issue 10 winter 2007 ÂŁ1.50
a small, independent art ‘zine.
London: Clapham Art Gallery ICA Bookshop Space Station 65 Studio Voltaire The Residence The Flea Pit Transition Gallery Nottingham: Moot Gallery Further Afield: Eye Level Gallery, Halifax BC FluxFactory, New York Siddharta Gallery, Kathmandu Sticky, Melbourne Zeke’s Gallery, Montreal Submission and subscription information: www.tangent.org.uk or contact Karen D’Amico: email@example.com
tangent is proud to be a member of Indi&Ink, an independent publishing society. To learn more about Indy&Ink check out their website: www.indyandink.org.
tangent is independently produced by London based artist Karen D’Amico on a fairly regular basis. She does her best to get it published as often as possible, but sometimes deadlines are made to be broken, as with this issue. But hey, it’s good to be King. Or, in her case, Queen. FRONT / BACK COVER: Tracey Bush & Neil Reddy, Primroses 2006; photographic collaboration PAGE 3: Karen D’Amico, Untitled, 2007; digital collage, 10.5 x 21cm PAGE 26: Karen D’Amico, Nothing To Wear To The Party, 2006; Digital photographic print, size variable content © karen d’amico 2007 unless otherwise noted. contributing artists’ work in the form of text and /or images is used by permission and is copyright by the artist. no stealing allowed; hey, make up your own ideas FFS! after all, we have.
Richard Ducker Cathy Lomax Zavier Ellis Charles Danbey Tracey Bush
Asked & Answered Arts Listings Dear You Keenly Observed by Steve Smith Thoughts on a Grey Day
Karen Dâ€™Amico, Burnt Offerings (2005); Assemblage, (spent matchsticks, glass vials, perspex) dimensions variable
thoughts on a grey day
ontemporary art practice has come to encompass a myriad of innovative and resourceful ways for getting ideas across to audiences, so it’s logical that an increasing number of artists are now running their own spaces, curating shows and initiating projects outside of - or in addition to - the mainstream gallery system. It could even be said that this is fast becoming the ‘next step’, an integral component in progressing one’s career. What does it mean, then, to be an artist who also curates shows, runs a gallery space or project? What are the benefits and potential conflicts that arise from integrating these roles? What defines the boundary between the role of artist, curator or gallery director these days? I think the fundamental question becomes, have these traditional role definitions become redundant, meaningless and perhaps even problematic? Though not inhabiting the same sort of physical space as a gallery, the experience of creating and maintaining this publication shares similar attributes. It requires time, considered thought and a strong degree of commitment; themes and production schedules are mapped out months in advance, submissions vetted and artists / contributors liaised with. So it’s a curatorial exercise in a strange sort of way, with the end result being the zine instead of a show. And like any show, the choices that are made in terms of what goes in, where it’s placed and so on, are as much a reflection of the personality and philosophy of who is doing the choosing as they are of the work that’s chosen. The desire to be noticed, to establish a voice within the vast cultural and critical landscape of the Art World and somehow make our mark propels us all. And whilst this blending of art / curatorial practice is hardly a new phenomenon, most would agree that it’s certainly on the increase. There are perhaps now more artist-run spaces, projects and publications than ever before and that proliferation can’t help but influence the way we perceive, as well as define ourselves as artists. Long may that continue. 5
Trackers 2004 PM Gallery, Ealing, London (31 April –04 July 2004) Curators: Charles Danby and Alejandro Ospina. Artists: Georgina Batty, Stuart Brisley, Ade Ward, Geoff Cox, Amy Cunningham, Alex Graham, Neil Hamon, Francis Ives, Ben Judd, Maria von Kohler, Goshka Macuga, Bruce McLean, Alex Hutchins, Errol Perkins, Lyle Perkins, Nathaniel Rackowe, Gideon Rubin, Rob Smith, Gary Woodley, Charles Danby, Alejandro Ospina. Publication: Trackers -ISBN 0-9538583-5-9 –104pp
Trackers 2004, PM Gallery & House; (Installation Image)
Sarah Bridgland, Carnival, 2007
Air Guitar and Two Teaspoons 2007 Bischoff Weiss Gallery, 95 Rivington Street, London (19 January –24 February 2007) Curators: Charles Danby and Brooke Lynn McGowan) Artists: Sarah Bridgland, Aisling Hedgecock, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Flore Nove-Josserand, Racheal Pengilley, Antonia Grant, Richard Woods
artist as curator
I am thinking more and more about curation in terms of conversation. It starts with the artwork. I am interested in the idea that what we term the artwork is itself not the artwork as such but simply the fact of the artwork. Increasingly it is the gaps and spaces, the ruptures between what we see and what we understand, that becomes the artwork. In terms of conversation I think that it is valid to consider it as a system of propositioning. In the case of an artwork this relates to a series of actions that provoke and destabilise. Through marks made, materials used, and associated signifiers, a conversation is constructed that directs and manipulates an unraveling of the artwork in the eyes of the viewer. My interest as a curator resides in transposing these ideas of conversation, between artist and viewer, into an equivalent conversation whose parts, the artworks, function collectively to form an exhibition. The site of artworks with an exhibition arena is central to the activity of curation. In an early project (Trackers, 2004) a system of chance was used precisely in order to disrupt and undermine this notion. The intention was to propose an open and fluid narrative, and the adoption of chance was a very direct way of provoking that fiction. In recent works this core notion has remained intact but the means through which it has been applied has became less explicit. I am interested in temporal narratives, in the layering of the artworks and in implicating each artist within the process and event of an exhibition. Charles Danby is an artist and curator living and working in London.
