AS THE WORLD TURNS: New Art from London

AS THE WORLD TURNS: New Art From London
, 2011
Installation view Anna Schwartz Gallery. Photography: Paul Green.
Click to enlarge

Featuring the work of eight British artists, ‘As The World Turns: New Art From London’ explores some of the prevailing strands of artistic practice coming out of the capital today; in the process picturing a dynamic, vibrant and truly international art scene. The artists included – all of whom are in their thirties and at the start of international careers – work across a variety of media, their heterogeneity of style and approach the result of diverse backgrounds.

Despite emerging from disparate practices, the common thread among the works featured here is that they are exploratory, open-ended or interrogative in intent. Considered together, they construct new narratives or mythologies, contemplate the farthest reaches of the imagination or the cosmos, reveal new forms of expression and speculate on possible futures.

Among the artistic strategies and thematic concerns engaging this current generation of British artists is a return to the research-led approach of earlier conceptual practices, but applied to a wide range of contemporary subjects, from astrophysics to game theory, international politics to counter-cultures, and pop music to ancient mythology and folklore. Some of these themes are introduced via speculative proposals, fictional narratives or other imaginative conceits; while others are dealt with through the organization and classification of natural or social phenomena. The slippage of meaning or the conflation of the familiar with the uncanny or esoteric are recurring ideas, often subjected to a playful or ironic treatment.

Some of the artists featured in this exhibition offer new perspectives on the older debates of modernism or postmodernism, while at the same time grounding their work in issues of contemporary social relevance. The constant referencing and challenging of other movements, disciplines and ideologies define an art both of intellectual enquiry and of active socio-political engagement, yet one which also remains engaged with formal experimentation and innovation.

This new wave of young artists cannot in any real sense be considered as a singular school or movement. In the place of the sensationalism and shock tactics that characterized the art of the preceding Young British Artist (yBa) generation is an attitude altogether more serious, more outward-looking, more socially and politically aware, and an artistic output which is redolent with ambiguity and open to interpretive possibility. Rather than reformulating fixed and rigid notions of British national identity, these artists are instead engaged with confronting the conflicted realities of multicultural Britain in the twenty-first century.

London today is characterised by its cultural internationalism, its artists plugged in to a worldwide network of artistic practice, exhibition and distribution. In this respect, the artists in ‘As The World Turns’ can be viewed as exponents of ‘altermodernism’, a term coined by Nicholas Bourriaud to characterise a modernity for the new millennium, one based on the translation of different cultural values for the purposes of a worldwide network of ideas and communities. Taken from a work by Katie Paterson, the title of this exhibition serves to suggest this global circulation of ideas, and the complex cultural trajectory these works have taken in their journey from London to Sydney.

Nina Miall, 2011