The best of British art, seen in a new light

39 artists have contributed to the Hayward Gallery's new British Art Show 7
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The Independent Culture

The year before last, Roger Hiorns made it on to the Turner shortlist for works which contained a good deal of razzle-dazzle. In one piece, flames shot out of a pavement fire grate just outside Tate Britain – to the delight and horror of passers-by.

In another, he transformed a dreary flat in Elephant and Castle, south London, into an Aladdin's Cave by cladding the walls with blue copper sulphate crystals.

Now, in this installation piece which forms part of the seventh manifestation of the British Art Show – with work by 39 artists from the last five years, opening at the Hayward Gallery today – he has violently yoked together his love of spectacle and pyrotechnics with a bit of fetching performance art.

A naked young man squats precariously on one end of a bench, marvelling at this sudden appearance of a will o' the wisp of naked flame. He stares into it, seduced by its elemental mysteries.

It's a piece heavy with symbolism. Is this vulnerable young man preparing to offer himself up to the all-consuming source of creativity and destruction?

Elsewhere Cullinan Richards' rods of light hang from the ceiling, encircled by liana-like twists of flex. Are these not examples of young art, often said to be so cutesy and skin-deep, paying solemn homage to the seductive, age-old power of light and flames?

British Art Show 7, until 17 April, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London SE1,