Monday, 9 August 2010


A new gallery and research station opens this month dedicated entirely to Sound Art.

Sound Art is perhaps something that many feel a slight shiver of unease over – there is no set behaviour to this modern medium. When you walk in to a gallery to be faced with a painting there is a certain way of behaving that we know, but when faced with white walls and just noise to contend with, many don’t hang about for long. Perhaps because of this – dare I say it, misunderstanding of Sound Art, there are hardly any institutions in the UK supporting sound artists. And it is this realisation that artist, Helen Frosi and sound designer, Andrew Riley could no longer ignore when they decided to set up the new gallery space, SoundFjord.

Despite there being institutions and galleries that show considerable interest in sound art in their programmes, there is no gallery within London specialising in representing this art form. The gallery space opened officially on Saturday 31st July with Yann Novak’s show, Stillness inaugurating the space soon after, on the 4th August. The size of the gallery is limited to solo shows, so SoundFjord intend to use this space as the hub of the initiative, whilst holding some larger exhibitions and events in other locations.

The name SoundFjord came from a visit to the Fjords Helen and Andrew made in Norway. On the peak of a mountain they took a moment to listen to nature and noticed the huge expanse of sound. This translates to the gallery, which they hope will provide an expanse for artists to project their work. They also intend to hold workshops, lectures, talks and other related events in the space.

SoundFjord recognises the importance of providing networking opportunities. There are many support structures in place for sound artists in countries such as Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US but very little in the UK, and so SoundFjord has come up with Sonic Social - a directory for sound artists which will host events throughout the year. They hope that this will not just be local, but connect people globally. Helen’s monthly SoundFjord newsletter is also a very comprehensive document of things happening at the gallery, opportunities and sound events taking place nationally and abroad – again trying to develop a sound network. And if that’s not enough, they’ve also taken on the challenge of collecting and archiving works of sonic art from across the country to create the Contemporary Sonic Art Archive.

Helen points out that Sound Art has not yet been ‘pigeon- holed’ nor compartmentalised into a definitive “this is Sound Art”, unlike the Visual Arts that has the Sisyphean weight of Art History – and the prescription that goes along with classification – on it’s back. Sound Art is a more recent phenomenon, having only really taken hold in the early 20th Century and not really taking off until the 1960s, and thus is fresh and unbound by categorisation in the main.

Sound Art is intangible – which Western audiences may find disconcerting. Many years of ocularcentricism has taught us how to look, but listening is a different matter. In the main our ears have yet to gain the astute judgement of the eye and listen critically to sound. Helen feels that a great deal of sound art is entwined with technology, which can deter an unspecialised audience. SoundFjord aims to address such misgivings and offers up a venue specifically to highlight the increasing awareness of sound within the Arts. SoundFjord is as a creative hub to learn as well as practice critical listening skills, indeed, so anyone may appreciate sound art.

Although the gallery space wasn’t officially open over summer, SoundFjord held several events. They had an open day at the space for people to come and meet, and held a sound tour in Tottenham, Into the Wild. Fifty artists are already taking part in the making of the future SoundFjord exhibition, Exquisite Corpse. Based on the Surrealist parlour game, Consequences, the artists were each invited to respond to one of the five senses, being divided into groups of ten that responded in a chain. The results of this will be exhibited early next year. It is clear from the events that have already taken place and those involved in the Exquisite Corpse show, to those who have signed up to the SoundFjord newsletter that SoundFjord is a vital resource and centre for inspiration as well as a much needed platform for the community building up around it.

They already have plenty lined up for the future. On Friday 6th August, SoundFjord will curate Immersound, an evening of performances held at The Others, the first in a series of live events that will be held under the title of SoundFjord.Dynamic – the live initiative of the gallery’s Exhibition and Events Programme. On 20th-22nd August, Helen and Andrew take SoundFjord further afield at the Dragonfly Festival in Sweden; armed with 70 artists’ recordings to play in the SoundFjord tent for the premier Sound Art Programme: Alternating Current: Sound Art Now. By the end of September they hope to have a group of sound artists interested in working together to create alternative scores for out of copyright / public domain films, for Sound Cinema. October will see work by Song-Ming Ang, and the Japanese artist Rie Nakajima working With Ken Bodden will exhibit in the gallery from December.

Plenty to listen out for…

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

It’s a sister act, the Sassoon Gallery returns!

Sassoon Gallery is reopening this Thursday after having been disused for the last 14 months, and is now under the curatorial management of Sisters Burn. Great excitement, great anticipation – I went and met the team behind the name to find out what they have planned for the space.

Sisters Burn is fronted by Laura and Sophie Vent, with Jaimie Barker recently joining the team, and with a group of creative practitioners at hand to help. Laura is the organized, make-it-happen sister, and Sophie is the creative imagination – together they make a darn good team. Having managed previous events and projects together, such as the small but successful festival, Sister Sledge, they are confident that they have a strong working model they can now bring to Sassoon. Sisters Burn persuaded Ben Sassoon to let them use the space and were handed control in April. They open the gallery on Thursday with the inaugural exhibition, If I Could Sing Only One Song.

Sisters Burn hope the gallery exhibitions and events will have an experimental approach, open to a diverse group of people and ideas. In between exhibitions, they will hold gallery events that will introduce the space to a very wide audience. Sisters Burn recognize that there are not enough opportunities in London for artists, and so took on Sassoon Gallery with the intention of helping to fill this gap – providing a new platform to offer to artists. But they do not mean ‘artists’ in defined artist terms – they want to work with musicians, writers, illustrators, architects, theatre groups and others, avoiding the cliques that often crop up, and keep the space open to all sorts of creative practices.

They already have plenty of events planned for the next few months. Ed Parkinson is going to hold live radio events as a response to the exhibiting artists’ work, holding live podcast recordings in the gallery. As a closing event to If I Could Sing Only One Song, Aaron Angell is going to invite people to bring their visual archives to the gallery to present to one another, and start a discussion about why we collect and create archives. The Sisters Burn team are encouraging the artists they work with to think broadly and provide as many events to the programme as possible.

The space is looking very slick – the Sisters Burn team appreciate how important it is for the gallery to look professional both for the artists exhibiting, and for new visitors. They definitely have the space for a year, but hope they can carry on long past this set date. They have the programme pretty much set in place till September, but hope to really experiment with their November show, Surviving the Apocalypse. Jaimie, along with architect James Binning are building an apocalypse shelter for this, around which Sisters Burn will organise a series of events dealing with the theme; having already approached artists and writers to start thinking and exploring the idea.