TOP AND BOTTOM: Chales Danby, Untitled From Neo-Medieval Drawings) 2007; pencil on paper, 180 x 270mm
text ÂŠ Charles Danby 2007.
The Invention of Solitude 2006 Curated by: Charles Danby; The Nunnery, 183 Bow Road, London (21 September –22 October 2006) (Touring to Leicester City Gallery 2007) Artists: Rob Smith, Rebecca Birch, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Alex Hudson Publication: The Invention of Solitude –64pp ISBN 978-0-9549748-1-6
RIGHT: The Invention of Solitude 2004, The Nunnery, London (Installation Image) courtesy of Ryu Voekel BELOW: The Invention of Solitude 2004; The Nunnery, London (Installation Image)
anonomous of melbourne
. . .a day in someoneâ€™s life. . .
reviews by S T E V E S M I T H www.nooza.blogspot.com
Do you ever feel you are being bombarded with too much information? Do the constant messages through your radio and television grate when you are being asked to think whether your hair is not sculpted enough? Are you not protecting your teeth from rotting with an inferior brand of toothpaste whilst troughing your burger and chips or multiple packets of crisps of every flavour and numerous bars of chocolate? Is the slogan on your T shirt reflecting your true personality? Are your jeans the wrong shade of blue or are the rips in the wrong place? Should you change your footwear because they are out of season and what are the correct socks to wear with them? Do you have the right scent to pull the objects/s of your affection/s or will the person in question not even get close to you anyway because they spotted the wrong brand of underwear peeking over the top of your low slung waistband which their eyes were drawn to because your belt is the wrong thickness? Maybe you can entice them back with a nice meal at home but whose recipe book do you buy to cook from? Which supermarket can give you the cant lose dessert to melt their heart? If you are successful and five years down the line what car should you buy to reflect the best facets of both your personalities? Who will you book your holiday with for that romantic anniversary city break? When the kids come along what branded footwear are they begging for? What disgusting foodstuffs do they insist on munching to put them off your healthy family dinner? blah blah blah blah blah blah blah………… Tracey Bush and Neil Reddy, Primroses, 2006; photographic collaboration, dimensions variable. Image © Tracey Bush and Neil Reddy
If you have ever had these decision crises over the who, what, where with the multitude of advertising slamming into your eyes from every magazine, television screen, newspaper and billboard and now feel sick to your stomach at the thought of the multitude of crap that is firstly marketed at you, secondly bought by you in a moment of moral weakness and thirdly clogging up some landfill at the backside end of somewhere outside East London then you are only partly the way to understanding the ecological panic that Tracey Bush suffers. For some years Tracey has been trying to do her bit as a usual urban dweller in reducing the amount of toxic landfill nonsense that she personally contributes to the planet, Tracey’s art uses found objects and images, packaging, adverts, little bits of card and paper, in fact to put it impolitely, rubbish. Imagine her as a modern day human womble hoovering up paper and cardboard rubbish and turning it into art. On Wednesday an exhibition of her latest work opened at the Clerkenwell Green Association on St John Square, in the small gallery space inside the Association’s Pennybank Chambers building are incredibly intricate, hand crafted sculptures and collaged drawings of wild flowers. 11
Drawing parallels between our lost art of recognising the things that surround us in the natural world, in this case wild flowers, and our recognition of brands and branded goods. She is not so much pointing the finger at us for our blind consumption than to those that would bury us in marketing so deeply that we can recognise their products through a splash of colour, a font or a smiley faced familiar. On a series of collaged drawings the leaves of the plants do not show subtle shades of green and the petals of their flowers do not bear natural colour but the stark colours of brands and logos for airlines, chocolate bars, biscuits, washing powder, breakfast cereal, clothing, painkilling medicine, sweets, animated films, footwear and alcoholic drinks amongst many others. In bell jars the leaves and petals of these reconstructed sculptural models of plants show the familiar messages that turn our minds from the natural world to other more consumerist actions, one plant reminds us to have a smoke, a cup of tea or a take away coffee and then ‘Just Do It’, another displays an array of intricate flowers and leaves bearing such multitude of fizzy drinks, chocolate gloop, sugary sweets numerous other foods and drink that your Tracey Bush, Poppy, 2006; 3D paper flower under a glass dome, liver might twitch in pain at the thought of 25cm X 46cm. Image © Tracey Bush the