It seems a pity that, given that historically the predecessors of the Camberwell College of Arts and the South London Gallery were so intertwined, that today, to the outsider, they seem so separated. I was visiting the South London Gallery (SLG) for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition when, on walking to the bus stop, I noticed a sign to Camberwell Space and, through the windows, what looked to be an interesting exhibition. Finding the entrance to the Camberwell Space in the Brutalist 1970′s building was a challenge and the receptionist seemed quite surprised that someone from outside would actually want to come in – perhaps because there was a strike of university staff in progress. What was on show in the Camberwell Space was well worth visiting, an excellent exhibition of photographs by Caroline May, curated by Vassilios Doupas, exploring in ‘Male Imperatives’ 21st century issues around male identity in a way which male artists have perhaps traditionally done with women, with images that are at times stereotypical, at others thoughtful and subtle.
Does the University of the Arts London have a new policy for public engagement, with its programme of exhibitions and other events at Camberwell, Wimbledon and Chelsea and in other institutions such as Tate Modern and the Horniman Museum? Perhaps it sees itself in competition with the SLG, or vice versa, but there must surely be synergies to be achieved by the two neighbours working together?
The gallery itself needs a little more thought. A long rectangular space with street frontage, it has one entire wall glazed which allows in too much light for reflection off glazed work. It would not take much to change this internally, while maintaining its identity to the street.