If I Could Sing Only One Song is a fitting exhibition for Sassoon Gallery to open with. The three artists, Aaron Angell, Anna Hodgson and Isabel Mallet play with interesting ideas that they will share within the exhibition. Although having made their work separately, the sculptures will support and work together. Aaron Angell’s Cultural Canon, is a sculptural shelving unit on which each artist will display their source material during the exhibition dates. This open discussion and relationship between artist and audience is the key point to what Sister’s Burn have in mind for the space.

With such a positive and warm approach to this non-profit gallery, there is little doubt that Sisters Burn are providing a fantastic new environment for experimental art practice and events, and a vital addition to the current Peckham art scene.

Sassoon Gallery

Preview / Opening night: Thursday 8 July, from 6pm

8 – 24 July 2010

Friday, 2 July 2010

Auto Italia South East

Auto Italia South East is an artist run project space that thrives on energy and enthusiasm. Set up by Amanda Dennis, Kate Cooper and Rachel Pimm in 2007, it has evolved as a place of exciting projects and a strong community ethos.

Amanda and Kate both graduated from art school in 2006 and quickly found they wanted to create a context for themselves, and their peers to make work. Less than a year from graduating, they found a small space in Peckham to hold, what they had intended to be, a few shows. There was no expectation at this point, to set up an artist-run-space and they admit, that perhaps had they been aware of what this initial idea would lead to, they may have felt too self conscious to go ahead with it. The desire was not to set up an organization, but to hold a few shows, talk to people and to have a reason to contact some other artists. At first they were just playing with the space, giving people some freedom to try ideas out.

After the first six months, they found they had held several successful shows and were surprised to find themselves in the position of looking for a new space to carry on the initiative. They worked with a developer to find an alternative location, and were offered a vast space, which had previously been a Volkswagen garage and is now awaiting demolition; but as it waits, Auto Italia are making the most of it. This is a demanding space, and one that would possibly intimidate, or even terrify many, but Auto Italia take this on with gusto. It being a temporary space means that everything happens with real energy, being all too aware that they may have to leave soon. The ‘make the most of it’ attitude rules here.

Although wary of clearly defining what Auto Italia is too much, Kate and Amanda describe it as a project space. It is artist led, and they see it as a way of collaborating with other artists they are interested in, to facilitate dialogues and to explore the concept of self-education; and that has always been the driving force. Many of the artists they work with do not have tradition “studio” practices so accessing a project space has been really important ... and so they will always question the ‘this is how to be an artist…’ package, what constitutes practices and the role of the studio.

The move from the original small Peckham space to the current garage space off the Old Kent Road was a pivotal moment. The inaugural show, EPIC involved fifty artists and was a great opportunity for the community that Auto Italia had created to meet and start new projects.

Both being artists, Amanda and Kate do not have a curatorial practice, and the programme is created through a diverse range of their own interests and those of the artists who have been involved in the space. The programme evolves as just a natural development that happens more on its own accord. They will often look back at past projects and people they have worked with and work with them again, maybe extending a previous idea further. For example last October they hosted 5 different projects across 4 days in which artists presented their own ongoing projects, everything from a dead pet séance to fictional guided tours of the building by a number of up and coming curators. Working with artists such as Katie Guggenheim, Darren Banks, Zayne Armstrong, and a group of artists who present their project New Display Strategies. The ideas explore within these works have lead onto other projects at Auto Italia such as an expanded screening of Dan Grahams Rock My Religion or been developed into projects in other spaces, galleries and institutions. They have ongoing relationships with so many exciting artists and curators as well as other groups such as music collective Upset The Rhythm.

They stress that Auto Italia is not just an exhibition programme, there are lots of other things going on around this. It is the mix of dialogues and ideas surrounding Auto Italia from its artist community, that means it is not just exhibitions that the space facilitates. There are regular crit groups, artists use the space as a work space in between exhibitions, and they have just started a research group amongst other things. This all comes back to getting the most out of the building, and using it in every different way possible.

Although it all began as a collaboration with their peer group, the community that now surrounds Auto Italia is a natural development and extension of this; other artists, work and people that they are interested in. Kate and Amanda both make work and work on projects themselves, and so are interested from the position of being an artist – it’s a different agenda. Kate and Amanda say they have sometimes have quite opposing tastes, but that is always a positive; with so many opinions and voices involved in this space, there is always a diversity to the types of work and projects that happen, which can often have unexpected conversations with one another. Participating in No Soul For Sale at Tate Modern in May was a great opportunity to try and allow all the different personalities be seen – they worked with 20 artists in a tiny 5m x 5m space where work, collections, posters, interventions and discussions were all presented.

Kate describes where Auto Italia currently is located, just off the Old Kent Road, as ‘an Oasis, or a black hole’. There is a certain autonomy in a way to Auto Italia. None of those involved in its running went to art school in the area, and the building itself is located on the edge of Peckham, and on the edge of New Cross, so cannot be lumped together with either ‘scene’. But Amanda points out that it is the way in which Auto Italia brings people together that is the anchor, rather than the building or location. They hope that they will be able to continue in the space for as long as possible, but they are aware that it is the people involved that make Auto Italia happen, and so this can be moved to any location and space and still go ahead. Maybe Auto Italia will change, or reform when the time comes to leave the current space, but Kate and Amanda set it up because they are interested in working and learning about other artists and their work, and so as long as this carries on and they are still enjoying it, they will carry on. They are very wary of becoming institutionalized, so want to make sure they keep autonomy and freedom, and maintain Auto Italia’s own position, existing only as an organised network of artists and not a specific curatorial, physical or artistic entity.

Auto Italia South East

Monday, 7 June 2010

Space In Between

Space In Between (SIB) are a curatorial collective, composed of Hannah Hooks, Laura McFarlane and Ida Champion. Having known each other since their school days, this trio set up SIB in January 2009 as a platform for emerging artists to exhibit their work. Hannah was living in what was a Victorian factory in Lower Clapton and within a month they had self-built a pristine and white exhibition space. The gallery was co-joined to a domestic setting, with the concept being to bring art and dining together and to this end they held successful dinner parties within the space for the artists in the shows. They had three shows in this space before they had to vacate the building. It is from this point that the group started to scout around for interesting disused buildings that they could use for temporary, pop-up exhibitions.

