Art & Design blog: Curating
XETH caught up with Curator Lily Brooke prior to the opening of her exhibition, time: ephemeral – everlasting, on 30th June. We asked the young creative about her next project, favourite London galleries, what inspires her and the challenges she faces every day in this line of work.
At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?
During my third year at Chelsea College of Arts , I created spatially orientated installations. Eventually my practice became secondary to the curation of the work I was producing.
What’s your proudest achievement so far?
The exhibition programme I’ve begun in my home. I find it exhilarating working in unconventional spaces and often try to avoid the white cube space so it’s been a nice challenge. It also provides a nice friendly atmosphere among visitors which has felt a lot more inclusive compared to many traditional galleries. I also pride myself in searching for different artists to avoid the typical cliques in the art world so that always brings a nice element working with new interesting people.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?
Keeping level headed and choosing artists wisely. It’s relatively easy to find lots of great artists and work in London but I have to be careful creating the right combination and composition within a show.
What is your favourite London gallery and why?
Bosse & Baum Gallery in Peckham. I’ve been helping recently with their upcoming event, Plantón Móvil, which will take place in July. They have an incredibly interesting events programme which engages the local community in immersive activities. The exhibitions themselves are often installation based.
Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?
Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?
Next week will be the second exhibition I have curated in my house. The show titled time: ephemeral – everlasting will present the work of 10 artists; an extensive collection of works will grapple with identifying the past, present, future and everything in between. This exhibition will take place throughout my living room and dining room but will also extend out into the garden.
Private View: 30th June 2016, 7-9pm
1st – 6th July 2016 [by appointment only- email@example.com]
Address: 3 Ada Road, SE5 7RW
If you weren’t a curator what other career would you have chosen?
I find a lot of enjoyment in collaging for posters and designing the publications for CHROMA collections- so probably doing something along those lines.
What advice would you give to people working in the creative industry?
Create your own opportunities
XETH: Your work spans printmaking, illustration, collage, typography – often in combination. Is there a particular medium or process that you associate yourself with over others?
Mark Perronet: Screen printing is definitely my drug of choice. I did screen printing at college many years ago, moved into photography for a long time, and now I am back to the screen.
I like to follow a process – a blank sheet of paper and a pencil would frighten me a lot. I like the distances that screen printing brings between me and the paper, and the possibility of happy accidents when I am not trying to print an edition.
When one is printing an edition for someone else, the whole deal is to get every print the same, but when I am working on one of my own things, all that pressure is off, and I can do what I like and mess things up and sometimes it works… although, often it doesn’t, it has to be said!
XETH: Whilst you often poke fun at the greed or egoism that clouds people’s judgment, there’s a tone of understanding and humility, rather than pointing an accusative finger. How carefully considered is that balance?
MP: I am basically a cynic, and think that a lot of people with vested interests are screwing everything up for all of us… nothing new there! But I try not to think too much about things before I do them, or I can overthink and end up not doing anything – I am always a bit sorry when possibly a good idea disappears without doing anything about it.
XETH: You greatly vary the style and technique of your work depending on the format of the image at hand – posters, tattoos, comics, magazine covers… Relatively speaking, which do you feel is most important for you: the message or concept that you want to convey; the visual aesthetic of the individual piece, or; the format that you are reinterpreting?
MP: That’s a good question… I think all three, but probably the visual aesthetic is the most important, because unless it looks good, it’s not going to work on any level. In the past, I have got a certain way with an idea and thought, ‘this is very clever, and a good message, etc.’, but then realised that it was going to look shit – clever or not.
So, it’s nice to get all three working together, although tricky… But I do think that more art nowadays should be trying to say something, rather than just look pretty. There, I’ve said it.
XETH: You chose to open your art gallery and set up studio in Finsbury Park. What was it that drew you to this part of London?
MP: I did my Art Foundation at Middlesex Polytechnic when it was based in Crouch End, and stayed on at the Wood Green site to study Fine Art. Since then, I’ve always lived in north London – Wood Green, Bounds Green, East Finchley, Islington, and then Finsbury Park. The printing business was outgrowing what I could do at home, and I noticed the empty shop on Stroud Green Road, just ten minutes from where I live.
Michael, you explore far-away worlds in much of your artwork. Is this primarily fantasy or is there a more scientific interest in the extra-terrestrial?
It’s science fiction, certainly, but not sci-fi. Depicting a foreign environment allows more freedom to play with the image outside conventional notions of landscape. The fact that many of them could appear to be earthly environments is testament to the variety of our earth… or perhaps it’s rather the sign of an earth-bound imagination.
Your most distinctive work mixes soft media such as charcoal and graphite with structure in the form of graphs, technical annotation, architectural studies and cartography… what has influenced this combination?
In an artwork I try to express the totality of my interest in a certain place, which begins with a powerful aesthetic feeling, but may include conceptual information displayable only in graphical form or text. I try to never use graphs or data purely for effect, they are always rooted in real figures or have particular fixed meanings within my own narrative. I want everything to be readable at close range, whilst resolving to a more simple tonal impression from a distance.
I studied Peter Greenaway’s films at university and love how his use of layered image, geometry and text allows for an expansion in the possibilities of cinematic representation. The arrangement of and interplay between each element is deeply thoughtful yet also absurd, self-parodying.
