Friday, 1 April 2016

South London Gallery

65-67 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH
Thursday March 31 2016

With Jo and Mary away doing  their holiday grandmotherly thing , Linda was not going to venture far from home so a bus to Peckham and a short walk brought her to the South London Gallery – it is next to the somewhat overwhelmingly concrete Camberwell Art College  but in a classic  Victorian public building – Passmore Edwardes no less – and has in fact been a  free gallery since 1891. The inside is all you might expect from the outside: high ceilings, big windows and plenty of terrazzo floor tiles. I really missed having a partner in crime as I managed to drop all my leaflets and pen very early in the visit so this is largely based on memory and said leaflets. Given the traffic and pollution on Peckham Road the Gallery is beautifully quiet and secluded with a garden cafĂ© at the front and back and a very tempting book shop.

The contrast between a traditionally built 19th Century gallery with light from above and modern exhibits is most enjoyable. The gallery has a quite fast-changing programme of showcasing different artists and different types of art, and the two I caught today are not around for long.

The smaller Clore Gallery showed the work of Jamaican cartoonist (1949-1999) Wilfred Limonious
from a large rural Jamaican family who worked exclusively in Jamaica, firstly for ‘The Star’ newspaper with both single and strip cartoons. Then in the Seventies he was asked by the government to help increase literacy (which was poor amongst men in particular) via the JAMAL programme. And thirdly he helped promote the dancehall scene through cartoons, posters and album sleeves – these are obviously the most colourful works as well as being where he started to use local Jamaican patois rather than more received English. I felt I needed a ‘voiceover’ to help me get some of the jokes. This exhibition has obviously been well advertised and seemed very popular, and not just with the rainbow-haired art students (how obvious is that?).

In the main historic gallery the second exhibition took some finding – the usual entrance was blocked by one of the exhibits and you needed to enter, by the back door so to speak, into a brilliantly white room almost dazzling in today’s sunshine. The room was generously stickered with   little labels with different plays on the word ‘shore’ and to me the works conjured up driftwood and tide debris – articles welded/bent/ formed into different sculptures, some almost figurative, some less so. Michael Dean, the artist, also writes and there was a pile of books but as they were under a stone and adjacent to a work it did not seem right to move one?  He has exhibited widely and his works are both intriguing and striking, and doubtless make more sense if you can hear his words read too.

I thoroughly recommend this gallery – easily accessible in South London but as worth the trip as that other, very different gallery in Dulwich.

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