The UK's annual snapshot of emerging artists, this year featuring work by 46 graduates, comes to the Bluecoat in Liverpool
It has been 30 years since the Bluecoat hosted New Contemporaries. 1986 was the International Year of Peace. It was the year that Spain and Portugal entered the European Community, which would later become the EU. The year of Chernobyl, the year that New Zealand decriminalised sex between men and the year that someone stole Picasso’s Weeping Woman before dumping it in a locker at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne. For New Contemporaries, it was the year that the exhibition and project sort of imploded leaving student organisers with personal debt and disbanding an organisation which had been running in various forms pretty regularly since 1949.
This year has already brought, and no doubt still intends to bring, its own trials and tribulations but it also brings another Liverpool Biennial, of which the New Contemporaries has been a key partner since its very early days. It may have been 30 years but the exhibition feels totally fitting and right for today's Bluecoat, an organisation that continues to be committed to the support of artists in the city and beyond through its studios, residencies, production facilities and exhibition programme. The only money students will be losing at this exhibition will be the money they spend at the bar.
Cumulative Loss (Kate Fahey): Digital collage, 180 x 270 cm
This year, 46 artists have been selected by Anya Gallaccio, Alan Kane and Haroon Mirza. We are introduced to the show by way of the moon and clouds. Silent video Shooting Clouds (2014), from Janina Lange, takes the viewer on what appears to be drone footage shooting 360 degrees around a suitably fluffy, photogenic cloud. Nearby Kate Fahey’s digital collage Cumulative Loss (2015) gives a glimpse into a chaotic cloud world that I wish was a pencil drawing but seems nice enough. More interesting in this first gallery is Rodrigo Red Sandoval’s installation Satellite Reflections (2015) in which the surface of the moon is installed on the wall rather like a hotel television. Its crater eyes look down on to the outline of circles made out in dirt on the floor and to a suspended wire structure with lots of thorny points.
Stella (Jemma Egan): Bronze, 25 x 25 x 7cm
After this nice little bit of initial thematic curation the show opens up, necessarily, with the larger gallery spaces. There is, however, a fair bit of emphasis on ideas of home and domesticity in much of the work on display. Plug sockets, doors, painting of housing estates, photographs of bricks and paintings of bricks. I prefer it when the domestic goes a bit more abstract, such as in the work Cheek to Cheek (2016), by Victoria Adam, in which a plaster cast of something that looks like a small grate or appliance part, revealing seeds wedged into the ridges like bit of food in its teeth. A little more figuratively are Jemma Egan’s bronze Stella (2015), a sort of tribal artefact or flat saucer-eyed face seen on a bit of scrap metal, and Harry Fletcher’s Squeeze it, hug it, thump it, hump it (2015), where a yellow plastic swimming ring is assaulted by two marble and concrete spiky forces. These three artists have a freshness and exuberance while remaining somehow timeless through their use of materials. Expect more good things from them in the future.
Digjihad (Zarina Muhammad): HD Video with audio, 2 min 18 sec
Finally, there is always some nutty MTV-style jump-up and downy-ness in New Contemporaries and this comes in the form of Richie Moment’s series of small video explosions; rainbow reflecting sunglasses, slogans about the state of the art world, UV paint and suntan lotion – this is the The Word mixed with an on-acid Shana Moulton. Moment, however, rather looks like he’s having too much fun. When the inevitable burn out happens one wonders where will it all end? More video jumping can be found in the work of Zarina Muhammad who explores internet memes, ISIS, surveillance, Disney porn and much more besides and dances about the screen in a blue jumpsuit. I found myself thinking back to Moment and wondering what on earth their offspring would look like.
Then I suddenly realised, Yikes! – their potential children already exist, in fact they were in the same room as Muhammad’s video. The Moment-Muhammad children have rejected the punky aesthetics of their parents and only exist as two squeaky-clean digital choir twins, living in facing chat windows on iMacs within Ruth Spencer Jolly’s work. They write the lyrics to the Beatles song to each other as they sing We can work it out …We can work it out…
BNC 2016 runs at The Bluecoat, Liverpool until 16 Oct http://newcontemporaries.org.uk