There's something pretty special about being let into a strangers home on a random estate deep in Peckham to witness a miniature fountain sprinkling gin & tonic from its core. A warm room with odd crimson lighting, sparkly curtains and a rolling GIF of a girl cracking open a gin & tonic greets you as you enter up the stairway of Ladette Space, 'an experiment in making a gallery in your home and a home in your gallery". Although this was one of the last stops on my short trip around a selection of the spaces open for this years Art Licks Weekend it felt like an apt starting point to consider the achievements of Art Lick Weekend (and its broader concerns with new platforms for emerging art). Over the past few years the surge of flat/home-shows has forwarded a new movement (if you want to call it such) were a heavy handful of artists have stepped up to the curatorial role on their own backs to put on new and exciting projects within the confines of their own private space. I've always been sceptical of many of these shows, they can mostly feel like an artists attempt at curating with little backbone, a show for shows sake. Yet over the last year or so there has been a valid increase in the quality of these types of shows. With the likes of 395, Millington & Marriot, 38b & Ladette Space amongst the highlights adding to the art scene mix something afresh, neither too projecty to look flabby and flat nor too slick and tried to feel painfully bad. And whats more it encourages what Holly Willats, director of Art Licks, sees as a "personal dynamic" to the act of art hopping which becomes “more about a social exchange than a commercial motivation”. Tbh she couldn't be more right. These spaces become not only an intimate brush with artists and 'gallerists' for want of a better word but just feel frankly better, easier, more exciting to venture into and explore, and less burdened with the histories of galleries.
Millington & Marriot have been a stable set in the South London art scene for a while and their new move from their flat space in the centre of Peckham to a space over in Bermondsey feels like a nice change, calmer, quieter and aptly locating just down the road from Jupiter Woods, a new arts space with a team of 6 curators based in an end terrace on an off road in a kind of 'how did i end up down here?' type of space. M | M's new show acted as a kind of double exhibit, with beautifully contrasting wall pieces courtesy of Paul Schnider (oversized vinyl paperclips) and Henry Coleman (fluro-colour printed cladding?!) acting as the backdrop for a sweet and subtle collection of wall based works by various other artists. However the trick up the sleeve of this exhibition came with its digital counterpart, an interactive IPad based work which gave the viewer a new 360 degrees view of the show including an additional mass of floor based sculptures, mattress shapedlike yet with a sexy divi feel. They had a look so seductive you kind of wanted to reach out and grab them in virtual space.
Over at Jupiter Woods the scene is a bit more 'Shrooms & Tunes'. Having visited twice, there was definitely a brilliant contrast in atmosphere between the PV and daytime browsing experience. On the night a silent disco in the back yard treated you to some pretty heavy beats and breaks, interspersed with various clips on mushroom facts narrated by Eloise (mainly whilst I was there to do with their hallucinogenic properties). The atmosphere was odd and trippy, smoke machines occasionally gushed out a haze beneath your feet whilst browsing the main attraction, a built-from-scratch mushroom farm housed in boxes on boxes made up from old office tiles green an orange from their decaying state in this backyard for what must have been years. This little landscape of permaculture is basically an experiment into mushroom farming at an ultra lo-fi level, flipping humidities, base layers of straw and sawdust alongside utilising an array of mushroom types (9 overall). The project is intended to be a permanent feature of the garden space which overtime will grow, adapt and be used as an active space for investigation alongside a variety of projects it will host.
Up in the depths of East London Lawrence Lek has created an exciting gaming project in relation to the Weekends festival, in effect adapting all the spaces onto a virtual world for your roaming pleasure, all easily navigated by a circle line style tube dropping you at a selection of the arts spaces participating in the Art Licks Weekend (although you can teleport onto the tube so you don't have to wait around like IRL via a flaming pod!). Although initially sceptical of what on paper seems like just a base translation of snippets of reality into a gaming environment the experience is actually a real pleasure, odd and satisfying at once, and did make me think of the potential for a huge multiplayer game to browse PVs during the winter months!
38b's Prime show was a really nice, simple show of Ben Newman exploring geometric faces in blues, yellows and reds. The work was precise, quiet and charming, a fitting artist for this flat space of Luke Drozd and Eva Rowson down a few doors from my old flat!
There was so much to see during the weekend (and having only 48 hours proved a slight challenge), but all of the spaces I visited (there were so many more beyond the above listed!!!) had an excitement I hadn't felt for a while about art spaces in London. I suppose the lasting legacy of the festival is not necessarily the fun to be had exploring everywhere and anywhere over the weekend run but its history created that archives these spaces in a time but also provide future explorers the chance to come across something new, dangerous and exciting. Every year arts spaces change hands or move on, curators fly somewhere new and this rolling replacement can create a charged energetic dance which can be hard to keep up with. Art Licks provides a more than valuable service to the new starters and old hands in highlighting emerging platforms in contemporary art, I can't wait to see its next iteration