White Crypt: May Hands 'Best Before End' (until 5th October 2019)

I always love to see exhibitions take place in unusual spaces; this is becoming increasingly common in London, with real estate at a premium. White Crypt has encompassed its identity in its name, hosting exhibitions in the crypt of St Mark's Church in Kennington, south London. Underground, the abandoned aesthetic of the space is a nice contrast to not only the sterile, glossy, high-spec galleries of central London but the gentrification that is swallowing up our creative communities and areas.

Installation view: May Hands, Best Before End, 6 September - 5 October 2019. White Crypt, London.

White Crypt's walls are, predictably, painted white and are very much in keeping with a basement aesthetic; there is a dark air to the space and this extends to how I received Hands' work as I experienced it for the first time. She is currently on the MFA at Goldsmiths but the work is not what you might expect from the art school; the delicate nature of the sculptures are compelling in their lightness. Some are so delicate that they move as you step around them. Hands' work looks at the fragility of both manmade materials and natural elements, both of which are incorporated in the exhibition.

Installation view: May Hands, Best Before End, 6 September - 5 October 2019. White Crypt, London.

'Best Before End' certainly alludes to climate collapse and our role in it. I've always argued that contemporary art can't help but fall short of making meaningful engagements and calls-to-action with regards to global warming; it's probably intrinsic to contemporary art but by this point you'd have thought it would be slightly more active. This solo exhibition is very feminine and light, and we have to accept that for what it is.

I remember my first semester of art school, where two girls in my seminar got into a heated discussion about whether art being beautiful is an integral part of its value. It's an argument I care less about now but I am reminded of it when I see work that is undeniably beautiful and charming to the eye. Does it make less impact when we're trying to understand its meaning? I don't think so, although it is certainly another layer to analyse. The exhibition reflects on the September equinox and the changing of the seasons is in itself aesthetically pleasing; Hands' use of synthetic materials, such as glass and plastic, alongside dried flowers exposes our new hybrid landscape and materials in front of our eyes.

Installation view: May Hands, Best Before End, 6 September - 5 October 2019. White Crypt, London.

The curation makes the most of the space, with sculptures placed on top of televisions, on walls and hanging from the ceiling, which makes the show feel incredibly personal and less like a traditional exhibition. Combining the motif of nature in the art and the location of a crypt does make time, life and death ring loud in the viewer's ears, and we go up the stairs and leave White Crypt into the crisp air; nature is art in its truest form. Thinking back to the art school conundrum, art can be beautiful but it is the sublime which "does violence to the imagination" (Kant, 1951) and at a time of environmental collapse, the sublime is surely Hands' most successful allusion.

Installation view: May Hands, Best Before End, 6 September - 5 October 2019. White Crypt, London.

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