Churches hosting exhibitions and artists is a fantastic development says Almuth Tebbenhoff, co-curator of The London Group’s outdoor exhibition ‘Coming Good: Come Hell or High Water’ for The Waterloo Festival. When you enter a church, she says, ‘it is for a bit of soul time, and if art is present it can be a nourishing element’, but the art ‘should exist as a kind of votive offering to whatever deity or non-deity you are in communication with’.
The Festival offers a unique platform for connections to be made between different local communities
The Waterloo Festival was launched by St. John’s Waterloo as a means of celebrating and reaching out to the local community and the broader audience of London through a focus on arts and heritage. This year’s theme, ‘Transforming Being’, continues a five-year journey of transformation, diving deep into the synergies between well-being and creativity. It’s all about connecting people and ideas, creating bridges between the artistic life of the area and of those who live, work and study in it.
The Festival offers a unique platform for connections to be made between different local communities, artists and visitors through arts, discussions and celebrations. The programme varies, as Artistic Director Euchar Gravina has explained from ‘orchestral concerts to contemporary music, from poetry to singing, from walks and green activities to outdoor sculpture exhibitions and discussions on social issues’.
The London Group was set up in 1913 by thirty-two artists including Walter Sickert, Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, and Henri Gaudier Brzeska, to create a powerful artist-run group to act as a counter-balance to institutions such as the Royal Academy. This is the second year in which they have contributed to The Waterloo Festival and their three exhibitions showcase the diversity of members’ practices by focusing on sculpture, photography and moving images.
Their exhibitions respond to the Festival theme with a weather eye on contemporary social and political issues. Tebbenhoff says that ‘Coming Good: Come Hell or High Water’, the title of the outdoor sculpture exhibition, ‘felt like a good title for the strange times we are living in’. She reflects that ‘It’s an extraordinarily important moment, and whichever way we lean politically, we are all in the same boat and must find a way to make life worth living by loving it.’
Taking its lead from check-out counters of supermarkets and petrol station forecourts, the Group’s exhibition of 20 moving images respond to the idea of ‘self-service’ and Marshall McLuhan’s suggestion that, ‘The age of automation will be the age of do it yourself.’ From shopping to car insurance, we are being asked more and more to do things ourselves. Services that traditionally required a human representative have been redesigned so that customers complete their business interacting only with machines. Do these developments give us more flexibility and choice or require us to do the work in order to access what we need and thereby becoming unpaid employees?
Change is at the heart of the third of The London Group’s exhibitions, a photographic show at The Cello Factory. In ‘Metamorphosis’, pairs of images are hung together, each depicting a process of binary change. Angela Eames explains in her catalogue essay that, ‘when the two parts are viewed together, as one, they create a visual dialogue or mediation, predicting in the mind of the viewer, a third and distinct work of art – a state of completion’. At the moment when the viewer observes and tries to make sense, the artwork exists beyond the binary pairing – ‘One plus one equals three, so to speak…’
The rich and diverse content ranges from analogue black and white images within the traditional genre of capturing a moment to the contemporary digital transformation of images that have been copied, pasted, reproduced, compressed and reformatted. So, the exhibition utilises analogue and digital, conceptual and documentary, hand-made and high-tech, the photograph both as source material and output.
Returning to the beautiful churchyard and wide undulating garden surrounding the Festival Church of St John, with its landscape features, network of pathways, mosaic sculptures and architect-designed ‘Memory Bench’, there is much to discover integrated into this treasured and welcoming sanctuary. Mysterious old resin cups found by Elzbieta Smolenska have made their way from a Polish forest, David Redfern has placed a recycled wooden cross on three old compost bins creating an earthly altar, Paul Tecklenberg’s set of 32 plaster ‘milk-teeth’ entitled ‘Scream’ are under a tree as though they are chewing at the root, works by Jane Eyton and Clare Burnett are set high up in the branches of trees, Tebbenhoff’s ‘Portable Sigh’ features empty cubes and confronts our ultimate destination.
Tebbenhoff describes the exhibitions as ‘an Easter Egg hunt for wonderful nuggets of human experience’. These exhibitions show artists continuing to reflect upon methodology, myth and circumstance in their making of work that is entirely relevant to now. They invite the viewer to reflect and question the motivation behind each, thereby allowing viewers to come to know themselves; an internal transformation of being.
Top Photo: David Redfern ‘Water Makes History’ 2019 © P C Robinson Artlyst Words/photos 2/3 Revd Jonathan Evens © Artlyst 2019
COMING GOOD: Come Hell or High Water, 06 – 23 June 2019 / open daily. Location: St. John’s Churchyard, 73 Waterloo Rd, South Bank, London SE1 8TY.
METAMORPHOSIS, 08 – 20 June / daily 2pm- 6pm. Location: The Cello Factory, 33-34 Cornwall Rd, London SE1 8TJ.
SELF-SERVICE, 10 – 16 June 2019 / daily Mon-Sat 1-6pm, Sun 12-4pm. Location: Old Crypt, St. John’s Church, 73 Waterloo Rd, South Bank, London SE1 8TY.