The first space they used was 90 De Beauvoir Road for the exhibition ‘My Kingdom’ in early December 2009. Their curation had to adapt to this new model of exhibiting; their choice of artists became more specific at this point as the work had to be able to respond and form a strong relationship with a given space. Luke Montgomery’s work in ‘My Kingdom’, for example, utilized the unusual situation he encountered of holes in the space floor. He created an underwater system that made fountains up through these holes in the floorboards - up into the exhibiting space and back down below in an ongoing cycle. SIB found this new element of the curatorial process exciting and challenging and the concept became a gallery space for both themselves and for the artists to develop and test new ideas.

Space In Between are a success of the Camden Council’s Pop-Up Shop and regeneration scheme. Their first application was approved just before Christmas 2009, and they were offered the opportunity to exhibit in a disused shop space on Clerkenwell Road in January. The exhibition was ‘Buckminsterfullerene Dream’ and showed the work of Becky Bolton, Louise Chappell, Ben Jeans Houghton and Matt Giraudeau. SIB always have potential shows in mind, and are always on the look out for new spaces to accommodate them. Very recently they hosted ‘Rubber Line’, an exhibition of new work by Nick Roberts and Neil Porter. This again was a space offered to the group by Camden Council.

SIB are a brilliant example of putting ideas into reality. This entire process all started very much as a scattering of abstract ideas that they bravely put in to practice. They started, as most do, exhibiting the work of their peers, with the expectation they would continue to work with a small group of artists, but this has become an ever-growing group. With each exhibition they have learnt what works, and how they envisage the initiative’s continuation. At the moment they are focusing on working with emerging artists, as that is where the focus of their ethos lies. They deliberately collaborate with artists whose work is open to the responsive nature of the unusual exhibition spaces that SIB have to offer.

Hannah, Laura and Ida are very aware that SIB only happens as a team. They know each other’s strengths and have found a working relationship between the three of them that is productive and successful. There is a huge sense of passion and commitment from the team to their work. For the first few exhibitions, Laura was living in Newcastle and commuting up and down the country to work on the exhibitions with Hannah and Ida in London.

There is already plenty in the pipeline for SIB in 2010. Their next exhibition opens later this month, and is being held in an underground, disused air raid shelter in Dalston. Damp, dark and dingy, they are focusing on artists who use light in their work. It is going to be a hugely exciting exhibition space, with all the artists making new work specifically for this show.

For July, the focus shifts slightly to a very exciting new stage in the SIB process – they are opening up their second permanent space in Regent Studios, alongside MOT and Transition Gallery. This branch of the SIB enterprise will give their artists a place to make site specific work in-house, as well as providing another avenue for exhibiting. By having a permanent project space running simultaneously to their off-site projects, SIB can now offer artists the best of both worlds. The artist Maurizio Anzei was the winner of the Vauxhall Collective this year, and Idea Generation have already approached SIB to exhibit his commission in the new space as the first show.

The future for Space In Between, whist ever evolving, is to have a permanent gallery that holds on to the fresh and adaptive approach that they have built so far. It is interesting, that despite not currently having a permanent space, SIB have a very strong identity. Perhaps this is created through the voices of the three curators, and the natural progression the name has gone through. By not having a space, the public does not associate SIB with a location, but with a strong idea that is ever changing and is not defined by an environment. SIB is about taking an abstract idea, and going ahead with it. This is at the heart of Space In Between – whose name describes that space that is never fixed.

Space In Between

Next exhibition: Where Beats This Human Heart
Private View: 18 June, 6-9pm
Exhibition runs: 19 – 23 June2010

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

the two Jonnys' Project Space

Unsurprisingly, the two Jonnys, is run by two guys called... Jonny Aldous and Jonny JJ Winter. The two Jonnys’ project space sits within the larger initiative set up by the Jonnys: JJ&J HQ Studios in Bethnal green, which consists of seventeen artists’ studios, the Publish & Be Damned Library, the project space and the modest table tennis arena.

The two Jonnys' project space began in May 2009 with a group show, starting the 2010 program the same way this January, although their normal program is based on a series of solo projects. The two Jonnys invite artists to work on a project creating new work for the space, selecting the artists solely through the quality of, and interest they hold, in their work. Beyond this the artists have free reign to produce and show what they please.

The two Jonnys are realistic in admitting that they cannot offer everyone they want to work with a month long show, and so are always trying to think of different ways of working with artists other than by way of a gallery show: commissions, residencies, events… a lot of imagination goes in to the project space. An example of this is their 2010 web project, WACKY BACKY. This idea sprang from the wish to play around with their basic website, as they realised this was an untapped area to utilise. For each month this year, they have asked an artist to create an alternative background for the site. They originally thought this would just be a simple to administer, fun idea, but the artists involved have become increasingly engaged with this web-based process with increasingly bold results. Another example of inviting artists to make work outside of exhibiting, is when they commission the exhibiting artist to invite someone else to create a 2D work/edition to act in place of a flyer for their project - seeing gallery chores as an opportunity to work with someone new, on something new.

There is a swift turnaround of exhibitions at the space to keep things interesting, with the longest lasting five weeks. Rather than decide the entire programme for 2010 at the beginning of the year, the two Jonnys work the year in blocks, so as to be open to any opportunities that inevitably pop up. When they first moved in to the building they worked to their initial one year lease, and so tried to squeeze as much out of their time there as they could, and so from May 2009 to December there was an intense program of ten projects, with a couple of micro-residencies in between. But after a year they are still in the building and hoping to enjoy calming down the pace of the program through 2011.

The next project is by Adam Latham. Latham is interested in collaboration, and so on the opening evening of the exhibition (Friday 11th June), there will be a performance from his performance group The Skinjobs, plus others and a jazz band, all performing in the middle of a group show selected by Latham set amongst a new installation/environment created especially for the show. Following on from Latham will be the work of Alice Walton in July, who creates plinth like structures and 2D collages. This aesthetic sculpture show will be a strong contrast to Latham’s noisy mess, and shows the exploratory, and open nature of the two Jonnys’ programme.

The two Jonnys are also taking things outside London, having been asked to hold an event at Central Reservation in Bristol. Central Reservation is a temporary project space, based for four months in a disused motorcycle warehouse. The two Jonnys are excited to have been asked to participate, and are holding a one day event where they have asked both artists they have worked with before, and ones they are working with in the future to redesign the social framework of the two Jonnys’. These designs will then be executed by the Jonnys in Bristol in the 3 days prior to the event, creating a social structure that they can then leave behind.