potential bombardment. The scariest thing and the simple but important point that Tracey’s hand made facsimiles show us is that this recognition of logos, brands and products is inescapable, most of the packaging may be from products you hardly, if ever purchase but you can be sure that just a small glance at these wonderfully colourful, beautiful drawings and sculptures will fill your brain with a multitude of brands that you F U R T H E R I N F O R M A T I O N: recognise, you may not have thought Tracey Bush is a London-based artist currently of these for some time but instantly collaborating with Neil Reddy on the Nine Wild Plants the product or brand will be recalled, Project. unfortunately the flowers may remain www.cga.org.uk/traceybush email: firstname.lastname@example.org unrecognisable despite their distinct leaf shapes and sizes and the intricate detailing Steve Smith is London born and bred, and a self taught of their petal constructions. This is intricate, artist. He works with existing objects and materials, modifying them into a variety of pieces from small finely crafted and thought provoking work individual works on paper and hand held sculptures to and don’t be fooled by the instant “I get it” larger scale sculpture and installations. factor, the work demands a longer look as Steve also sees a lot of shows. To read more of his observations check out his blog: nuances of observation take over. www.nooza.blogspot.com Text © Steve Smith 2007. Images © by and courtesy of the artists
Artist / Curator Richard Ducker’s art practice is concerned with the representation of obsolescence and nostalgia through the monumental, and much of his work deals with the point at which memory and the present converge. Notions of loss and a sense of displacement interleave with narratives, imagined or real, often incorporating discarded domestic objects and the use of cement. His use of materials tends to juxtapose the fleeting with the permanent; the disposability of the everyday domestic object, for instance, weighted down with the memories, history and melancholy of its real or imagined past. In view of that, it makes perfect sense that he took on a space that had, in a very real sense, its own planned obsolescence. From its inception, Fieldgate Gallery was intended as a temporary project. There isn’t a fixed timescale - it could exist for a few years or a few months – and that existence is entirely dependant on unrelated circumstances that could change at a moment’s notice. This temporality has certainly influenced Richard’s choices in terms of what’s shown, and it’s also contributed to the sense Richard Ducker inside the gallery
of excitement and urgency that he conveys when we talk. It’s apparent that he is wholly committed to making the most of this opportunity, making each show worthwhile and, frankly, worth the effort. Located in the heart of Whitechapel, the former mail distribution company that now houses the Fieldgate Gallery is One Hell of a Big Space. So much so, in fact, that one could be forgiven for thinking it’s perhaps a tad ambitious in terms of sustaining a not-for-profit, artist-run initiative for any length of time, temporary or not. Measuring a whopping 10,000 square feet, this is the sort of space many artists dream about, if for no other reason than to have the opportunity to make Big Work. But it is vast, and the prospect of trying to fill it with a respectable amount of people for private view after private view (never mind filling it with work) would send many screaming in the opposite direction. Yet in the short time it’s been in existence, Fieldgate has done very well indeed. Thrived, in fact. Richard and his partner, Sonya Park took the space on with the intention of creating an artist run, not for profit gallery and project space. From a curatorial standpoint, he says, “Sure, it was a bit daunting at first, but that TOP: Richard Ducker, Trouble In Ikea; mixed media, 2006 kind of space also offered a wonderful BOTTOM: Richard Ducker, Houses in Motion; mixed media, 2006 opportunity and challenge. We’re able to show large-scale work comfortably - Stewart Gough and Tom Ormond’s European Vacation, which was in the recent show, Houses in Motion is a great example. But I’ve also found that smaller work is given the opportunity to sit comfortably with itself and breathe.” In terms of the proliferation of artist-run spaces, one of Ducker’s concerns as a practicing artist is the tendency of many to become 15
homogenised. He is wary of falling into the routine of becoming ‘just another space that has large group shows’ and maintains a rigorous selection criteria to guard against this. The gallery is also not a hire space; outside proposals are considered, but it’s often the case that shows tend to evolve organically out of a common interest or idea. The overall gallery programme is chosen and managed by Richard, but there is outside curation as well, such as The Centre of Attention’s My Dead Gallery and the recent international touring show, Latitude.
