Bloomberg New Contemporaries


Written by Natasha Hoare
29 Monday 29th November 2010
This year New Contemporaries returns home to the embattled ICA. Showing 49 artists working in media as diverse as video, painting, sculpture and animation, it is the longest running of the annual shows offering viewers a look at what is happening on the contemporary art scene in the UK now.
With British Art Show 7, New Sensations, The Future Can Wait, Newspeak; British Art Now Parts I and II all having opened in the past three months, New Contemporaries has come at the end of a long run of Brit Art survey shows. The proliferation of this kind of exhibition is symptomatic of a general art market and curatorial obsession with artists just graduated from art school. Post YBA-era collectors and curators alike have tended to focus on the ‘new’ as the only possible site of epoch defining art and the chance to catch the next big thing early. Whether you agree or not with this early hyping of young artists’ work the appeal of the new is entrenched in the art world internationally. If New Contemporaries represents the future then we are in for a rather muted decade. There were some definite highlights in this exhibition, but the majority of work on show was curiously unmoving – perhaps the result of the lack of space given to each piece, and the lack of available information on the artists.
Kristian de la Riva, highlighted in last year’s Catlin Guide as an artist to watch, is represented with one of his sadomasochistic animations which beams onto a wall directly as you enter the show. The painful actions of his linear figures, who stab, slice and electrocute different parts of their bodies, are like Julian Opie’s on lithium. One can’t help but be sucked in by the ever evolving gore, each mutilation more and more graphic and inventive, whilst simultaneously being repelled.
Sam Knowles’ work Field is a beautiful set of ink drawings of star formations on the pages of an old astronomy book – a work however that I seem to recall from Future Map in 2009. Jessica Harris’s Rain Translation is a video work with a recording of the rain falling. On a blank TV screen subtitles translate the rains murmurings into almost unintelligible fragments of English with folk and mythical references; ‘shh dear nap hoe – a curdle rim, if torn tamed glossy wren, she mild.’ The hypnotic sound of the patter of rain, and the poetic unfolding of the writings make for captivating viewing. Other artists of note include Peles Empire, Greta Alfaro, Rowena Harris, Sophie Eagle, Matthew Coombes and Naomi Uchida whose corridor length Chinese scroll story of frogs and rabbits in the Chojyu-gigatradition with Alice in Wonderland inserted is a beautiful work of doodled culture clash.
The cumbersome selection committee style selection process, led by artists Mark Leckey, Gabriel Kuri and Dawn Mellor, sacrifices a sense of immediacy for curatorial integrity. The work on show is degree work presented a few months on and as such suffers from being pipped to the post by other surveys such as Future Maps. However, with a legacy which includes having picked out artist such as Glenn Brown, Damien Hirst and Mark Leckey himself, New Contemporaries cannot be ignored and I certainly hope bright futures for the artists chosen – especially at a time in which the British Government is upping university fees to a level which arts students cannot hope to ever afford. Perhaps this is the last instalment of New Contemporaries which will be able to show such a divergent range of artist and artistic practices. 

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.


  • Guest: cindy.blazevic
    Wed 01 - Dec - 2010, 14:28
    You've got to be kidding! Future Map was one of the dullest shows ever!