The London Open 2022
30 June – 4 September 2022
Media view: 29 June 2022
Galleries 1, 8 & 9
Free Entry

12 May 2022 – The London Open 2022 captures the vibrancy and diversity of the capital’s art scene, reflecting the concerns of the next generation of artists and their insights in challenging times.

The 2022 edition features 46 artists’ works, offering a cross-section of the most dynamic talent from across London. It offers a journey through individual artists’ works and highlights the intersections of common interests, relationships and networks that make up the prolific and international London arts ecology. Embracing the nature of its open submission format, it includes painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance, from younger to established artists.

A seismic shift has happened in the artistic and cultural landscape since the last edition of The London Open in 2018. Moving from personal to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, this exhibition traces huge social changes. It tracks the frustrating effects of the drawn-out exit from the EU, disconcertion as the city ground to a halt in spring 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, realisation of the scale of the destruction of our planet, and the urgency to end racism and to decolonise culture since the Black Lives Matter protests. Whilst the show itself was also postponed by a year, the works capture the impact of a ‘lost’ year, which gave society — and artists — the chance to pause, redefine priorities and identify urgencies.

The London Open 2022 is also a testament to the material impact on artists over the past four years and their resilience, as they continued to make work and found new ways of sharing it, experimenting with means available, from the kitchen table to the back garden, through videos and online exhibitions.

The call for entries attracted 2,600 applications and the 46 artists were selected by an expert panel comprising collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, Inês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

The show is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social. The downstairs gallery looks at physical, bodily experiences, psychological and spiritual states, questions of memory, expression and performance.

The relation of our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Challenging our human-centric approach to existence, Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear at first as hybrid beings whose colourful electric wires feed life into them like veins. We are not sure if they are processing the most basic food elements — the gluten found in wheat and barley flour — for theirs or our alimentary purposes.

Alternating in the first projection space, Peter Spanjer (b. 1994) looks at communing through touch, rituals and movement, while reclaiming the possibility of beliefs and spirituality. Spanjer goes beyond heteronormative black male representations, considering pleasure, the power of touch and communal thought. Baff Akoto (b. 1980) traces African diaspora cultures, celebrating global connections through rituals from candomblé, carnival to flamenco, exploring how beliefs can transcend the body.

Mohammed Sami’s (b. 1984) canvases appear at first like quiet interior scenes and landscapes, however, references to his traumatic experience of emigrating to Sweden from his native Iraq lie under their surface. Here war and memory are articulated obliquely in a semi-abstract register. In contrast, Gareth Cadwallader (b. 1979) creates delicate and meticulous scenes on canvas, combining the poetry of Renaissance painting and moments of everyday life. In his work he reflects on the hopes, anxieties and other personal questions around practising as an artist, offering clues about their symbolism through hidden glyphs and evocative figures.

Why is the experience of oneself so often anchored in another’s imaginary? Julianknxx (b. 1987) looks at the relationship between materiality and the black psyche. Here, the artist invites us to breathe — a basic act that is continuously challenged by air pollution, stress and violence — to take in air and reflect on what it means to live together.

Andromeda Mission: Anarcha Prototype II (2019) by Sonya Dyer (b. 1976), comprising a sculpture and film work, interconnects three historic figures: the Greek goddess Andromeda, Anarcha Westcott, a subject of medical experimentation, and the immortal cells of African American woman Henrietta Lacks, controversially obtained for medical research in the 1950s. In Dyer’s speculative mission, she establishes communication between earth and the Andromeda galaxy, and through a performative journey reconsiders what is epic and monumental.

The exhibition continues upstairs with work delving into the impact of technology and algorithms in daily life. A monumental installation, The Underlying (2019) by Ami Clarke (b. 1969), comprises an eight-screen monitor bank, sculptural glass eyes, a sand drift, a soundtrack and a VR element. Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner, it considers the implicit role of capitalism and more specifically the City of London’s insurance district, in environmental disaster. Using financiers’ own technology and set of screens, the installation tracks the parallel value of shares and social media sentiment analysis, permitting a view into the rise and fall in reputations in relation with the mention of the pollutant plastic BPA.

In the next section, visitors will explore works considering family, identity and community, moving through towards wider concerns about the environment and climate change. Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta (b. 1953) returns to candid shots after several decades. Taken on the street during lockdown in his neighbourhood, where he was confined to during lockdown, Gupta celebrates the increased relevance of the local during the pandemic and offers up a close and insightful reading of a scene through the process of creating a photographic image.

Reflecting her ongoing research and interest in spaces of community and gathering, particularly for the African and Caribbean diaspora around the world, Juliana Kasumu’s (b. 1992) installation What Does the Water Taste Like? (2020) invites visitors into an afro hair-salon, a space for beauty, care, exchange and community. The installation considers the rituals of washing and cleansing, how vital water is to life, and its association with migration across oceans and bodies of water.

The last work that visitors will encounter is a flock of parakeets cast in lead scattered across the ground in Blue Sky Thinking (2019) by Patrick Goddard (b. 1984). The work exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks but also hints at a future mass extinction event, pointing to mankind’s role in an impending climate disaster.

The London Open 2022 artists are: Chloe Abrahams, Baff Akoto, Nicole Bachmann, Jordan Baseman, Helen Benigson, Hazel Brill, Gareth Cadwallader, Rory Cahill and George Mackness, Gerard Ortín Castellví, Ami Clarke, William Cobbing, Maria Roy Deulofeu, Sonya Dyer, Eva Fàbregas, Jason File, Beth Fox, Michelle Williams Gamaker, Ian Giles, Patrick Goddard, Sunil Gupta, Eloise Hawser, Henry/Bragg, Sandi Hudson-Francis, Asuf Ishaq, Marija Bozinovska Jones, Julianknxx, Juliana Kasumu, Marianne Keating, Seema Khalique, Dawoon Kim, Alicia Reyes McNamara, Paula Morison, Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi, Janette Parris, Will Pham, Madeleine Pledge, Candida Powell-Williams, Hussina Raja, Mohammed Sami, Inês Neto dos Santos, Peter Spanjer, Anna Chrystal Stephens, Milly Thompson, Ben Yau, Abbas Zahedi, Rafał Zajko.

Notes to Editors

The London Open 2022 is curated by Emily Butler, Curator, with Inês Costa, Assistant Curator and Wells Fray-Smith, Assistant Curator: Special Projects, Whitechapel Gallery.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue including essays and interviews with all participating artists and, for the first time, a dedicated microsite, functioning as a digital extension of the exhibition.

This exhibition is generously supported by Jayhawk (Transport Partner) and Whitechapel Gallery Patrons.

About The London Open

With a rich history, first known as the East End Academy, then the Whitechapel Open, and finally The London Open, Whitechapel Gallery has been open for submissions to exhibit since 1932. From the 1970s when the area around the Gallery in East London was home to some of the UK’s most important artists, it also became a launch pad for many artists at different stages of their careers. The London Open exhibition expanded in 2012 to include artists from the entire city, recognising the Gallery’s role in the capital’s cultural landscape and reputation for exhibiting current concerns in contemporary art.

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