David Fusco,, Eustace, cast plastics, MDF, iron, cellulose paint
Fieldgate’s success, it seems, is largely due to Stewart Gough and Tom Ormond, European Vacation; mixed media, 2006 word of mouth. “There’s a real buzz; we have regulars who come to the openings, but each show tends to generate its own audience, and that collective hum develops and compounds from show to show.” he says. Maintaining a balance between making his own work and running a gallery does pose challenges, and competition for his time is, unsurprisingly, one of the most difficult things to negotiate. “I get antsie when I can’t be in the studio as much as I’d like, but on the other hand, running the space has opened doors for me personally. I’m not anonymous, I’m taken more seriously as an artist. Whether they take my work more seriously is another matter, but good relationships have developed and that’s a positive outcome. There’s a genuine exchange that takes place and relationships build out of that. Curating shows has 16
also enabled me to consider my own work in a cultural context perhaps more than I did before.” Clearly, the notion that ‘artist’ and ‘curator’ should somehow be defined as separate doesn’t enter into it. Putting on a show is a creative act in itself, so the experience of running a gallery became a natural progression in relation to his own work. The dialogue between Ducker and other artists that has been created via the curatorial process has widened his perspective and stimulated his own creativity; working with artists across an assortment of artistic disciplines has also enabled him to look more carefully at others’ work. “I look at work now that perhaps I wouldn’t have ordinarily considered or even liked before, and rather than becoming cynical or jaded, it’s caused me to look more carefully Lee Maelzer, Silver Building; oil on canvas, 2002 and thoughtfully, as well as made me appreciate just how much good work is out there.” From a practical standpoint, funding is dependant largely on bar takes from private views, though in cases where outside curators put together a show, they are responsible for the costs, and often procure outside funding. “Not having to rely on sales in order to finance the shows is a privileged space to be in. It’s given us the freedom to play and experiment and the ongoing exchange of support and ideas is rewarding. The gallery has attracted collectors without the pressure of having to sell work. They’ve come because the work was strong, and when all is said and done, I’d like to look back on the experience and say that we put on interesting shows.” Not to worry there, then. Fieldgate’s next exhibition, The Dream of Putrefaction runs from Friday 2 March (private view 6 - 9pm) through 1 April. Visit their website for further information.
www.transitiongallery.co.uk www.cathylomax.blogspot.com www.artymagazine.co.uk
transition gallery No stranger to the role of artist / curator, Cathy Lomax has run Transition Gallery since late 2002. She is also the founder of the famed Arty Magazine, as well as the artist led publishing imprint of the gallery, Transition Editions, which produces books, numbered editions to accompany selected shows and three original magazines - Arty, of course, The Critical Friend and Garageland. Like many, her motivation for opening Transition Gallery stemmed from the need to gain exposure for her own work and that of other artists she knew. “When I was finishing my MA at Central St Martins I started to think about showing my work and it occurred to me that unless I was proactive there wouldn’t be a whole lot on the horizon.” So when the opportunity to occupy a small, unheated garage near Victoria Park presented itself, Lomax took it on. Recently relocated to Regent Studios, near Hackney’s Broadway Market, the gallery is in good company. Chris Hammond’s MOT is housed in the same complex, Flaca and SevenSeven Contemporary are literally around the corner and the Keith Talent Gallery, along with a host of other Vyner Street galleries are within spitting distance. Transition also now has the added benefit of heat.
ABOVE FROM TOP: 1 & 2: Private view, Baroaque My World, 2006 3: Transition Window, Oriole, 2006 4: Drawing Workshop, Oriole, 2006
Transition’s first show, Colouring In, soon followed, featuring a group of painters from her MA course as well as her own work. Selfinitiated shows can be risky, leaving one open to the prospect of being slapped with the vanity tag and having others assume there is little or no objectivity from a curatorial perspective, yet Lomax’s point about creating her own opportunities is well taken. “Historically artists have collaborated and put on exhibitions. Roger Fry springs to mind; he put on the first exhibition 18
of post-impressionists in London and then more recently Damien Hirst put on those infamous shows. Artists have also been involved in groups - something that affords them opportunities to show their work together. Rather than seeing her role of artist and curator as oppositional, Lomax considers them to be entwined. “I like to think of running the gallery as inseparable from my practice. I think it pulls the whole project together and ties it to my own work, which integrates it into my practice. I also think that because I am running it there really aren’t any rules that I am interested in following and I will do it the way which suits me.” “I don’t see why the role of artist or curator should be binary opposites; surely an artist can have an idea for an exhibition. When I am working on a project as an artist I naturally start to think about how I will present it to an audience. I then often think about other work that might compliment mine and strengthen the idea. I also have ideas for shows which I don’t want to make work for - it is like that age old thing where as an artist often the idea is enough and you don’t want to bother making the work - I can find other artists to realise the idea. Lomax receives a lot of submissions and says that although she can’t possibly respond to each one, she does look at them all and has developed a practiced eye in terms of considering which to follow up on. Her objective is to show work that she finds engaging. “Often now I have a specific project in mind and am looking for artists whose work will add something to the theme, so the reputation of the gallery isn’t something that I really consider. I put on work Freianlage, Andrew Bracey; 2006 that I think is interesting and good. As time has gone on I now know more artists, shows are more ambitious and our schedule is planned quite a long way in advance, so I feel that there is a difference in the level of work we are showing. I was probably a bit less discerning at the beginning; now I have to be wholly committed to a project because each show takes a lot of my time and that is at a premium.”
