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Review: Bloomberg New Contemporaries at Bluecoat

Bloomberg New Contemporaries
Bluecoat, 9th July – 16th October 2016

Words by Jack Roe

Established in 1949 and with a continually committed presence in Liverpool since 1996, the Bloomberg New Contemporaries annual exhibition of recent art graduates is a cornerstone of the local culture and its relevance and importance is hard to overstate. Returning to the Bluecoat after thirty years this is a collection that, probably influenced by the context, gives the peculiar impression of being well suited to its surroundings.

In amongst this selection it is difficult to escape the notion of vitality. When so much of the weight of art is in its history it is always refreshing to engage with vibrancy, which fundamentally defines much of this work. What is probably most interesting, across the breadth of the show, is that it is a telling guide to the preoccupations and perspectives of a generation of younger artists, and the proliferation of works that deal with gender identity – particularly the female in a world where previously accepted modes are being challenged every day. Another obvious touchstone of the show is the effect that the digital world may have had on our collective culture, on our sense of self and of how and what we choose to externalize. These are common themes in the context of contemporary art but these are beguiling concepts to attempt to define and the resultant scope for interpretation is compelling.

There are several notable contributions to the collection of well-placed levity. The video installations of Richie Moment are a perfectly pitched skewering of that part of the art world, which can sometimes feel like a cult of personality. Also commenting on the bewildering saturation of images and information we are subject to in daily life. The broadening scope of celebrity culture through social media often feels like an idea that is impossible to deal with in its inanity and yet that is precisely what Moment has achieved.

Elsewhere, the commitment to thinking about materials and objects in new ways is admirable. One particular sculpture features expanding foam bedecked in accessories – having been ‘dressed’ in a Debenhams store. This vein of surreal comedy follows throughout, with another video showing an extreme close up of an artist’s hands locked in a battle to the death, slowly morphing into two gladiatorial combatants.

It is for the best that this collection will be in situ for the coming months. Through its sheer expanse and because of the beguiling nature of its influences and inferences it will only become more enjoyable under repeated scrutiny.