Lockdown hasn’t completely deprived us of the chance to experience visual art – we’ve been able to access it on our screens – but it has left us bereft of the impact of its immediacy, the feeling we get when we’re up close and personal with it.
Now that we’re leaving the L-word behind – we hope – art venues are opening up again.
And this includes the South London Gallery, originally founded in the 19th century by philanthropist William Rossiter to ‘bring art to the people of south London’.
On Saturday, 15th August, it reopens at both of its Peckham Road sites – the Main Building and the Fire Station. At first this will be with reduced opening hours and visitors will have to book timed slots online.
There’s plenty on offer from the exhibitions which opened just before the lockdown and now available again. In the Main Building is The Near Room (2020), a new film work by the artist Sophie Cundale.
This is a supernatural drama examining a boxer who hallucinates after a near-fatal knockout, mixed with the experiences of a queen suffering from Cotard Delusion, a nervous condition about feelings surrounding death.
On the ground floor of the Fire Station is How to Make a How from a Why?, an exhibition by Abbas Zahedi, the Gallery’s ninth Postgraduate Artist in Residence, who uses performance art and moving images in his work. Among the interests reflected in his work are lamentation rites and the intersection of personal and collective histories.
But if this sounds a bit heavy, visitors can see Working Progress, a presentation showcasing the work of 26 members of the Gallery’s Front of House team which is spread across three floors of the Fire Station.
And, in the Archive room, they can explore a display of artist Rita Keegan’s personal papers spanning the 1980s to early 2000s. Born in the United States, Keegan has worked as a painter before utilising photocopiers and computers in her work as well as working with women artists of colour and teaching New Media and Digital Diversity at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The existence of the British art scene has been imperilled by Covid-19, and needs all the support it can get. Peckham, should you not realise, is easily accessed on the Overground line. It’s all our responsibilities to help maintain the arts in their time of crisis.
From Aug 15th, reduced opening hours from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 6pm, 65 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UH. For further details, including exhibitions taking place later this year, see www.southlondongallery.org