Time is, indeed, a valuable commodity and anyone who’s done it will agree that running a gallery requires masses of it, as well as a high degree of personal commitment and organization. The unglamorous tasks, such as installing work and running private views are among her least favourites, and there is the frustration of sacrificing studio time. On the other hand, Lomax sees a benefit in not always being tucked away in what can sometimes feel like a cloistered world of the studio. The opportunity to engage with what’s going on outside the studio has caused her to explore and consider different forms of artistic production, for instance. It’s also raised her profile considerably and given her a degree of control over her practice that perhaps she wouldn’t otherwise have. ”It can be very frustrating being sent rejection letters non stop and the gallery is something to connect with and do. It is a chance to put together projects that I am in control of and this is quite important to me.” Lomax also feels that the increase in artist run spaces is a positive. “I think that the more there are the better. Everyone should open their own space. Establishing a reputation is another matter and this is where the commitment comes in. The whole idea of running a space changes over time. At first it is exciting and fun and mistakes can be made in putting shows on (there have been some shows at Transition that I have hated) but as time goes on, the work reaches a higher standard, press and sales are more common and bad shows should not happen. Lots of artist run spaces are a sign that the art scene is thriving and that artists are taking the initiative and this is a very positive thing.
ABOVE FROM TOP: 1: Private view, Paperworld, 2006 2: Annabel Dover, Oriole, (detail) 2006 3: Tudor paint making workshop (in costume), Past Times and Re-Creation, 2006
Transition’s next show, The Craft, will feature work by Emma Talbot & Cathie Pilkington and runs from 24 March - 22 April 2007. More information can be found on the website.
zavier ellis clapham art gallery &
charlie smith london
tangent asked & Zavier answered:
Out of the three gallery spaces highlighted in this issue, Clapham Art Gallery is by far the most commercial, yet it is a very contemporary space, showcasing work that comfortably straddles the line between what is seen as marketable and what is seen as critically selective. How did the gallery come about, and how have you managed to strike that balance? My degree was ‘History of Modern Art’ between ’93 and ’96 at Manchester University. It was being an artist that led me to it, but I didn’t want to take the art school route at that point. I was more interested in an academic approach towards art and didn’t want, at that time as I perceived it, to limit myself to only becoming a practicing artist. Upon finishing I considered my options as going into art writing or into the gallery world. The public nature and organizational requirements of the gallery business appealed to me more so that’s the direction I took. Whilst always making work, either painting or photography, during my degree and afterwards, I set up Clapham Art Gallery on a small scale with Aniko Pall. This was March ’98. We never had any investment or private money but worked elsewhere while we were building it in the early days. Gradually the gallery built up and we had to commit fulltime, eventually moving from this tiny but workable space into a much larger, good looking space just around the corner. This was essential in taking the gallery into a more curatorial direction, where I could work with different mediums and put on bigger, more ambitious, more exciting and at times purely experimental shows. Ultimately this has led to establishing a second enterprise called CHARLIE SMITH london that I call a ‘curatorial dealership’. The remit is to curate singular, progressive exhibitions whilst showing at progressive art fairs and networking with other galleries and curators worldwide. My aim with Clapham has always been to promote high quality work that has critical and commercial viability, and it’s the same with CHARLIE SMITH london despite it being more experimental, and it also therefore varies in terms of the nature of the work and the client base. Over the years we have sold to the domestic market, corporate market and to major collectors including Charles Saatchi. As an artist, what was your motivation to open up a gallery? ABOVE: Young Gods 2005; installation shots. Images courtesy of Clapham Art Gallery
From the point of view of being an artist I was interested in being involved in the art world somehow, in a manner that suited my interests, skills and personality, and I didn’t 21