The two Jonnys is currently in the strong position of being self-sufficient. By not having to rely on funding, they find themselves wanting to be more ambitious, and always questioning what is the next level? They find that as long as this level of enjoyment and excitement continues, the two Jonnys will too.

the two Jonnys'

Monday, 24 May 2010

Dilston Grove Relaunch

The Dilston Grove space reopens on Thursday after a two year renovation project. I met up with David Allen, one of the artists who runs CGP London and Dilston Grove to have a sneak preview of the space and talk to him about the programme for 2010.

We met at CGP before walking over to Dilston Grove, which seemed fitting as this is the site where it all started. In 1984 the Bermondsey Artists’ Group, fed up with submitting work for exhibitions with open submissions, decided to host their own group exhibition. All with studios in South London, they started scouting around for a space to exhibit and put their hopes on the derelict café next to the lido in Southwark Park. A concrete wreck, the council were happy for them to use it as long as they did it up themselves. After exhibiting in the space for several years, they eventually knocked it down to rebuild what is a pristine, white walled gallery, and so twenty six years on, they are still there. It was during the two years of rebuilding CGP that the Bermondsey group nosed about for another temporary space to use; their gaze rested merely minutes away, on the disused Clare College Mission Church on Dilston Grove.

Except for a brief year when Richard Wentworth used the space as a studio, the church had been derelict since the sixties. First up was a group show, with some big names involved, which put Dilston Grove firmly on the map. From this starting point came other exciting exhibitions such as Ackroyd & Harvey, who grew grass up the interior wall space of the building. Following this was Michael Cross’ Bridge, where the space was flooded and the public had to walk across stepping stones that rose up out of the water as you made your way across. David tells the tale when one art critic fell in to the dark murky water in their new Diesel jeans! I could go on about all the fantastic exhibitions this initially temporary space held, but it is the renovation that I went to find out about.

Whilst David took me over to the site, he explained the changes that have been made to the space and their intentions with these. The rebuild of CGP created a stark, white gallery environment, whereas the concept for Dilston Grove couldn’t be more different. Those who loved the raw, disused quality of the space before can rest assured that the renovators felt the same, and so have gone out of their way to make sure it maintains this raw edge.

Dilston Grove is a listed building, for the wonderful reason that it is a very early example of poured concrete. And so not only did the project need an architect, it also needed a heritage architect – so this is very much a collaboration between the history of the building, and its new function. David points out that the main problem was the roof. Before the renovation they would have to get the buckets out if it looked like it was going to rain. The first chunk of the funding therefore went towards restoring the roof – using as many of the old slates as could be reasonably rescued to keep the look of the place as it had been beforehand.

Those who visited Dilston Grove before its makeover will remember having to scramble round the back of the building by the neighbours’ gardens to get to the entrance. The building is much more accessible now, with disabled access and a reception area, (that had been the blacked-out side room, used for showing films). Now don’t be alarmed, this reception is out to trick you. As you enter through the enormous glass walled entrance and find yourself in a perfectly white plastered room, with under-floor heating and varnished floorboards, your heart may sink – but fret not, they haven’t transformed Dilston Grove in to a modernised white cube. A large unobtrusive heavy door to the right will automatically open for you, inviting you ethereally in to the original space.

A wonderful surprise is how best I would describe this entrance; the Dilston Grove church is undeniably impressive. Large cracks in the walls, old white peeling paint, battered windows, dusty floorboards all within a vast open space - and it is beautiful. There is character good enough to charm the most OCD of gallery-goers. David rushes me round in enthusiasm. All the floorboards have been taken up, the new electrics put in, and the old floorboards put back down – every detail in this renovation has been sensitive to the original personality of this building. With the exception of some very discreet bars to light the roof if needed, there is no gallery lighting as the space will rely on the natural light. The nave is still raised and the balcony above it watches over the builders scaffolding.

The relaunch of Dilston Grove will open with the exhibition, Mémoire by Congolese artist, Sammy Baloji. Photographs documenting the exact place of Patrice Lumumba’s assassination in January 1961 will be projected. Whilst down by the nave, the abstract video, Mémoire wil be shown, which was shot in collaboration with the Congolese performance artist Faustin Linyekula. This building is very apt for the film; shot in derelict Congolese factories and now shown in this once derelict building.

David explains that Dilston Grove will hold three shows a year, but hopes that this will expand if they manage to secure more funding. The exhibitions will focus on work that is site specific; work that plays off the environment of this building and works at its best within it. In between exhibitions, the space will be used to hold artist performances, and considering the dramatic size and atmosphere of Dilston Grove, I think it will lend itself naturally to this.

So on Thursday there is one place I know I will be, and I would recommend you all make your way to. The inspiring and exciting exhibitions Dilston Grove hosted previously to its renovation, can only promise great things for 2010.

CGP & Dilston Grove

Preview and Relaunch: 27 May 2010, 6.30-8.30pm
Exhibition: 2 June – 4 July 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Pigeon Wing

The Pigeon Wing is a gallery space in Deptford, run by three graduates from the St Martins’ Fine Art course. Alastair T. Willey, Isobel Shirley and Sarah Jury opened the space sixteen months ago. I went along to have a look round the gallery and meet the curators.

Just a few minutes from South Bermondsey station, this warehouse building is on the opposite end of town from the usual east end scene. Whilst being mauled by the gallery cat, I sat down with Alastair and Sarah (Isabel being in New York), to discuss the beginnings of the gallery. Alastair and Sarah explained the difficulty in finding studios after they graduated from St Martins in 2008. They wanted to find a location where they would be free to do what they wanted with the space, that was a good size to hold a gallery as well as their studios, and that wasn’t over budget.

‘We saw some really expensive disastrous studio spaces up in Hackney, that kind of made you want to cry when you heard the price. One was about £900 a month – and then we’d still have to get other people in as well to be able to pay that price. That’s a problem, by the time you’ve got it so that you can actually live there, you’ve got a gallery space the size of this table.’

This is a problem that I’m sure many reading this will either have experienced, or appreciate. Sarah agreed with Alastair, ‘It’s difficult to have an open space that’s not going to take all your money away.’ But the trio struck gold with this building – waiting to be renovated into flats, the landlord was happy for them to have it at a reasonable rent if they cleared the top floor… this leads us on to the title of the gallery – The Pigeon Wing. I think you can imagine without me having to create the picture for you, what exactly it was that needed clearing up! With that said, the space was transformed and now offers exhibitors a fantastic large, open and light area.

