The Hayward’s touring group-exhibition, British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, is the latest instalment in the overview of contemporary British art. Held every five years and considered by some to be a yardstick of current trends and tastes in the art world, the British Art Show’s subtitle alludes to the concepts of measure and change, which the curators see as pivotal in today’s art. Fortunately, the curators at the Hayward (Lisa Le Feuvre and Tom Morton) present a much better vision than those at the confused, out-of-touch Saatchi show – an exhibition that also attempts to present a rundown of current trends in British art.

…a boring municipal bench is literally ignited with a nude, young man tending the fire on occasion…

That is not to say, however, that all is plain-sailing. A large Charles Avery drawing is debuted and fits in neatly with the exhibition’s theme, with his depictions of an imagined parallel universe. However, it appears tiresome and too similar to the other pieces the Hayward has shown by him in recent years. Roger Hiorns is also on his way to becoming something of a Tom Morton staple and his exquisite resin sculptures, floating at waist height, appear similarly intergalactic. His untitled sculpture of a boring municipal bench is literally ignited with a nude, young man tending the fire on occasion, staring intently at the flames before getting dressed and walking off. The unexpected event draws laughter and surprise from the viewers browsing the other works on show, turning swiftly to see the spectacle.

The multi-tiered Hayward space lends itself well to the exhibition with clusters of works engaging with one another; some artists taking over large spaces while others thoughtfully occupy stairwells and crevices. Wolfgang Tillmans has been afforded one of the largest spaces, due to his position as one of the most established artists in the show. His installation is more or less identical to that shown at the Serpentine last year, combining a large-scale print of beautiful swathes of colour and pixels with glass-topped tables, containing politicised memorabilia alluding to global discontent.

Video art is shown in abundance, most prominently with the work of Christian Marclay and his video masterpiece: The Clock, which is given a second UK airing after a show at White Cube last year. This 24 hour long film contains footage of watches and clocks from thousands of films, pieced together to produce a real-time clock that tells the time with perfect accuracy; no wonder it took a team of twelve researchers four years to complete. It offers an alternate narrative to Hollywood cinema, nevertheless featuring recognisable footage as well as obscure world cinema: Hellboy and PS I Love You are two such examples to be seen in a ten-minute period.

A plethora of established figures and the promise of a survey of current art bring in the crowds; fortunately the bodies of work present provide a promising outlook of British art. Unsurprisingly, video and installations continue to dominate with a greater focus on themes that approach the fields of academic research; the current crop are well versed in diverse trends in art theory, philosophy and political thought which makes for a thought-provoking show. On the whole, contemporary British art has been closely analysed and the Hayward can report that it is in full working order, ready to evolve for the next British Art Show.

Exhibition runs until 17th April.

Admission Price: £8/£6

4 Stars


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