only want one string to my bow. I’m a very instinctive person and am wary of enforced boundaries. I felt that I could make work and run a gallery and that this would be a more rounded experience for me and satisfy my needs more. At no point did I consider playing to an audience or to tread a recommended path, I just did what I wanted to do. I also think all of these activities feed into each other. Taking an MA in Fine Art was the best possible thing that I could have done in terms of being a better and more informed dealer and curator. Do you see the gallery as an ongoing, indefinite project or does it have a finite life in your mind? Neither and both I guess. Of course I have ambitions for both Clapham Art Gallery and CHARLIE SMITH london, but in many ways these are quite organic systems. I wouldn’t want to flog a dead horse and I wouldn’t want to kill something that is satisfying and successful. I really think that people are continuously growing and developing and have to respond accordingly, and I embrace multiplicity over linearity. Many of the things that pleased me five or ten years ago don’t anymore. So I have to respond to these projects as much as define them. As we stand now I am director of two dealerships and a practicing artist and any of these things could change in the future. Traditionally, it could be said that the role of the artist and that of the gallerist (and to some degree, the curator), have often been binary opposites, or at the very least, that they have at times had a somewhat uneasy relationship in terms of who holds the power. Yet increasingly, we see these roles becoming intertwined in the sense that more and more artists are taking on the mantle of curator (at the very least), and/or gallerist. I’m interested in where you as an artist see that boundary – is there still a boundary between ‘artist’ and those other roles, or has it now dissolved completely? I don’t think it’s dissolved completely. As I have already implied, I stand against restrictions and think one should follow one’s own path. Cathy Lomax, Stella Vine and the Rockwell boys all make or have made a success of running galleries and being artists. Many other good artists like David Hancock are committed to curating strong shows. So I imagine for these people and for me these boundaries are dissolving and we have an active role in achieving this. Probably the problem is perceived from the outside. Many art dealers are wary of taking on artists with experience of dealing and many artists would be wary of a dealer promoting themselves. Things are far more complicated than binary opposites though and are in fact very interconnected. I’ve shown Cathy, Stella, Gavin Nolan & Alex Gene Morrison, all of whom are really exciting artists and gallerist/curators and I have no problem with it. In fact ABOVE: they are probably more professional as a result of it – they Young Gods 2004; installation shots. understand the industry from all angles. In terms of power, Images courtesy of Clapham Art Gallery this is something that I have never given consideration to. I would never dream of considering an artist/dealer’s relationship in terms of power. What’s most challenging for you from a curatorial standpoint? Is it the choosing of the work, the editing / situating it within the space, negotiating with the artists…? From these options I would say the editing and positioning. Choosing the work is no problem, as one has to trust one’s eye and we can’t please everyone. Negotiating is no problem. I’d rather talk to an artist than a non-artist any day. I would say editing and positioning as I can get over-excited by work, and it can be a shame not to show really good pieces. Also one must be prepared to upset an artist by either 22
editing out or giving a perceived lesser position in the show. Once the work is in the space a whole new set of problems, exciting problems, arise. I take the positioning very seriously and it’s daunting to have so much work around you, wrapped and stacked. However, through the process one comes to see more clearly and ultimately it always ends up OK. Can you talk a bit about the impact that running a gallery has had on your own art practice? For example, has it caused you look at your own artistic production differently? How has it impacted you in terms of time spent in the studio - do you find you are more productive because you have less time in which to make work or do you find that running a space competes with your studio practice? Is it a juggling act or do you see it as inseparable? It’s definitely a juggling act. Of course art production, art appreciation, dealing and curating are linked and feed into each other, and are therefore in some senses inseparable, but I tend to distinguish between my practices, certainly more so now than I used to. My schizophrenic faculty is pretty well developed so I don’t find it difficult to make definitions between the three projects. Regarding studio time, running a gallery certainly denies me studio time. I take a big step back from the gallery business in August which always proves to be really productive and refreshing – I become a kind of wild eyed, romantic notion of an artist and it’s really enjoyable. Stepping back into the real world is quite challenging but I soon adapt. I’m trying to head towards a 3-day week – 3 days dealing and 3 days producing. And of course most artists will tell you they need a deadline and it’s the same for me. I work harder and I’m more committed if I have a show coming up or an art fair to make work for. If I had to call it though the gallery would have to be my priority – when I can run gallery work and making work alongside each other then great but when it comes to high time gallery season then this takes precedence over making work. I guess it’s just a matter of organization running these things together.
ABOVE FROM TOP: Zavier Ellis, Death Squad; Oil on aluminium 8 x 12cm 2006 Zavier Ellis, Mad Genius Clown # 2; Pencil & ink on paper 14.8 x 10cm Zavier Ellis, Mad Genius Clown # 3; Pencil & ink on paper 14.8 x 10.7cm Zavier Ellis , Yes; Oil on aluminium 8 x 12cm 2005 Images courtesy of the artist.