Once in the building, they did not waste much time getting started. When the worst was cleared up, they started with some film screenings and weekly crits, ‘We opened in the winter! That’s how keen we were to do things – we thought we could do it through the winter – we tried, and we did it, but everyone was all wrapped up in coats.’ They then found a rather unusual way to give themselves a nudge on starting the exhibition programme:

‘To make ourselves do it we created this weird situation, where we had a dinner party – we said everyone who comes, has to be in this exhibition, and during the dinner party everyone is going to write down a name for an exhibition and we’ll put them in a hat and pick out the title for the show during the meal – which we did, which wasn’t the deepest concept – but it was more to make us do it. And we got The Reasoning Show.’

The curators invite people to exhibit in the space, accept proposals and have begun to collaborate with other groups and spaces.

‘When we started, obviously because we studied fine art in London we know a lot of the young artists here, we do show our friends, or friends of friends – but then it’s difficult in London to find someone who isn’t a friend of someone. We generally have an interest in the people that are dealing with the same things as us, so who have just graduated and lacking the opportunities to show work. After graduating I saw a lot of great artists struggling to find a platform to get discussions going over their work. I also saw that artists whose work did not fit to someone's living room were particularly under represented and in reaction to that, it is these projects that we tend to work with. We also want to give the public the opportunity to see works that are otherwise under represented by existing institutions and commercial spaces.’

However, it is not just the London graduates of 2008 that have worked with The Pigeon Wing; the curators have also approached international artists. Despite occasionally working with their peers, Sarah does admit that, ‘there’s a few spaces doing that, and it can become a bit of a fish bowl; so we like to bring in new faces to this, and this is why our international artists are important.’ One of the first exhibitions at the gallery showed work from Chicago based artists:

‘One of the first things we did was go to NEXT Art Fair with a project that Alastair was working on before we moved here. We met a lot of artists when we were out there – we rallied up an intern squad of about 15! – who really helped us out whilst we were out there.’

The Pigeon Wing also holds two studio residencies each year that concludes with an event or exhibition. Last year they invited two groups of artists from Chicago. The residencies give The Pigeon Wing more opportunity to work with international artists, to broaden both their and the artists’ horizons.

‘We give over the space to a couple of artists to create new work in, and at the end of three weeks we clear out the studio with them and hang their newly made work as an exhibition. We are open to any use of the space during these residencies, but that is how it has happened so far. The outcome is a really fresh and exciting show for the artists. The artists are in a new city/country, making work that is heading straight to a new audience. Knowing that, the residency artists really have a brilliant drive to get working in the studio, which is great.’

The current exhibition, 'The decade 2010-20'. The museum as hostage to fortune. is a collaboration with the Birmingham zine, An Endless Supply. This is just the sort of project The Pigeon Wing want to continue,

‘… this is the kind of collaboration we’re interested in - an of exchange of the space with a group that don’t have a space. So we’re really excited about working with other interesting groups and collectives, and the exhibition at the agency has meant that we met some really good people as well, so collaborating is always good.’

The exhibition agency at The Agency sees The Pigeon Wing collaborate with norn projects and MicroPerformance. This is on till the 16th May, which sees a live link from the current show at The Pigeon Wing to the agency show, to explore the idea of being self-reflective – a concept The Pigeon Wing are very interested in and continue to explore.

Their next show opens at the end of June, curated by Sarah and Fabien Tabibian. This exhibition will use films and video work that use samples, and similarly some sculptural works which also use pre-developed objects – so found objects, but more modern materials. Currently confirmed to be exhibiting in this are Stuart Morris and Justin Berry.

Although the long term plans for The Pigeon Wing in this actual building are unpredictable, in that the building will eventually be turned into flats, these curators see this as a long term initiative. Sarah explained that,

‘…until then, it is an amazing opportunity, that we’ll make the most out of. We’re working on getting funding, and that’s looking more positive the longer we carry on – so we hope to keep this going even when we do have to leave the space.’

The Pigeon Wing

Monday, 19 April 2010

Elena Bajo lives and works in New York and Berlin and has spent the last two months as artist in residence at The Woodmill leading up to her first UK solo exhibition, opening at the gallery next week.

As Elena’s work is site-specific, she is used to having to work fast to a very tight time frame. Although unusually for her, she has had two months to prepare at The Woodmill, but she sees this as a positive, if unfamiliar, opportunity. This has given her time to research the history of the building; the findings of this research are central to her work. Elena is not intimidated by scale, having made pieces for outdoors before, such as a 70 metres long x 4 m high sculpture, 'Silent', a sound barrier made out of concrete, steel and plexiglass, recontextualized and placed in the urban context of Madrid, it was awarded the Madrid Abierto Public Art Award, in collaboration with Warren Neidich, Madrid 2004. But The Woodmill gallery space is vast, being the biggest indoor space she has shown in, and so this extra time to adapt her work to it has been appreciated.

Elena received an MA in Fine Art from Central St Martins, but previous to this studied Architecture MA in Spain. Elena decided to study architecture as although she had a strong background in performance art, she sensed that she wanted to find out more about space, and answer the question in her head, ‘what is a space?’ For her, this architecture degree was very much theoretical and she learnt a lot about approaching a subject from a wider perspective. She found that all points of creative interest converged on this course – it is a field in which everything is imbedded. She now finds that she processes information in terms of drawings and plans – which no doubt has influenced her interest in the function and history of the buildings in which she exhibits, often looking at architectural plans.

Elena’s work is very much all encompassing to the space she is working in, using the gallery as a studio and incorporating found objects from the space to create her installations. This way of working inevitably develops a very physical relationship between the artist and the environment. Within her practice she examines the social and political dimensions of everyday spaces. She has found that The Woodmill building has always previously been government owned, and it is these situations of power that she is interested in. Whilst exploring the building, Elena also discovered that it had been used as a bunker during the Cold War, and this bunker still remains beneath the building. Without any access, she asked permission from the local council, but was denied; so despite this building now being used by artists, it is still difficult to function separately from this history of government ownership.

Elena’s work takes on a wide range of forms of expression; exploring performance, installation, sculpture, painting, film, text, writing and participatory events. Her exhibition at The Woodmill will be no exception to this. There will be an ongoing performance throughout the opening evening and exhibition dates. She says we should expect everything from the list to be present in the show.

