Published on Culture 24
Beyond These Walls, South London Gallery, until September 20 2009
Beyond These Walls opened on July 24, three weeks after a fire killed six people in a neighbouring tower block. It was a grim coincidence: this is a show about the gallery’s local context, and the disaster has highlighted the contrast between the Sceaux Gardens Estate and the rarefied space next door for contemporary art.
Tue Greenfort has tackled the problem head on by turning the gallery round to face the estate and creating a new entrance in the former protective fence. The rear courtyard now welcomes residents with an elaborate community notice board, the hub for the gallery’s outreach programme. Part classroom wall, part climbing frame, this is another artistic intervention by a group called public works.
Esther Stocker has made a genuinely accessible installation, transforming the SLG’s education space into a walk-in Op Art sculpture. Foamboard is used to make dozens of rectangles and dashes, which run along all three axes of the 3D space. So the piece appears to stretch out beyond the gallery walls.
Those walls also come under pressure from Pieter Vermeersch who has painted the entirety of the main exhibition space. His mural shows two graded spectrums of colour, from red to black along one side and from green to white along the other. Depending which way you look, the whole building gets lighter or darker.
Meanwhile Leon Vranken has cut through the flooring to remove geometric shapes. It seems like an act of destructive mischief until you read, or perhaps work out, that the missing parts have been used to build a crude wooden chair and shelf on the other side of the hall. It’s an amusing gesture, but what the locals will make of it is unclear.
The seven international artists on display here do succeed in unpicking the physical structure of the gallery. But given recent events in the area, they leave questions about the venue’s social context unanswered.