The Fountain Show II at Sundy

Water is the ultimate life source; we know this. Over the various lockdowns, city folk like myself were frequently lamenting the last time we saw the sea. As a deeply-entrenched city girl, this didn't strike me until about a year in, but when I finally saw the ocean again a few months ago I felt entirely refreshed and optimistic, as if a new possibilities were on the horizon. Of course, there are many water-based clichés at my disposal, and anything that is a basic staple life source will also be a bargaining tool in the ugly capitalist world in which we exist. I think here of Flint, Michigan and the droughts worldwide which will become more regular with global warming tightening its chokehold. 

In sharp, light contrast to these murky thoughts, we have the latest exhibition at Sundy in south London, tucked away in a beautiful residential part of town near Elephant and Castle, which is always a treat to encounter. 'The Fountain Show II' is self-explanatory, in that it is a show full of sculptures incorporating flowing water of some description. On paper, it sounds as if it could be either oversaturated with the same thing done multiple times in multiple ways, but experiencing the running water in the gallery space (albeit a fairly un-traditional one) is not only incredibly calming, but a fascinating insight into the works of different and exciting artists.

Lisa Penny, Summers of Old - The Fluid Decline, 2021. Clay, acrylic paint, MDF and rubble, 70cm x 44cm x 40cm. Image courtesy of Sundy.
Keeping true to its setting in a house, the gallery is unapologetically domestic, and having the windows looking out onto the quiet street and the full bookshelf intact are really lovely features. For me, I can't help but feel drawn to the way in which it reflects the time we've all spent indoors lately (although Sundy was established prior to the first lockdown) and the anxieties felt about going back out to galleries and cultural institutions. This quaint environment makes the 'Untitled' piece from the brilliant Roger Hiorns even more of an attraction. The work is probably the most conceptual in the exhibition, and truthfully I wasn't sure what to make of it, I only knew that it excited me. A quiet chaos in the corner of the room, yet in plain sight, 'Untitled' has an almost human quality to it, with bubbles actively frothing and journeying out of the sculpture onto the gallery floor. 

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2015. Plastic, compressor, foam, 80cm x 30cm. Image courtesy of Sundy.

That's something which unites all the works in the show: movement. I have been thinking recently about how moving forward (sometimes physically, sometimes mentally) feels like the only way to refresh oneself and make the strongest attempt at breaking free from past traumas. Water very much follows, that while it is a life source, it is comprised of minute matter from the past and is constantly recycled. The water flowing in 'The Fountain Show II' is, of course, more artificially sourced and contrived, but the symbolism is still there, as is the movement and relaxing quality. British-Guatemalan artist Lucia Quevedo's work 'But I'm still hungry' lies on the ground in the first room of the gallery, and takes the form of two blue eyes crying, which wasn't immediately obvious to me until I checked it out from a different angle. The water feature here has an almost campy, cartoonish effect, which is always a nice relief in any group show. A real strength of the exhibition is its ability to allow each artwork to leap from itself and expand into its surroundings, as we see here with puddles of tears.

Lucia Quevedo, But I'm still hungry, 2021. Silicone, pigments, ink, thick-it water, pump, 70cm x 50cm x 7cm. Image courtesy of Sundy.

Sundy's garden area is a real treat, and one that accommodates the theme of this show perfectly. The scale is small, and again stays true to the reality of its domestic environment, yet the relatively large number of fountain sculptures on display does not overwhelm. This is mostly due to the fact that they are diverse in aesthetics and nature, and in th outdoor setting, the show remains intelligently curated. Lisa Penny's piece is something of a scene-stealer, and while there I turned to my friend and suggested that this could be the future of headstones. Partly monstrous and partly elegaic, a fountain feature spurting from a person's mouth is no original concept, yet the work 'Summers of Old - The Fluid Decline' feels incredibly fresh and actually rather thrilling. 

I visited the gallery on a sunny afternoon, which certainly would have helped build the ambiance, but there is a sweet, innocent, fun sensation evoked by the exhibition which is so needed in the dark, difficult times we're living in. Hadas Auerbach's work 'Ripe' is a perfectly charming end to the show, one which left me genuinely happy and relaxed. It's an unconventional, and perhaps démodé, attitude to have towards contemporary art, and I am concluding this with an opening thought to another piece - why is that the case? Why is the idea, indeed the ideal, of happiness almost toe-curling? Is it because capitalism is constantly trying to commodify it, or is it that authentic happiness feels so much like a pipe dream that it is a waste of energy trying to imagine it? Alas, 'The Fountain Show II' has done a great job of giving me moments of relaxation and free-flowing joy.

Hadas Auerbach, Ripe, 2021. Watercolour on paper in resin, marked styrofoam with pump and scented water, 116cm x 44cm x 34cm. Image courtesy of Sundy.

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