It was the unique environment and situation at The Woodmill that encouraged Elena to come to London for her residency. She explains how she was fascinated by the concept of a large group of artists occupying a building that would be demolished afterwards, making it entirely a space for these artists to use for their needs. Whilst working in the building, she has enjoyed working alongside others rather than on her own, having the opportunity to communicate ideas and concepts and share ways of working.

Following on from the exhibition opening on Wednesday, there will be several events and activities linked to the exhibition held on the weekend of the 8th May. During this weekend there will be a discussion between Elena Bajo and Tom Trevatt, a series of film screenings, including Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) 1973, and films relevant to the local area such as a Paul Neville’s movie Bermondsey in 1969, and a tour of the area with a local historian. Other events during the exhibiton include a poetry presentation by Barry Schwabsky, reading about his 'Abandoned Poems', work that shares a commonality with Elena’s work in the sense of using 'rejected, abandoned, refused or disused materials'.

For the duration of the exhibition Elena is doing a collaboration Project with P.A.S.T Projects, Paul Sammut and Alexandra Terry. This Project will reactivate the space that they P.A.S.T Projects occupy in The Woodmill building, which was the mail room for the office building. They have invited artists, curators, writers, musicians to contribute to the project by sending them letters by Post, which will then be displayed in the space.

After The Woodmill, Elena has plenty coming up, with a group outdoor show at Sølyst, Copenhagen, Umberto di Marino Gallery in Naples, Thirty Six Dramatic Situations, at LOUIS V. E.S.P., New York and a performance at Torrance Art Museum, LA.

Elena Bajo / The Woodmill / P.A.S.T Projects’ blog

Private View: Wednesday 21 April, 7 – 9.30pm

Thursday to Sunday, 12 – 6pm
21 April – 23 May 2010

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

JaffaCakes TLV

It seems surprising that there are still areas within the art world that remain untouched, and barriers that remain unchallenged. Israeli art comes in to this - Tel Aviv, despite having a booming tourist industry and attracting visitors for its diverse city life, has an art scene that is yet almost unrecognised. JaffaCakes TLV is a new exhibition in London that is going to start making a few changes as it holds the first group show of Contemporary Tel Aviv Art in the UK, and it opens this week in Hoxton.

It was during Frieze week last year, that the three curators: Yasmine Datnow, Maia Mogensztern and Lara Wolfe started dabbling with the idea of JaffaCakes TLV. Frieze highlighted the problem for them, that there was so little knowledge of Tel Aviv artists despite the US interest in the last couple of years, there is still a very long way to go. This idea started as a small exhibition proposal they expected to turn around in three months and show in a flat. They had no idea of the enormous interest the idea would attract. The support received has taken this idea off the ground, and after nine months of organizing, the exhibition is taking place in a Hoxton gallery as a pop up show with a catalogue.

The starting idea was very abstract – part of the problem for Tel Aviv artists is the lack of access to information, with very little having been written about the art scene and the texts that there are being written in Hebrew. The curators had to do a lot of their own work when researching artists – life was nothing like as simple as picking up a catalogue and flicking through. The publication that will be printed alongside JaffaCakes TLV will therefore act as a resource in English for the future.

The curators are very aware of the big responsibility they have taken on with this exhibition. However, they also recognize that as long as they do the artists justice in the curation, the work will speak for itself. They took three months to research artists, in search of those who are relevant to the now. Most of the artists do not currently have gallery representation, and so this exhibition is really exposing the Tel Aviv art scene right now at this moment in time. By taking the work of these artists out of Tel Aviv and to the UK, they are opening up this art scene to a wider audience, but as a result also taking the focus back to Tel Aviv.

When people consider Israeli art, it is probably inevitable that the majority will decide that the work will be political. Undoubtedly, the political life these artists have grown up in will effect the way they consider themselves and their surroundings, but the new generation is interested in expressing something other than solely politics, the work of these artists is more dimensional.

The exhibition title, JaffaCakes TLV? - Jaffa is one of the oldest ports in the world and yet, is now at the centre of Israel’s fringe culture – this contradiction suggests the playful nature of Tel Aviv.

The curation of this exhibition was inspired by Etgar Keret – a renowned short story writer and Camera D’Or winner. Keret’s short stories are set in the heart of Tel Aviv – within the streets and lives of ordinary people; throwing this familiarity in to question with moments of irregularity. It is this feeling of Keret’s that the artists in JaffaCakes TLV explore and his unpublished short story, ‘What of this Goldfish would you Wish?’ will be published in English especially for the Jaffa Cakes catalogue, with a short film shown in the exhibition as well.

The JaffaCakes TLV artists are exciting and will undoubtedly catch attention. One to watch; Know Hope. One of the younger artists of the group at 23, this street artist is interested in interventions in the street and site-specific installations in the gallery. Know Hope places cardboard cutouts in urban environments that play with the idea and performance of giving. This artist is not currently represented by a gallery, but the attention around him is growing and there is a definite buzz about his work.

It is clear a lot of work and enthusiasm has gone in to this exhibition, and it is all pointing in the right direction that it will succeed in what it has set out to do. It opens this week with its preview on Thursday evening; you heard about it on Art Licks, but now go see it in Hoxton.

Artists: Maya Attoun, Michal Helfman, Nogah Engler, Know Hope, Yochai Matos, Naama Tsabar and Mika Rottenberg

Jaffa Cakes Website

Preview: 15 April, 6-8pm

Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-6pm, or by appointment
16 April –15 May 2010

Image: Know Hope, Protecring Ourselves From The Times With The Times.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Sunday Painter

The Sunday Painter has gained substantial success holding exhibitions in unusual places, and now they are opening their own gallery in a permanent space in Peckham. I visited The Sunday Painter to have a nose-about the new building and talk to them about their intentions for the gallery.

The Sunday Painter was formed in 2008 by recent graduates Tom McParland, Will Jarvis and Harry Scoging Beer. Considering its traditionaI definition, I was curious to find out how they had settled on their name, but they explained:

“It's usually used in a fairly negative sense towards hobbyists or unschooled artists but it doesn't hold that association for us now. Whilst in our final year of our degree we were accused of coming across as Sunday Painter's due to an apparent slack approach towards a certain project - this was just before we'd actually formed the idea of the gallery, but it was that remark that gave us the impetus to do something to almost prove him/her wrong. We chose the name as a little dig at the person who originally labeled us so - I think he found it funny...”