I would imagine that running a gallery has, over time, impacted the way you view others’ work. You must have developed a more critical eye, due to the sheer volume of images and proposals that you probably sift through on a monthly basis. It would, I think, necessitate more scrutiny than, say, someone doing a one-off curatorial event. And it has to be said, as the director of a gallery, your reputation rests on the shows you produce. It’s a position of influence and, some would say, power, but it must also be a real minefield at times. How do you deal with issues of integrity and ‘good practice’ in terms of choosing what shows
to have, what to put in a show and so on, and do you find that the more experience you have, the more easily recognisable good work is? Yes, with experience one recognizes appropriate art more easily and yes, one develops a more critical eye as a huge proportion of work that one sees needs to be dismissed. This is for a combination of reasons involving personal taste, estimating the market and considering if an artist works in a curatorial sense for a particular idea. Frankly there are too many artists, too many galleries and too many art fairs so an advanced editing faculty is prerequisite. There are advantages for the gallerist and for the curator. As a gallerist one can trust purely in instinct and not be restricted by a curatorial idea (although of course taking an artist on is in a sense curating in terms of putting together a stable of artists). On the other hand a curatorial idea allows one to work with artists that exist outside of the gallery remit on a short term basis. In terms of shows I guess they are defined by a combination of creative forces and market forces. An exhibition program is a complicated beast, and each gallery has its reasons for putting on shows – a good idea; commercial factors; wanting to work in a particular artist; filling a gap. I’m currently in the process of trying to break down the expected circulation of relentless exhibitions. I’m becoming more focused on only putting on shows that I want to put on when I want to put them on. Additionally, has the experience opened you up to different forms of artistic production that perhaps you wouldn’t have been interested in before? In this sense I think the work comes first. That is, the work itself opens up an awareness or appreciation of something other. Has running a space opened doors for you personally? Do you feel that because of the track record you’ve established with producing successful shows, for example, that other artists and galleries take your work more seriously? By that I mean, has it given you a form of credibility that perhaps you wouldn’t have had as easily or as quickly otherwise? (not to say that you wouldn’t have it, mind, just that it’s a possible catalyst...?) Yes its opened doors personally. And it has enabled me to be placed in good collections that I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise – that is, without organizing it myself. As far as galleries are concerned it probably closes more doors than it opens.
ABOVE: Hand in Hand We Walk Alone 2005; Installation shots Images courtesy of Clapham Art Gallery
It seems that there are so many artist-run spaces these days – more and more all the time. Do you feel this proliferation brings with it the risk of banality to the cultural landscape of art? For instance, there seems to be an attitude of ‘anyone can run a space/put on a show’ and yet we all know that a truly good space is a result of incredible personal commitment, thoughtful consideration and bloody hard work. In that context, what do you see as the benefits or pitfalls of the ever-increasing number of artist-run spaces coming into existence? Some last and some don’t. It’s an open game; no-one has a monopoly, so good luck to anyone that tries it. If the shows are good enough and the artist’s own work is good enough then good. The level of personal capabilities, commitment and work put in, and of course the public will define who lasts and who doesn’t. 24
Being a contemporary commercial gallery, how do you deal with the commercial aspect of running a space? Is it a comfortable relationship or do you see it as an uneasy one? How do you negotiate that with the artists for instance, as you yourself are an artist but your role in the gallery is quite a different one. Do you ever experience a conflict of values or ideals and if so, how do you deal with that? I think that being an artist definitely gives me a position of strength over non-artists as I can understand work and working practices from the inside. Forever Beautiful, 2004; Installation shot. Images courtesy of Clapham Art Gallery And in a practical sense I would say that every gallery that is self sufficient is a business and every artist that wants to survive by making work is a self-employed business person. There are financial implications in surviving so work must be sold. What exactly does the word ‘commercial’ mean? Does it mean selling? Does it mean selling out? Is it a dirty word? Last week I sold Dominic Shepherd to a couple who adored his work and want to decorate their apartment. The week before I sold him to a German collector who used to buy from Victoria Miro who needs to buy a new house to hold his escalating collection which consists of painting, photography, installation etc. The month before I sold him to one of Germany’s biggest collectors who holds Richters that have never even been seen in public before. Which of these is commercial? Is it selling that makes it commercial? Is it the integrity of the work that makes it commercial? Or is it the quality of the buyer/ collector that makes it commercial? Or a combination? Whichever way artists and galleries like cashing cheques. There is a lot of discussion these days about the commodification of art and it’s often described as a negative thing. From an artists’ standpoint, do you ever struggle with this (i.e., see it as a benefit or as a necessary evil?) Events such as art fairs, for instance – do they serve a higher purpose other than establishing relationships with collectors and potential buyers, such as exposure for the artists? More to the point, do such events even need to serve a higher purpose, or is it enough that they provide a means of income for artists who arguably would have to work at non-art-related jobs otherwise? No I don’t struggle with it. As an artist and as a gallerist I like to sell work. That doesn’t mean I would compromise my work to sell, it just happens there is a market for my work. Last week I sold five of my pieces to four different people. They were only small and therefore relatively reasonable and this was an unusually good week, but ultimately this translates into a flight to New York for my girlfriend and the possibility of an addition to my own collection. I don’t have a problem with that. Did Basquiat have a problem with selling work? Does Richter? Does Currin have a problem with releasing a suite of prints? So we’re talking about an industry, and art fairs have become very important within that. The nature of how art is seen, bought and sold is shifting and art fairs are now an essential forum. What’s the single most important benefit (and by contrast, negative impact) running a gallery has had in relation to your art practice? Benefit: creating a forum for my own work. Negative: having less time to make work and see shows. Lastly, what’s the single most gratifying aspect of running your own space? Getting to know the artworld, both in terms of experience of how it works and the people within it.
