactic with often fails as an exhibition, is the bigger is better solution; when faced with such spaces, via always going for the easy seeming solution of hyperbole, scale merely for the sake of scale, the bigger, the brasher, the better, as if they are afraid that the intrinsic aesthetic-historical interest, that we all feel when entering and inhabiting (for however short a time) such large post-industrial spaces will swallow the work, the idea or concept. Thankfully, and this is something to be praised, ‘Deptford Stories’ nowhere falls prey to this over-easy illusion. It is a vital show, all of whose artists’ works, chosen with all of this in mind, have either been carefully chosen, and/or commissioned, in such a way, that rather than setting out to conquer the space, are intent, instead, on dwelling within the space, within this moment of time within the city of London, here, specifically with this corner of Deptford, S. London. It is an exhibition in which the word and concept of ‘community’ arises creatively, naturally, without its often all too politically correct and thus unfortunately numbing and cancelling out undertones. ‘Deptford Stories’ instead, creates a series of intrinsic dialogues with notions of place, history and community, with past, present, and possible futures.

It is a little strange, to write a review of an exhibition in which one is taking part — but then there are stranger things under the sun, and I was happy to try and get down on paper a few thoughts on why I believe this to be somewhat of a landmark show, and something I was very happy and honoured to be a part of …

Paul Sakoilsky 10 Nov 2014.

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