The first Sunday Painter exhibition was held in a dilapidated function room of a South London pub. Although this was a good starting point for The Sunday Painter, it was restrictive in terms of access and time. However, Hannah Barry took a great interest in the exhibitions they were producing, and invited them to collaborate last summer at Bold Tendencies III. This collaboration was a brilliant opportunity for The Sunday Painter to experience exhibiting in another unexpected location and to put themselves firmly on the art-map.

During these last two years, The Sunday Painter was always aiming towards having their own permanent gallery space, and last summer they started looking for a place that would give them freedom and independence to curate the exhibitions they want to show. They signed the lease in February and are opening in May – ambition is not a problem with this gallery. It is perhaps unsurprising that the space is in Peckham;

“This is where we've been working for the past 3 or 4 years - we lived and studied in Peckham and it just made sense for us to locate the gallery here. It's not something we feel the need to overstate or dwell upon. I think there are expectations as to what is going to happen here in the future, but that's not something we need to concern ourselves with at the moment.”

The program will focus on exhibiting the work of emerging artists, and the inaugural exhibition will be of new work from artist Stuart Middleton. Being set up as a non-profit gallery, the interest for The Sunday Painter is not to find the ‘hottest up and coming artist’ to then make a profit out of. This gallery is going to show strong and interesting exhibitions with artists they like and that people will get something out of seeing; there is no secret agenda.

“It's been almost 9 months since we started searching for the perfect property, and during that we spent a lot of time looking at some really interesting young (and old) artists and thinking long and hard about what it is we want to do with this gallery - that was a really informative time.”

There will be events running alongside the exhibitions – such as weekly crit. groups and artists’ talks. It would be conceited for this gallery to exist amongst such a character-charged area and not interact with this environment, but The Sunday Painter plan to run an educational program and work on projects with local schools and residents.

With the amount of work they have already done transforming this space, I feel I can say with confidence that the result of these efforts will be a fantastic new gallery and strong addition to the current Peckham art scene. But the completion of building heralds only the beginnings of the program ahead. As The Sunday Painter eloquently conclude:

“It's going to be such a privilege to be in a position to have complete control over the gallery space and the surrounding areas of the building - previous projects haven't allowed us this privilege - it just means we can offer so much more time to the installation of our exhibitions, and we can accommodate some really exciting changes to the actual fabric of the building. We have our studios too that run alongside the gallery space, and its going to be great to be working amongst some brilliant young artists, I hope it will benefit everyone who is here.”

The Sunday Painter

Monday, 29 March 2010

Twenty For Harper Road

‘Twenty For Harper Road’ was a disused travel agents, but for the month of April, it will be transformed to host the Tate’s first offsite project space. This idea, thought up by Raw Canvas*, will see the Tate educational programme temporarily moved to Elephant & Castle to hold free workshops and events with young artists, designers, architects and musicians – this is going to be a place to experiment with ideas about education and participation.

Harper Road will kick off with a flag-making event – the outcome will define the identity of the temporary project space, and a flag representing this will be hung outside. Fittingly, the last event for the project will be a banner-making workshop, the banners from which will then be taken on the May Day March. The events are aimed at a wide audience of the younger generations.

The project is thinking of the multiple ways in which it is possible to combine ‘artist’ and ‘educator’. The artists are becoming the educators through transforming aspects of their practice into a form of dialogue or practical workshop. Each artist whose proposal has been accepted, will have up to three days in the space to do what they want. This ranges from a pirate radio station, to food tours of Borough market and weekly crit. groups. There is an eclectic, energetic and hugely enthusiastic programme for this project space. ‘Twenty For Harper Road’ is very open to ideas and anticipates unexpected happenings as a result and last minute decisions – but this is all very welcome in what is almost an experiment for the Tate.

The programme will culminate in a series of seminars and informal conferences with other gallery education programs around the country and local initiatives. These discussions will examine ideas of independence, education and participation.

The project is really exciting, not only being the first time that Tate Modern has set up an offsite project space, but also because of the opportunities opened up as a result, to develop an independent program. ‘Twenty For Harper Road’ is a pilot project and creates a space for talks and workshops – with no one else having a base dedicated to these ideas at the moment, this project space is providing a focused environment to examine participatory activity.

- Holly Willats

‘Twenty For Harper Road’ facebook group.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Squid and Tabernacle

Squid and Tabernacle believe that artists should be given the chance to show work outside of the confines of the gallery. White walls are all very well, but they can be restrictive; gallery spaces are predictable – they hold no spontaneity, they could even be seen as down right lazy. Squid and Tabernacle seek out unusual exhibiting spaces that the artists have no choice but to respond to, and their latest find – a Dalston shipping container, is no exception.

I turned up on a sunny spring Sunday afternoon to a lot of noise and curfuffle as the team-at-hand were using a hoist to tilt the container. This was a good first impression – every action in this project is a direct response to the space – it is unpredictable and exciting. We all nervously tiptoed into the container, very wary of its reaction to this new imbalance.

The starting exhibition in this space, is the first solo show for London based artist, Rachel Price. Rachel showed me her work in progress and discussed her ideas for the exhibition. Having only just decided to hoist the container that morning seemed to highlight to me the energy and enthusiasm that is driving this project. Rachel’s work is sculptural, and she has used found materials in the derelict area to build the work directly within the space. Working in this environment has given her the opportunity to really think about her practice and create an exhibition that utilizes a specific space. Rather than create work she described as ‘precious’ for a gallery space, she has had to consider the setting and how her work can communicate with it.

Squid and Tabernacle have no presumption or ego about them – they are honest in their hopes for this project and realistic in creating opportunities for artists to experiment beyond convention.

Rachel Price: Planning Permission, 2 - 23 April 2010
Preview: 1 April, 6-9pm

Saturday, 20 March 2010

‘An Exploration of Perforated Space in Four Segments Words'

Go see this fantastic exhibition from Japanese artist, NaoKo TakaHashi at IMT Gallery before it finishes on the 4th April. Well worth it; and Donlon Books is next door – can easily spend the good part of an afternoon here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Market Estate Project

Incorporating 75 artists, 66 site-specific projects, 20 vacant flats, and one soon to be demolished 1960’s housing estate, The Market Estate Project has caught many people’s attention over the last five months, and on Saturday this week it will all come together for its grande finale.

