Highlights from The London Open 2018 at Whitechapel Gallery

Whitechapel Gallery's London Open is a triennial open-call submission which is an incredible platform for generally mid-career artists to be seen at one of London's biggest galleries. Where it lacks a little is linear themes, but it does pride itself on showcasing artists who address global social issues, and as a whole this is done well. For me it feels more like a developed degree show, with a wide range of media and themes but unlike regular group exhibitions, it has a dynamic energy that allows the best works to truly shine while leaving others unable to keep up. Here are my selections from the London Open:

Gabriella Boyd

Boyd has been in quite a few exhibitions recently, including Pippy Houldsworth's recent show 'Hypnagogia', which I wrote about in June and a small solo presentation at Blain Southern. Her paintings are already highly distinctive and have a real dream-like quality and need more than one moment of reflection to fully digest what we're seeing. The artist's work is the first chronologically in the first space, and with all the large-scale installation and sculpture work, it does risk getting lost, yet her paintings offer something largely different to the rest of the show. My favourite, 'The Optimist' seems to show a mother blow-drying her daughter's hair in a car, with a real focus on the misplaced wing mirror showing a view of a building from the ground. Women's juggling responsibilities and the different facets of motherhood are delicately explored

Gabriella Boyd, The Optimist, 2018. Image courtesy of Blain Southern.

Rachael Champion

American artist Rachael Champion's installation 'Blackwall Reach' is perhaps an obvious choice for my selection as, again, I have written about her work before; her show at Hales Gallery in 2015 with Agnes Denes and Rachel Pimm was a highlight of the year's calendar. The installation sits in the middle of the Whitechapel Gallery's space and takes up a lot of space at that; the piece consists of three elements, 'Deck Window', 'Exterior Balcony' and 'Sound Barrier', all sculptural pieces of digital prints on wallpaper over timber frames. In this iteration in an East London location, ideas of architectural ruins and reconstruction (I avoid the term 'gentrification' wherever possible) are particularly salient; real rubble alongside printed timber frames present a scenario merging destruction and degradation against artificial structures is a thinly-veiled but effective reference to 'art-washing' and the short self-life of residential architecture.

Rachael Champion, Blackwall Reach, 2018. London Open, Whitechapel Gallery.
Image copyright: Darryl de Prez

Gary Colclough

While Boyd and Champion's work are both located in the ground floor space, upstairs lies increasingly more politically charged work, such as a whole room filled with the activist work of Andrea Luka Zimmerman, highlighting the potential as art as activism and vice versa. A tranquil respite is the work of London-based artist Gary Colclough, whose intricate piece 'Once Taken' merges painting and sculpture, with small snapshot paintings of fruitful rural scenes.

Detail: Gary Colclough, Once Taken, 2017. Oil paint on birch plywood panel, teak; 21cm x 115cm x 1.8cm.

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