arts listings galleries, weblinks, etc.
Anxiety Culture [an] magazine Arty Magazine Found Magazine Interlude Magazine Leisure Centre Publish and Be Damned Rant Magazine rifRAG Smoke: a london peculiar
Artangel Artinliverpool Artquest Arts Council England Art South Central Axis Artists Eyebeam Fallon & Rosoff Happy Famous Artists Kollabor8 Newsgrist Re-Title Rhizome Stunned Theory.Org Wooster Collective
www.anxietyculture.com/ www.a-n.co.uk www.artymagazine.com www.foundmagazine.com www.interludemagazine.co.uk www.leisurecentre.org.uk www.publishandbedamned.org www.rant-magazine.com www.riffrag.org/ www.shink.dircon.co.uk/smoke.htm www.artangel.org.uk www.artinliverpool.com/blog www.artquest.org.uk www.artscouncil.org.uk/ www.artsouthcentral.org.uk www.axisartists.org.uk www.eyebeam.org www.fallonandrosof.com/artblog.html www.happyfamousartists.blogspot.com http://kollabor8.toegristle.com/ www.newsgrist.typepad.com/underbelly/weblogs/index.html www.re-title.com www.rhizome.org www.stunned.org www.theory.org www.woostercollective.com/
Galleries / Studios / Resources UK 198 Gallery (SE24) 2B1 Bearspace (SE8) Cafe’ Gallery Projects (SE16) Castlefield Gallery (M15) Cell Project Space (E2) Clapham Art Gallery (SW4) Gasworks (SE11) Hayward Gallery (SE1) inIVA (EC2) ICA (SW1) Levack (W1) Moot Gallery (Nottingham NG3) MOT (E8) Photographers Gallery (WC2) Photofusion (SW9) SevenSeven (E8) South London Gallery (SE5) Space Station 65 (SE22) Space Studios (E8) Spectacle (Birmingham B16) Stand Assembly (NG3) Standpoint (N1) Studio Voltaire (SW4) Surface Gallery (Nottingham NG1) Tate Modern (SE1) The Flea Pit (E1) The Residence(E9) The Wyer Gallery (SW11) Transition Gallery (E8) Transmission (Glasgow)
www.198gallery.co.uk www.2b1studio.co.uk www.thebear.tv/bearspace/ www.cafegalleryprojects.com www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk www.cell.org.uk www.claphamartgallery.com www.gasworks.org.uk www.hayward.org.uk www.iniva.org www.ica.org.uk www.levack.co.uk www.mootgallery.org www.motinternational.org www.photonet.org.uk www.photofusion.org www.sevenseven.org.uk/ www.southlondongallery.org www.spacestationsixtyfive.com www.spacestudios.org.uk www.spectacle-gallery.co.uk/ www.standassembly.org www.pauperspublications.com/gallery.html www.studiovoltaire.org www.surfacegallery.org/index.html www.tate.org.uk www.myspace.com/tom_and_bob www.residence-gallery.com www.thewyergallery.co.uk www.transitiongallery.co.uk www.transmissiongallery.org/
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Further Afield Flux Factory (New York) Location 1 (New York) Printed Matter (New York) White Column (New York)
www.fluxfactory.org/ www.location1.org www.printedmatter.org www.whitecolumns.org
1 (718) 707 3362 1 (212) 334 3347 1 (212) 925 0325 1 (212) 924 4214
Platform Artists Group (Melbourne) Sticky (Melbourne) The Invisible Inc. (Sydney)
www.platform.org.au www.platform.org.au/sticky.html www.theinvisibleinc.org.au
+61 3 9654 8559 +61 3 9654 8559 -
Torpedo Artbooks (Oslo)
Eye Level Gallery (Halifax, Nova Scotia) Zeke’s Gallery (Montreal)
1 (902) 425 6412 1 (514) 288-2233