Old Street in London is slowly improving with new property developments and the imaginative new pop-up outlets adding to the established shops within the underground station, but the environment is still pretty rough. While the Red Gallery, on a site that is ripe for redevelopment, seems now to be inactive as an arts venue apart from the nightclub, Charlie Smith London and BEERS London, which are reached from different exits of the underground station, demonstrate that with different architectural qualities, top-quality art contemporary art can be shown. BEERS London provides a “white-cube” contemporary space on the ground floor of a new building in Baldwin Street; Charlie Smith London has an 19th century second floor warehouse space in Old Street going back to the original use of the building, while the lower floors have since been converted to the Reliance pub.
Currently both galleries are focused on new and emerging contemporary artists. Charlie Smith has a focus on post graduate and graduate artists from London art schools with its Young Gods: Year 10, the annual show curated by Zavier Ellis, while BEERS has an international selection of artists in Contemporary Visions 7 as the result of an open-call exhibition which seeks to identify new trends in contemporary art.
Both exhibitions show work in a mixture of media from traditional drawings by Holly Mills and MC Llama to video installations by Simon Garcia Minaur, Clare Undy and Hauyu Yang. As to be expected, there are differences between the two exhibitions. The Young Gods has more installation works such as David Bethell’s “Then Here Now (from Wood to Ash to Birds)”, which fills a room and includes a video of its cross-country journey, Jessica Lynn Schlobohm’s hangings made of a wide variety of materials including basketball leather, cigarettes, pig intestine and Cuban cigars, and Sarah Fortais “Spacesuits for Animals (Stag)” which stands proudly at the centre of the gallery, while Contemporary Visions 7 has more paintings with work from artists such as Loius Fratino, Etienne Zack, Ed Burke, Akos Ezer and Erik Olson and also textile works by Henry Hussey and Stewart Easton and contemporary sculpture such as Sabastian Neeb’s “Puppet of a Puppet of a Puppet” .
While the works in both galleries cover many subjects, there is a theme running through many of the works of the interactions of two men such as in Hauyu Yang’s “Daily Meeting” and Simon Garcia Minaur’s scintillating digital video-animation.
Is it coincidence or a work of masterful planning that the two exhibitions are running at the same time, as the two should be seen together.