Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA is an annual showcase of work by recent graduates from Britain’s Fine Art degree courses.

This year’s judging panel, artists Cullinan Richards, Nairy Baghramian, and Rosalind Nashashibi, have selected 29 practitioners from the nearly 1,200 who submitted portfolios.

The artwork within open submission exhibitions tend to share little other than that their selection reflects the tastes and preferences of the judging panel, and this is certainly the case at the Bloomberg New Contemporaries as both of the ICA’s two main galleries contain artworks that contrast with each other in medium, style, and thematic content.

…a constellation of smudged paint, bits of dirt, and chunks of tape…

Entrance to the restaurant by George Little is a long roll of black felt covered with a constellation of smudged paint, bits of dirt, and chunks of tape, while Improvisation, Pain and Joy by Evariste Maiga is a short film of the artist vigorously dancing to some up-tempo electronic music in his pristine, white walled studio. New Girls by Jennifer Bailey consist of four roughly moulded clay jugs laid out on a modest wooden table, while Strolling by Tony Law is a series of clips of pixelated footage of women wistfully strolling through a park.

If there is one theme that can be projected onto this heterogeneous body of work, it is that of austerity. The vast majority of the exhibited artworks depend on cheap and readily available materials and generally seem to have been put together without the aid of professional fabricators. They do not replicate, or celebrate, the aesthetic of either mass produced commodities or luxury items, instead, they are generally unsophisticatedly constructed, hand-made pieces, Bailey’s aforementioned jugs or Lauren Godfrey’s roll of fabric filled with a tally count being good examples.

…they seem purposefully distanced from  the consumerist celebrating mentality…

Even the exhibition’s moving-image work mostly consists of found footage or the artist performing in their studio as opposed to expensive set ups with props and actors. Bryan Dooley’s photographs of cans of food and trainers are the only work that focuses directly on what could be seen as consumer commodities. Yet, the muted tones of these images and the fact they have been pasted straight onto the wall in a way that lets the uneven surface permeate the photographs flat, shiny surface means they seem purposefully distanced from  the consumerist celebrating mentality of Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons.

It may seem unimaginative to use a phrase as ubiquitous as austerity in describing this exhibition, and of course, a lack of funds to have artworks professional fabricated in expensive materials is a fact of life for art students of all eras, yet the term seems hard to avoid. Particularly in an exhibition that aims to capture the current artistic zeitgeist.

About The Author

Neil Jefferies is a curator based in London. He ran tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studios for two years before moving to London in 2010 to study an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. He won the Contemporary Art Society’s inaugural Starting Point Prize in 2010 and has previously developed exhibitions at Southampton City Art Gallery, Cell Project Space, and Zabludowicz Collection.

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