A Review of Eddie Peake at South Gallery White Cube Bermondsey, London
Once an exhibition cautions against nudity it feels more like a promise than a warning, but now that we are more difficult to shock, it seems that nudity needs a sense of purpose or joviality. Said warning appears upon entry to the South Gallery of White Cube Bermondsey and in light of Eddie Peake’s previous installations like Touch 2012, I imagined I would be in luck. Impressively, Concrete Pitch is the young artist's fourth exhibition at White Cube, running from 7th February to 8th April.
Again, if it’s nudity that you’re after, then head straight to the back of the space where you will find a sterile, wipe-clean curtain that guides you through its passages to the epicentre of slides and video work. A Royal Academy of Arts alumnus, there's no doubt that Peake has created a vibrant and layered exhibition with Concrete Pitch. Back during Peake’s time at Royal Academy of Arts, he staged a naked five-a-side football match in Burlington Gardens - one point to nudity, one point to joviality – this bodes well.
An appealing soft pink hue radiates from the South Gallery, tempting you alongside what can only be described as a 'throbbing base' supplied by DJs from Kool London Radio. The space disarms you with omnipresent, low-level lighting, which fills the ceiling almost entirely and can be quite distracting on impact. I was rewarded for the briskness of my early Saturday morning jaunt with the breakfast show, which broadcasted “oldskool” jungle and drum and bass.
Kool London has been based from East London tower blocks since 1991, taking the trophy as the longest running underground station and laying down the soundtrack to Peake’s youth. Towards the back of the radio booth a figure was diligently making tea, perhaps an apprentice of the DJs? Later I returned to peer inside the private space and became aware that this was no 'tea-boy,' but Eddie Peake himself. It turns out that he follows a scheduled daily-routine in the gallery throughout the exhibition. He moves between the installation, a private office in the radio hub and a triangular sculpture on the far side. The tall, triangular structure is accessible only by ladder. Without seeing Peake enter the strange object it appears as another angular nod to Brutalist architecture.
Stroud Green Road, 2018 runs diagonally through the gallery floor, exploring the human form and featuring a sound installation complete with more turntables and pulsating speakers emitting low vibrations. An assortment of familiar items such as Chewits, plastic eggs, a sheep’s skull and hair gel, are displayed on what look like medical instrument tables with no discerning purpose.
Testeen, 2018, is also comprised of multiple components; a white polyester Trevira Satin curtain, 35mm slide projectors and a digital projector. On one side of the curtained space is a video piece featuring four nude dancers performing angular movements, which have architectural and balletic qualities – Peake continues to play on his interest in the body. Occasionally, the dancer Kieram Corrin Mitchell, breaks from form and rigidity to undulate seductively. He connects with the viewer with alarmingly direct eye contact before falling back into line and sequence with the others. A topical celebration of individuality and identity?
If one has aspirations to a build a wall, then build a wall like Rupture, 2018. It's no dividing wall, this wall is an utter triumph. Entering Rupture from the wall work Slab, 2018, you slither between the walls and are hit with the most powerful sculptural piece that I have experienced this year. In this location, Rupture functions as a dimly lit alleyway. Evocative and disarming, it brings to mind every form of anxiety sensation you have encountered when walking alone at night. The sense of relief is hard to ignore as you turn the corner and are drawn to the familiar pink-tinted light at the end, beckoning you to safety.
Though the millennial pink glow in the gallery is Instagram-friendly, I remain unsure of its purpose within the context of Peake’s ideas. Yes, he is interested in the subject of desire, but is the use of pink to represent that unconvincing? It's here that I would ask for more context than “the art is a reflection of me.” Although the graffiti paintings do enhance the texture, and sense of the space as a microcosm of urban life, it might have been interesting to extend the spray onto the structured walls.
When interviewed by the Royal Academy of Arts, Peake describes how he envies “artists who do one thing” and it is evident in Concrete Pitch that this is not something, which is possible for him, because his work appears to be an amalgamation of every thought. The exhibition presents the viewer with themes of architecture, urbanisation, music, modern society and the human form. I felt the force of the dynamic graphics and structures, I heard the music, which carried him through his younger years and I felt the effect of his use of space and lights, but to hide sexless nudity behind a polyester curtain felt less than satisfying.
Written by Hattie Turner, a Contributor to Arteviste