SPLEEN is a new artist run curatorial project that is taking over a some of London’s more unusual gallery spaces and running a series of exhibitions to showcase the cities most talented artists. Combining visual art and performance art, the group stage short shows that seem to burst out of nowhere with a fierce energy.
Their last show in June 2016, entitled IMAGINE IF THAT SAID… was staged in a converted warehouse called Safehouse 2 in South London’s artist’s district, Peckham. Taking its name from an Alan Trashmouth Records video, the show featured the works of nine artists who had come together to stage their show in this space, in the do-it-yourself punk attitude that London’s art scene is known for. The ephemeral nature of the show and its contents create an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1960s Fluxus movement, and its “Happenings” that were staged across Europe and the US.
The show combined works such as Eva Lerche-Lerchenborg’s sculptural like photographic works, Kim Harvey’s surreal landcape paintings and Egle Jauncems’ installation, which all tackle ideas of the collision of visual worlds – vibes become surreal and boundaries defy definition in the work of these talented young artists.
Other works in the show included Nnena Kalu’s sculptures, which are constantly evolving cocoon like constructions that mutate throughout their lives like a Kafka-esque chrysalis, drawings by Georgia Keeling that depict the dreams of a worm, and Laura Hemming-Lowe’s performance video of the artist unwrapping herself from a net in a field.
Anna McDowell’s work shifted from a traditionally sculptural practice to printmaking for the show, but still maintains her focus on the power of line and form – movements that previously defined the third dimensions of a piece have been transformed in to two dimensional gestures. Her images occupy a silent space that exists beyond that which is imaginable.
Each work exhibits the energy, creativity and rebellious streak for which the UK’s art has become synonymous with. Boundaries and traditions are flaunted and the artist has complete creative control. The self-exhibiting style of shows like this, proves a determination – it’s a two fingers up to the art establishment. It says “we don’t care if you don’t understand us, were going to do it anyway, which has always been the chorus of the undercurrents of artists that go on to big things. Just as Fluxus redefined what could constitute art, so are collectives such as SPLEEN continuing that tradition, making both themselves and their audiences question and challenge the notions of art, artist and gallery.
“SPLEEN is an artist-run curatorial project that puts on exhibitions combining visual art and performance in alternative spaces in London. The last show, IMAGINE IF THAT SAID… was a group show in an abandoned Victorian house in Peckham. Curating exhibitions in non-gallery contexts is always interesting and challenging. It dictates how you hang your show, it plays its own role, and this was something we really enjoyed working with and adapting to, and this is part of what SPLEEN is about. It has become harder and harder to survive as an artist in London. Unless you are very lucky, you have to constantly adapt to your surroundings, and create your own opportunities. So SPLEEN is a platform created by artists, for artists. For artists to exhibit their work. but it’s also about creating events that inspire the senses – audibly, visually, physically. A ‘happening’. Whatever cultural underground is left in London is certainly dying, everyone can see that. We just want to contribute to keeping that sort of thing alive”, said Anna McDowell of SPLEEN. And more power to them.