Alvaro Barrington’s South London Gallery exhibition is his first solo presentation in a UK institution. Extending his exploration into blending multiple cultural and visual references, he presents new works characterised by his adept use of a broad range of techniques and materials. In a bespoke installation for the SLG’s main exhibition space, the wall colours are inspired by an abstracted idea of the sun rising and setting, with the left and right-hand walls of the gallery representing the global North and South respectively. Paintings made of concrete smeared onto exquisitely dyed Hermès blankets in the ‘North’ and on burlap in the ‘South’, are hung high on the walls to prompt associations with cloud paintings. These notional concrete clouds become increasingly dense in the transition from 'North’ to 'South’, a reference to countries in the global North offloading waste on their southern neighbours.
On the lower walls, a new body of work pivots around the idea of a relatively near future in which augmented and virtual reality have evolved to the point that people routinely choose which identity or character to adopt in different social and other situations, with digital and real life becoming completely intertwined. Works with distinctive frames made from concrete and aluminium in the 'North’, contrasting with corrugated iron, painted and natural wood in the 'South’, contain layers of painted, stitched, printed and digitally rendered elements. Trotters referencing the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, Napoleon and other pigs featured in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, merge with spiders’ legs inspired by the African folktale Anansi the Spider and Louise Bourgeois’ bronze spider sculptures. These in turn are superimposed against backdrops ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to a game map from Super Mario World. The threat and impact of climate change looms large throughout, with drawings made from charcoal – effectively burnt wood – punctuating the 'North’ with the repetition of the letters ICU, short-hand for both ‘I See You’ and Intensive Care Unit.