Our critic's choice of London Gallery Weekend shows: South

The spotlight turns on south London on 5 June where young artists are getting their debut shows and veterans of the Venice Biennale are making a comeback


Check out The Art Newspaper's guide to London Gallery Weekend for recommendations on the best exhibitions to see during the three-day event, top trends and commentary

Once a far-flung outpost populated by only the intrepid few, south London is now a fully-fledged, contemporary art hub as is evidenced by the 20 south-of-the-river galleries taking part in London Gallery Weekend. It is a dispersed scene, stretching from Battersea to Deptford, and taking in a swathe of public spaces, from the South Bank Centre to Tate Modern and down to the expanded South London Gallery and Goldsmith’s CCA. But whether it’s White Cube’s cavernous Bermondsey hangar, Cabinet’s bijou building in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens or Sundy, which operates out of a terraced house in Elephant and Castle, south London’s galleries cater for all tastes and budgets.

Christopher Hartmann, Untitled (2021) © the artist

Christopher Hartmann: In and Out of Touch

3 June-31 July, Hannah Barry Gallery, 4 Holly Grove, Peckham, SE15 5DF

The German-born, London-based Christopher Hartmann’s smoothly executed, luminously high-toned oil paintings present cropped closeups of faces and bodies and rumpled tangles of shucked-off clothes. Calvin Klein underpants, the folds of jeans and discarded socks are rendered with the suggestive drama of Baroque drapery. In larger scale canvases, pairs of guys hang out together but at the same time appear detached and introspective. Hartmann’s modern males are ambiguous, uncertain and caught between hiding and exposing their vulnerability. Meanwhile, they hook the viewer into trying to decipher the mixed messages of their uncomfortable complicated, contradictory relationships.

An installation view of Nicholas Pope's exhibition at The Sunday Painter Image: courtesy of Sunday Painter

Nicholas Pope: Take Off

Until 19 June, The Sunday Painter, 117-119 South Lambeth Road, SW8 1XA

In 1980, Nicholas Pope represented Britain at the 1980 Venice Biennale with large Minimalist sculptures hewn from rock and wood. But following a trip to see the Makonde carvers in Tanzania, he was struck down with encephalitis that left a legacy of Parkinson's and greatly impeded his physical skills. Now, Pope makes exuberant, highly personal works in a multitude of materials, his abstraction unleashed into emotionally charged anthropomorphic forms. The Sunday Painter exhibition marks a recent departure from his usual mediums. Deep-pile carpets inspired by his multicoloured looping drawings, a papier-mâché model for a most unorthodox chapel and a selection of bizarre helmets incorporating pompoms, metallic ceramics and fairy lights all invite the viewer to occupy his irreverent and endlessly inventive headspace.

Performers, including the artist himself, will activate the installation and photographic works Image: courtesy of the gallery

Tom Lovelace: Bathers

4-12 June, Sid Motion Gallery, 24a Penarth Centre, Hatcham Road, SE15 1TR

Photography and performance merge in this new installation by Tom Lovelace, the latest in his Living Pictures series. The title comes from Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884)a favourite work when Lovelace worked at the National Gallery in the early 2000s. The walls of the front gallery are conventionally hung with new photographic works but in the main back space, viewing norms are disrupted with his prints displayed as reflective "pools" on the floor. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of London Gallery Weekend, performers—including the artist—will interact with these pools, acting as if at the water’s edge, dipping in toes and examining reflections. In between these live elements a looped film of the performance activates the space and offer clues to viewers as to how to interact with these contemplative printed pools.

Simon English, Empty (Pink, 2021) © Simon English and courtesy Cooke Latham Gallery

Simon English: Paint Your Wagon

5 June-9 July, Cooke Latham Gallery, 41 Parkgate Road, SW11 4NP

Simon English’s highly engaging stream-of-consciousness "painted drawings" mix text and words to explore themes of love, loss, pop music, literature and gay culture. These most recent works are larger in scale and intersperse spontaneous, sploshily rendered, cartoon-like creatures, people and buildings with diaristic musings, song lyrics, poetry and humorous one-liners. The result is a kaleidoscopic journey through a free-associating imagination, with English’s serendipitous love of chance associations and repurposings reflected in the exhibition’s title, which comes from an old record he found and carries open-ended connotations of both painting the town red and falling off the wagon—no doubt what many of us will be up to as lockdown eases.

Jade Montserrat, Simply (2016) © the artist and courtesy of Bosse & Baum

Jade Montserrat: In Search of our Mother’s Gardens

5 June-24 July, Bosse & Baum, Unit BGC Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

Artist-activist Jade Montserrat’s first solo show at Bosse & Baum consists of works on paper and wall hangings spanning from 2014 to this year. Many of these are based on fragmented and/or pixelated images of bodies originating with the artist’s own, which are the source of coded messages and visual play. Human and plant forms merge and bodies are blended with the contours of various rural landscapes, including the Caribbean and West Africa as well as the North Yorkshire moors where Montserrat grew up. The show’s title comes from Alice Walker’s text that identifies Black women’s bodies as shaped and ravished by the legacy of colonial atrocity, but here physical, female forms are also presented as part of a larger, interconnected whole.

Installation view of Ghislaine Leung's exhibition 0465773005 at Cabinet Image: courtesy of Cabinet London

Ghislaine Leung: 0465773005 and Klein: E45

Until 6 June, Cabinet Gallery, 132 Tyers Street, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, SE11 5HS

In the shape of a squashed ziggurat, with its ceramic balconies by Lucy MacKenzie and trapezoid windows designed by Marc-Camile Chaimowicz, the purpose-built Cabinet Gallery is a conspicuous artwork in its own right—although they prefer to use the term "social sculpture". Now Cabinet is further revving up its distinctive exterior with a gold banner by Wu Tsang and pasted texts by Contemporary Art Daily on its doors. Inside, a dramatic but cryptic installation by the artist-writer Ghislaine Leung parks a horseless hansom cab on a vivid expanse of red-and-blue interlocking foam floor tiles, presided over by a lightbox beaming out the artist’s defunct phone number. In the basement space, a video installation by the artist, poet and composer Klein takes the form of a series of screen tests destined to be used in a stage production of a computer game.

Check out The Art Newspaper's guide to London Gallery Weekend for recommendations on the best exhibitions to see during the three-day event, top trends and commentary

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