with Emily Butler
‘I am increasingly sensitive towards and conscious of what it means to belong and I find myself committed to exploring ideas of identity, class, gender, and race.’
My name is Sandi Hudson-Francis. Having grown up in a single parent family and being a mixed- race female, I am increasingly sensitive towards and conscious of what it means to belong and I find myself committed to exploring ideas of identity, class, gender, and race. Through my work I aim to challenge notions of how we perceive ourselves and others. I am especially drawn towards people whose voices often go unnoticed, and documenting this through photography, oral history, film, drawing and sculpture.
What are you showing in The London Open 2022?
I am showing two moving image works, Tampons (2018) and Anne (2018). Both works are part of a series from a project titled ‘CAFÉ’.
These works are recorded through candid interviews with a close-knit group of café goers, yet you have sensitively focused on the surroundings of the café itself and their social space rather than their faces. Would you describe this work as a community portrait?
It’s very much a community portrait, I myself became part of their community, and I wanted to capture that. I never wanted to formally ‘interview’ them; our conversations were never forced. I wanted to capture the essence of this community hub, the warmth, the sounds, the pace and the intimacy within this space that is located on the busy Walworth Road/Elephant & Castle, an area that is so rapidly becoming gentrified and where communities are being displaced. The sound had to be candid as I wanted to re-create the café and the personalities of the café goers through their gestures and their voices, all these different layers. This way I feel like it allows us to see and hear much more.
This work is about a very specific group of locals. What does it mean to you to be showing it as part of The London Open 2022?
The café and other community hubs exist everywhere. There are many Annes and Jeans. Many of the customers at this café are mostly from South London, some born and bred in Victorian tenement housing in the area before World War 11, in the Heygate and Aylebsury estates. I’m excited to bring a part of South London to East London.
Super Sam, 2019, video, 44 mins
Works in the exhibition:
Twelve stills – Kodak Portra 35mm and Olympus E-M5
Seven stills – Kodak Portra 35mm and Olympus E-M5
Sandi Hudson-Francis (b. 1984, Birmingham, UK)
Selected exhibitions and screenings: The Decolonising Lens – Super Sam, Barbican Centre, London (2021); Lambeth Heritage Festival, 198 Contemporary Arts, London (2021); Super Sam, Sheffield Doc Fest (2021); Super Sam, National Portrait Gallery (2019); Everyday Now, Copeland Gallery, London (2018); Minotaur Maze, Crypt Gallery, London (2017); A bath of self-esteem, Ferrara Residency 2017, Galleria del Carbone, Ferrara (2017); Selected Drawings, Dorchester Court, London (2016)
What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?
This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.
Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.
The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.
The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.
The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.
Gallery 1, Downstairs
The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.
Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.
Gallery 9, Upstairs
This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free 2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.
Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.
Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?
Gallery 8, Upstairs
The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.
Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.
On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.
The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.
Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.
See the full list of works here.
An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.
Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.