With the pangs of a global pandemic still fresh in our minds, and an ongoing cost of living crisis dominating daily headlines it's difficult to feel optimistic about the future. Well, change was certainly in the air at the Sarabande Foundation’s annual group summer show. Dubbed an open love letter by the class of 2022, Soon This Will Be Over debuted works that reflect on our current times as a way to begin conversations on the change we want to see in the future. The culmination of a year's work by the artists-in-residence, the show took place at the Haggerston headquarters emphasising the power of collaboration, community, and unbridled creativity at the core of the charitable foundation's ethos.
Since 2017 the group summer show has been vital in showcasing Sarabande's yearly roster of artists-in-residence. This year, the show was an opportunity to celebrate the unique experience each artist goes through while highlighting how their practice has grown as part of this creative hub. Founded by late designer Lee Alexander McQueen in 2006, the foundation has been championing emerging talent that might lack financial backing through scholarships, practical knowledge from industry insiders, and of course, the studio residency program that provides subsidised studio space and mentorship.
‘Everyone here is quite interdisciplinary with their practice. It makes you realise that you can be bold with the materials you use and how you want to explore your work', says artist-in-residence Hamed Maiye. Titled How to Exist as a Future Memory, his collection of works uses objects like a chain necklace as a stencil spray-painted over paper. 'My practice is about looking at memory and questioning it. But also exploring the relationship memory can have to different things in our lives, such as imagination, identity, time, and magic,' he explains.
Another standout of the group exhibition was by Louis Alderson Bythell called Two Rocks Talking About The Weather. The dual sculpture display includes two rocks positioned on otherworldly podiums that face each other while a screen displays correspondence between the inanimate objects asking about the weather. Highlighting the mundane realities of everyday small talk with artificial intelligence as the conversational conduit, the work sparks questions about the banality of our everyday realities.
A similar idea was also present in Planned Obsolescence by Rosie Gibbens, whose life size sculpture of an office worker squeezing their head through a standard printer. The reverse of a 3D body scan, the transformation of the sculpture into a 2D print was more than a relatable expression of the repetitive nature of office work in contemporary society. It also put into question the value of human labour against the continuously evolving technologies within the modern day workplace.
Being a part of the foundation also provides its artists with the freedom to challenge their creative process. Artist Shaina Craft explained that her painting, Victory, was the first time she worked on a large-scale multifigure composition whilst also inventing unique lighting situations. ‘What I am trying to do with my work is create a fictional world, a complete world where the female body isn’t stigmatised in art the way it has been forever’, she says. The work displays three nude figures with their faces obscured by geometric masks challenging the viewer/subject relationship. 'In all of my work I think about the barrier that you place between the viewer and the subject as a separation to slow down the gaze'.
While the exhibition's title might align with the overarching dystopian feeling of the times, the work presented was anything but doom and gloom. An undeniable air of optimism permeated through the show space as the artists engaged with the crowds. Made up of works across a range of mediums, the collection from the future stars of London's art world challenge our everyday rituals and question the aspects of contemporary culture we're all too willing to accept. And while not providing answers to the conundrums we face on a daily basis, the work sparks conversations on how things need to change.
Soon This Will Be Over is on now until 8 September. You can get all the details on sarabandefoundation.org.