In north London we have the Camden Arts Centre; in South London the South London Gallery (SLG), both excellent institutions running programmes of contemporary art away from the crowded art scene of central London. Located in the no-man’s land between leafy Camberwell and colourful Peckham, the original building of the SLG was recently supplemented by the addition of old Fire Station across the road, giving the gallery a series of different spaces in which to run exhibitions, some separately, some across the two locations as with Bloomberg’s New Contemporaries 2019, a celebration of new and unknown artists at the start of their careers.
Across the two buildings are a variety of works, spanning the range of techniques which we now see in contemporary art from drawing, painting and photography to digital art and public engagement, recorded in video. Initially, it seems less adventurous in previous years, but then you spot works alluding to our new Prime Minister and to the Grenfall Tower disaster, a story which never seems to come to an end as many people are still stuck in tower blocks where cladding is not proven to be safe – a scandal which politicians seems unable or unwilling to resolve while they promise billions on new transport infrastructure.
Upstairs on the 2nd floor of the old Fire Station is another interesting exhibition – Hospital Rooms X Croydon PICU where academics, artists and practitioners working in partnership with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust engaged with mental health patients in the challenging environment of Croydon’s Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), part of the Bethlam Royal Hospital, to transform normally-sterile and unimaginative clinical spaces.