2014 saw the anniversary of CGP London, a public art gallery that began in a derelict park cafe and now boasts unique exhibition spaces across two sites in on of London’s most beautiful parks, a model record of community engagement, and a hugely popular exhibition programme. CGP London has been managed and run since its inception by artists.
The early 1980s saw a thriving artistic community in Bermondsey, which had lost its docks and other big employers and still bore traces of wartime bombing. Artists took advantage of low rents, with studio space and accommodation for many provided in places like Butlers Wharf and St Katherine’s Dock. The Bermondsey Artists’ Group was founded in 1983 to advocate for artists and exhibition venues, which were rare outside central London. Within a year, the group had secured use of the old cafe by the lido in Southwark Park, and voluntarily refurbished and opened it as an exhibition space.
Since its inception, CGP London has split its work equally between exhibitions and community programming, delivering model, ambitious, risky and uniformly excellent artistic and learning programmes equally accessible to both the specialist arts community and local residents. The gallery has provided a wide range of opportunities for early to mid-career artists and curators, including Mariele Neudecker, Rick Buckley, Ruth Proctor, Leah Capaldi, Steven Pippin, Roy Voss and Shona Illingworth, amongst many others.
Three decades on from its beginnings, and CGP London’s success can be measured in the transformation it has worked on itself and its surroundings. Before the old park cafe was transformed into a modern gallery in 2001, CGP opened the derelict church on the edge of southwark Park as an exhibition space, now known as Dilston Grove. Reflecting this uniquely individual visual arts environment and its artist-led management, CGP London’s programme is known for taking risks and allowing artists a creative freedom unknown elsewhere.
To mark the gallery’s thirtieth anniversary, several projects were commissioned and exhibitions presented across both sites. These included:
Mark Titchner, the first artist to exhibit work simultaneously in both sites, responded to this with sculptures, projections and large scale wall paintings in the white gallery space and an immersive four channel video work with 5.1 surround sound created by Grumbling Fur in Dilston Grove.
In an ongoing curatorial collaboration Matt’s Gallery, London, Richard Grayson’s multi-screen sound and video installation Nothing Can Stop Us Now was exhibited in Dilston Grove.
The parallel 150th anniversary of Southwark Park was celebrated with an exhibition by Friends of Southwark Park, at the gallery.
Corali Dance Company, who have worked with CGP London several times in Dilston Grove over the years, were commissioned to make a new work Empty, Theatre, Dream and present it for the first time in Dilston Grove.
CGP London commissioned a film by Hydar Dewachi, celebrating the 30 year legacy of the gallery, its origins in the founding of the Bermondsey Artists’ Group, and the scope of work it does today. The film features interviews with artists, curators and visitors from the past three decades, including Richard Wilson, Robin Klassnik and a number of Bermondsey Artists’ Group members, alongside footage and stills of past exhibitions and events.
The year came to a close with the 30th Annual Open Open Exhibition, marking a huge achievement in creating opportunities for artists to exhibit in CGP London’s infamous ‘Hang the Lot’ show. A rarely inclusive Open that attracts a host of exhibitors and visitors every year.