Whilst you studied at The Prince’s Drawing School, London, and much of your work is rooted in its disciplines, you also have a more romantic streak, producing Turner-esque landscapes in oil. How do you relate to both?
The Drawing School is often misconceived as a reactionary return to old-fashioned academic values. In fact my experience on The Drawing Year opened me up to draw with much more freedom and really made me question all my assumptions about what constituted good drawing. After the course I felt able to meaningfully connect and combine my printmaking, drawing and painting practices in a fluid continuum.
Turner is a huge influence. He was a maverick, talented and sensitive as he was head-strong, he had the perfect balance between schooling and rebellion. He shows landscape as if witnessing a series of phase transitions; liquid, gas, earth and plasma intermixing, each struggling free from its conventional confines, interchangeable, unified in chaotic change.
Your new gallery, opening in Hoxton on 24th October 2014, will function as an open studio allowing members of the public to watch the artistic process in action. How do you think this will affect the work that you produce?
Well, thankfully I can close the curtain so I don’t have to be peered at all the time, especially when I’m doing unintentionally ‘arty’ chin-scratching poses! But it does mean that people will be able to come into our studio on certain days and see a variety of work, finished and in progress, and see it in the context of its making, which can be much more interesting that an impersonal blank gallery wall.
We both paint and draw outdoors a lot too, so we’re not going to be stuck in a fishbowl. I don’t think that being visible will affect my work in style or approach, I think I have some fairly unshakeable interests and principles to work by at the moment.
As well as yourself and co-founder Rachel Mercer using the space as a studio, you intend to exhibit the work of others. How will your exhibitions compare to what’s on offer elsewhere in London?
We want to exhibit work that is built upon a foundation of observation, contemplation and practised use of the artist’s medium, without imposing any restraints for the sake of commercial appeal.
I suppose I see a widening gulf between two extremes: private commercial ‘artefact’ or ‘investment’ art, and publicly-funded ‘experience’ or ‘engagement’ art. Both exist in an institutional context and are subject to certain restrictions and pressures, both are essentially outward looking and driven by novelty. Representational art is criticised as ‘not enough’, ‘boring’, ‘conservative’; whilst conceptual art is equally bad-mouthed as ‘charlatanism’, ‘pretentious’, ‘inaccessible’.
This situation is ill-fitting for the artist who looks inward, making art not for the market, but to satisfy her interests, sensitively filtering her experiences and observations, searching for meaning that is deeply personal, yet universally resonant. I would describe this as a poetic approach.
Many blockbuster installation pieces make much of their anti-capitalist credentials by claiming that they are transitory; information, not product. However, they are consumed without much true contemplation; they are middle-class cosmopolitan fun fairs which do not last long in the memory, beyond the Monday morning cultural brag session. Further, they are often materially expensive and ecologically wasteful.
I used to feel completely anti-product, anti-selling-work, but I’ve come to realise that if you create something unique, soulful, made from humble materials, that will outlast you many times over and continue to provide pleasure and provoke thought throughout its lifetime at an un-inflated price – that is a true gift.
Kerry Campbell is curating an exhibition highlighting the breadth of talent brewing beneath her hometown’s sometimes negative reputation. Kerry studied art at Luton Sixth Form College and Barnfield College in Luton, before graduating from Reading University with a Fine Art BA (Hons) degree.
“The idea behind ‘The Midas Touch’ exhibition came from my desire to give something back to the town to which I owe my upbringing. The exhibition explores the working class consumer habits of Luton, and represents the fighting spirit of tenacious creative individuals succeeding despite their humble backgrounds. It’s a celebration of these people and a celebration of their town.”
An open submission process for the exhibition is designed to provide a rare opportunity for talented individuals, regardless of background. Selected artists include Barnfield College tutor Anna Fairchild, who has exhibited throughout the UK, and Cheltenham School of Art graduate Stephen Whiting, previously shortlisted for the prestigious awards Becks New Contemporaries and Jerwood Drawing Prize. Other exhibitors include graduates from the University of Bedfordshire and ex-students from both Luton Sixth Form College and Barnfield College.
Kerry made sure from a very early stage that the project could successfully exist without external funding, with each participating artist contributing a small fee towards curatorial costs. She then considered investments that would further improve the exhibition’s community reach, including improved lighting, access to more DIY materials and equipment, and higher volume promotional printing. When she found herself at a loose end for this additional funding, she turned to the Co-operative.
“I bank with the Co-operative, and have always regarded the brand as very community-centred. So I enquired about their funding for community projects, and they directed me to the Co-operative Community Fund. There’s a lot of stigma attached with applying for arts funding – you often hear about the frustrations associated with lengthy processes and the unlikelihood of ever successfully securing any finance for your project – but the meticulous planning and relentless research paid off. It was a huge surprise when the Co-operative Community Fund got back to me a few weeks later, notifying me of the successful application and proposing to grant the funding.”
The Midas Touch exhibition opens Saturday 21 September, with a small selection of works on show at UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) from Thursday 26 September. Visit The Midas Touch website for more information.
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XETH Creative Arts is a voluntary arts group, and is not registered charity.
All featured work is copyright of respective artists.