Nick Hackworth

Notably, Pump House

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

For more than a decade, art students have had to contend with the legacy of the Young British Art pack, who chanced upon fame and fortune at an early age. Since then, none has matched the vibrancy of that group nor achieved such success so fast.

Notably should be the place to look for this year’s pretenders to the throne of the YBAs, as it showcases the best of London’s 2002 degree shows, selected by a highly respectable and fashionable panel. Unfortunately, something, somewhere seems to have gone wrong.

Certainly, there is good work here. Charlotte Ginsborg’s convincing and engaging video piece Community Event presents two short, narrated anecdotes about everyday but revealing incidents, each accompanied by a series of black-and-white stills. Poppy de Villeneuve shows three photographs from a series shot in Kentucky in the US. They are brilliantly atmospheric, capturing small moments in the area without being patronising or intrusive.

Different but equally impressive is Susan Collis’s work. At first it looks like a risible conceptual work about the death of painting, as it comprises a paint- splattered blue boiler suit hung on the wall and a similarly paint-flecked wooden stool. But look closely and the splatters are revealed to be works of intricate artifice. On the boiler suit there are tiny patches of embroidered coloured thread and on the stool, even more remarkably, the splatters are made up of inlaid precious stones, green lapis lazuli, iridescent opal and even tiny, twinkling emeralds — a reminder that beauty can be found in unlikely places.

Beauty, however, is evidently the last thing on the mind of the four painters included in the exhibition. Carda Caivano and Hiroshia Nakase both contribute deliberately poor paintings that are, sadly, simply bad and unfunny. Nakase’s work is a miserable collection of coloured drips and daubs that apparently constitute a “post-post-impressionist statement”, while Caivano’s naive, anaemic renderings of robins and suchlike are a criminal waste of wall space, paint and canvas. It is a poor irony, when more students seem to be returning to painting, that art schools appear to have totally forgotten how to teach painting skills.

All this, combined with the merely average video and installation work also on show, suggests that this year’s graduates have again failed to come up with work that is fresh and substantial. And for the moment, at least, the YBAs will continue to dominate people’s conception of what contemporary art can be.

Until 29 September. Info: 020 7350 0523