A Review of Peckham 24 in Peckham, London
As the art world elite concluded their annual Photo London gathering at Somerset House, Peckham was just warming up by presenting a festival of exhibitions that encompassed a network of Peckham-based artists, galleries and curators.
Founded by Vivienne Gamble and Jo Dennis, Peckham 24, is a 24-hour celebration of contemporary photography. The festival is spread across a variety of locations in Peckham, including The Bussey Building, Copeland Park and other local galleries. Far from the exclusivity and structure of Somerset House, the non-ticketed festival instead welcomes a wide audience to see a diverse selection of photography.
At the Copeland Gallery, five exhibitions are enclosed within an impressive wooden structure. As you walk through the maze of alcoves and niches, a series of hidden images are revealed. Tom Lovelace’s group exhibition At Home She’s A Tourist presents an exploration of unknowing and strangeness within the realm of seemingly familiar domestic spaces.
This is most apparent in Eva Stenram’s Split, in which an empty chair is stationed in front of a photograph that shows a woman’s legs. Clad in stockings and black high-heels, she is pictured crawling over a bed. Although the image is cropped, disallowing us to see what is actually happening, the chair invites the viewer to take on the role of the voyeur. The viewer is tempted to look closer, but the tantalizing scene is not totally given away.
A bed also takes centre stage in Beyond Here is Nothing, an exhibition of Laura El-Tantawy’s work at Seen Fifteen. Transparencies hang from the ceilings and framed images surround the outer walls. In the middle of the gallery space, text is projected onto a bed that reads: ‘I am lonely sounds like the most sinful confession to make.’ The installation of the bed transforms the space into a domestic one. This is poignant as Egyptian-born El-Tantawy grew up in Saudi Arabia, studied in the US and then moved to London. She therefore has a complicated notion of the concept of ‘home’. This may explain why her images seem to focus on the natural world and evoke an airy, dystopian feel. The artist’s lens is directed towards the sky, rather than towards subjects that are rooted to an immoveable, locatable place.
The festival welcomes a community of artists from all over the world, responding to topics that extend beyond London. It’s Gonna Be Great, curated by Lewis Bush and Mark Duffy at the Copeland Gallery focuses on Donald Trump and the result of the recent American election. The installation invited viewers to ‘MAKE PROTEST SIGNS GREAT AGAIN!’, providing materials to create messages that would then form part of the display in a space full of blue, red and white balloons. As a backdrop to the election paraphernalia, satirical works from Alison Jackson, Tom Stayte and Kennard Phillipps depict President Trump getting a spray tan and smiling with members of the Klu Klux Klan, while a rubber Trump face mask hangs from a wall.
The act of combining two-dimensional photography with other objects and art forms continued in Jo Dennis’s Your Feet in the Air and Your Head on the Ground. Here the artist printed photographs directly onto traditional painting panels and finished them by hand with acrylic and spray paint. The title refers to her art-making process, in which photographs are taken looking up and down, resulting in a colourful and fragmented display. The final images are visually quite beautiful, which is surprising, as her Instagram shows that many of her images have been taken from rubbish bins located around Peckham. Dennis thus makes the ugly beautiful.
In Robert Ellis’s Proverbs, sight is merged with sound, as audio recordings accompany photographs made in Uganda. Presented by Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery, Ellis’s photographs mix local myths, proverbs and tales passed down through generations with his documentary images; thus allowing the audio recordings to form a narrative around history, landscapes and people unfamiliar to him.
Besides the galleries located in the Copeland Park and the Bussey Building community, Hannah Barry Gallery’s Oliver Griffin exhibition installed a skate-park inside the gallery space, while South London Gallery held exhibitions with Alicia Reyes McNamara and Erik Van Lieshout.
Peckham 24 succeeded in creating a ‘fringe’ around Photo London, initiating a festival that celebrates the artists that live and work in the city. As this is only the second iteration of Peckham 24, the festival looks set for a bright future.
Written by Lizzy Vartanian Collier, a Contributor to Arteviste