Charlie Smith London: Young Gods (until 9th March 2019)

February is about six months between degree shows, so an exhibition showcasing a curator's pick of the graduate artists from the previous year's degree shows is a nice refresher. For fifteen years, Zavier Ellis has annually selected a fantastic array of practitioners, this year from Goldsmiths, Wimbledon College of Arts, Chelsea College of Arts, Slade School, City & Guilds of London Art School and Royal Academy Schools. The calibre is very high and the mixture of humour and topical themes makes for a lighthearted, enjoyable show; over winter there has been a great deal of disappointing shows but 'Young Gods' has reignited my interest for the first time this year.


Teal Griffin, 5 Years, 2018. Textiles, insulation foam, wood, steel, plastic and cardboard box, dimensions variable.

Teal Griffin's sculptural work is a real highlight of an already strong showing; I recognised '5 Years' from the Goldsmiths degree show last year, where the seated anthropomorphised penguin gazed out from the fifth floor of the art school building. Our animal friend packs a slightly lesser punch at Charlie Smith as it looks out onto a securely locked window but its comedic value paired with the reminder of mankind's continued strained relationship with nature is made clear in the work and is memorable enough to keep people talking about Griffin into the future. I, for one, am excited about seeing where his practice goes next, as 'flat peat' attracted my attention as soon as I entered the gallery, despite its tiny size. Comprised of old socks and garden soil, the work stands erect as if attached to a body; Griffin's work seems to tell stories in a perfect fusion of subjectivity and objectivity, with plenty of space for the viewer to make up a narrative.

There is much to love about all the artists on display; I took an instant liking to some, but Chelsea College's Irene Pouliassi was a slow burner. I needed a few days to mull the artist's work over before realising that it is potentially the most promising of all the artists here. From a curatorial perspective, placing the gruesome 'Dad in the wall' next to Griffin's sock sculpture creates a highly personal aura immediately and complement each other perfectly; the aforementioned work is teeth and human hair implanted into the wall, and her artist bio stating that she investigates trauma and mortality certainly rings true. '#Thedeathnautsdiary' series sees the artist use a highly biographical take on sculpture, like an updated Sarah Lucas, as the artist uses everyday yet personal materials such as used clothes, human hair, butt-plugs and shoes. She also has a great statement on her website that is worth a read, and is like another artwork in itself, with little nuggets such as: "Art is entertainment//Art is the botched human parts//Art is a collective unconscious of trauma. Cheap symbols, manmade, no more industry, labour, pain, repetition, anxiety, patriarchy."


Irene Pouliassi, #Thedeathnautsdiary: Clothing Options series #1, 2018. Used clothes, faux Converse shoes, knife, Scoubidoo laces, 60cm x 20cm x 20cm

Due to the small size of the show, we are not inundated and overwhelmed with emerging artists, which is a welcome change from the onslaught of departing students at degree shows. Each artist picked by Ellis is sufficiently different from the last, conveying different ideas and techniques. Rosie McGinn's mini installation 'GET IN' uses moving cut outs of faces and arms celebrating, or commiserating, and is a fun play on human behaviours and gestures. Thomas Langley's works, especially 'Mummy's Boy XXL (Orange on White)' explores class in the art world, something that is certainly an elephant in the room but very rarely addressed directly and successfully; direct messaging seemingly targeted at a millennial audience takes the form of graffiti style text, such as "Buy Mum a House". Alexi Marshall's 'The Party' closes the exhibition beautifully, a large scale linocut print in black and white evokes historical art-making. Inspiration and skill here far exceeds Marshall's age, as the youngest artist in the show. Despite this observation, the artists are really not in this exhibition to be compared, and given that there is no prize at stake, it becomes easier to not only appreciate each work individually, but imagine how each will progress further after graduation.


Thomas Langley, Mummy’s Boy XXL (Orange on White), 2019. Oil, spray paint on birch plywood, 211cm x 215cm

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