Arts and culture writer Eddie Saint-Jean (above) arrives for the opening of the Care, Contagion, Community, Self & Other exhibition at Autograph ABP, Shoreditch to find the very first work he sees mirrors the everyday reality of Covid Britain – but on closer examination it’s a more personal discourse on life during the pandemic.
10 artists were commissioned for this pandemic-themed exhibition and Dexter McLean’s series of photographic portraits of those who contributed in some way to his care during the pandemic were rightly selected to lead visitors into the front gallery. There’s a telling ‘familiar’ in their stark power and those masked features leaving just the eyes as windows to the soul speak to us in a way that is immediately felt but less easily read.
Responding to the themes of community and care within the context of the pandemic, the artists worked with the curators for a year to produce paintings, mixed media work, photography and video which expressed their reflections and experiences using diverse and sometimes contrasting visual language. The focus here was how the pandemic has impacted the sense of self and connection to others so opened up a discussion on isolation, touch, transmission, interdependency and social contact.
From Silvia Rosi’s restless and ironically playful black and white video and photography in Neither Could Exist Alone to Pouloumi Desai’s mixed-media petri dish-themed imagery in Our Cultures Are The Portals, we find ourselves navigating the past year and a half through their eyes and asking in a shared voice: “what happened, what was 2020 all about?” and “where are we now?’ Three simple questions. The artists aren’t there to provide answers but to be part of that debate and perhaps even carry the mantle of Philosopher-Kings entrusted to lead the discussion.
Also you might be interested to know the gallery was designed by Ghanian-British architect Sir David Frank Adjaye OBE RA. While visiting the exhibition you may want to check out the cool checker board-style exterior.
Below, the full list of commissioned artists.
Curated by Renée Mussai, Mark Sealy and Bindi Vora
23 Sep 2021 – 12 Feb 2022
London EC2A 3BA
Writer Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts and culture writer who reviews the London art scene and is familiar face at many exhibitions and private views in the capital. He is also an artist working in moving image and photography. His former studies in Visual Theories in Art and Film permeate his career as a journalist, artist and filmmaker.