Gadi Sprukt was the man at the start. Living as a guardian at The Market Estate, a role set up to help with the prevention of squatters, Gadi approached Stephen Ross from Southern Housing with the idea of using the disused flats for an art project. Ross took a brave risk in agreeing; there is a very off-putting array of legal and safety requirements to let such a project take place. By carrying out the arts project in the estate, Ross recognized there was a strong part for the project to play in the community regeneration programme, and a transition period has been created for the local community before the estate is bulldozed on Monday 8th March.

Although Gadi was the instigator at this point – there are six brains behind the project. Gadi joined forces with Giulia Sala, Helmut Feder, Elli Resvanis and Christian Nyamapeta, all five having graduated together from Central St. Martins with an MA in Narrative Environments. They then approached Nathan Lyons, Oxford graduate, who has experience in using empty spaces for community projects; and that completed the team of six – which they set up as the company, TallTales. They also have the help of Vicki Lewis from the Big Art Trust who is Project Manager.

So the idea? A five month project with artists, designers and creatives to work with the residents and community around the estate as a way of regeneration. The team began with a call out for artists to submit proposals for The Market Estate Project, with two criteria. The first, that the proposed works or projects must be exciting and playful – they were looking for artists with big ideas; and the second, that it will interact with, and represent the local community. The artists’ submissions had to respond, involve and connect with the residents. This is a poor borough, and the estate is being ripped down – the residents relocated. This project had to connect with this and respond to this situation. As a result, the curation process was very strict – with over three hundred people applying, a selection of 75 works were chosen to be developed.

A good example of how the artists have connected with the residents, is the Clarisse d’Arcimoles’ work, ‘The good old days’. D’Arcimoles works with reconstructing memories – she borrows photographs of people taken in their childhoods and then reconstructs them, by taking a current portrait of the person in similar clothes, with similar colours and time of day. For this project, d’Arcimoles has taken a portrait of Jimmy Watts, the first resident to have moved into the Market estate in 1967.

The response from the residents has progressed over the three months as TallTales have put in a lot of effort to win over the community. Initially, it was the older generation that approached the project, however after a successful launch party, younger generations began to take part. There are monthly meetings, and a hard core group has formed of residents who are particularly involved, having taken an important role in the curating and selection process. TallTales were given an office on the corner of the estate. This office has now become in effect, a community centre, with children coming through after school and Grans popping in for cups of tea – TallTales have really integrated in to the neighbourhood.

One of the most satisfying moments so far for the team, was settling the license for them to set up the Market Radio, from which they broadcast live from their office 24 hours a day. Having the radio station had enabled the project to reach a global community. It reflects the day-to-day happenings of the project, with residents often talking on air about their lives and experiences.

This five months of work will all come together on Saturday, when the Estate will be opened up to the public before it is demolished on Monday. The response to the project has been overwhelming. The day has been organised with two hour slots for visitors, allowing 500 in for each. Free tickets were available for reservation on the site – with the 1,300 going on the day of their release. They are hoping to have an extra 700 available at the door on the day.

It is not only these figures that seem extraordinary. The project currently has eighty volunteers making tea, helping with installing, stapling - and will have over 100 on Saturday. It seems that this project has really caught people’s imaginations and tapped in to an energy and passion that wasn’t being used before.

Saturday is set to be a fantastic showdown. The works exhibited will be highly playful – the artists have responded with big ideas. Hinchee Hung and Nigel Goldie have created the work, ‘Behind closed doors’ having gone round the estate with a team and dismantling around 100 doors and then nailing them back to back, to create one monumental dense mass; expressing the unfathomable closeness of a community living on a housing estate. Using found materials on site, Richard White’s work ‘Crowd Control’ is a response to the Market Estate's history of marches, protests and vandalism, an installation of boundaries that will take up half of the car park. Both these works demonstrate the possibilities The Market Estate has opened up to artists - in a conventional gallery environment, it is unlikely that it would have been possible for these works to have been made – space and budget would have been hugely limiting.
But it seems that this project has almost turned in to an artists’ playground – giving them the space and materials at hand, to let imagination and energy loose.

Perhaps some people might wonder, what on earth is the point of all this, that this project is futile as it will all be demolished. But TallTales hope that there will be two long-term outcomes. Firstly, they hope to work with other local areas, and hopefully Southern Housing again, continuing to use empty spaces to regenerate communities. And secondly, they want to start a movement. They hope to have inspired others globally – that with the right people and a bit of luck, you can get big projects like this off the ground and bring both art and community together in such a way.

This project is a fantastic example of what you can do with passion and enthusiasm. With a short life span from 2-10pm on Saturday after having taken five months to develop, this project is far from futile. Its five months will have undoubtedly inspired others to play with their ideas in other spaces, whilst having given an area that was destined for destruction, a creative energy and focus.

The Market Estate Project

Holly Willats

The Woodmill

Just a few weeks back in February, The Woodmill threw open its doors to the public in a perfectly buzzing first night, with its exhibition, The Devil’s Necktie. We all know what it’s like, when you are the host numbers are everything - but The Woodmill had nothing to worry about; opening nights couldn’t get much better. With almost 1,000 people at the private view, this event can safely be accepted as one of the successes, a promising starting point for what is to come.

Goodness, so what is it all about? Under the roof of The Woodmill is a studio and gallery complex, made up of over 50 artist studios, 2 gallery spaces and a project space. It will run for two years, in which time it plans to give us a strong mix of exhibitions, talks, workshops and events that combine both the talent of early career artists, with the already established – enough to keep anybody busy.

The two that got this project off the ground are The Woodmill’s directors Naomi Pearce and Tom Trevatt, working with a strong team that includes, Emily Hussey, Dave Charlesworth and Thom O’Nions. I revisited The Woodmill after the PV to have a proper snoop round the place and had a chat with Tom about the project so far.

It cannot be denied that it is the welfare of the artists that is at the heart of this project. As Tom explained:

“We’re very excited to work so closely with artists at this stage in their careers. The project is supported by them financially through the rental of studios, but also the unquantifiable support they offer in terms of advice, skills, emotional and intellectual engagement is second to none.”

The Woodmill is dedicated to providing sustainable and affordable studio space. Offering rents at almost half the price of other London studios, it is unsurprising that they are already full up, having had twice as many applications to spaces, and now a nice waiting list for those patient hopefuls.

“Property prices in London often make it difficult for artists to find space, this project encourages the development of an artist’s career without the financial pressures of maintaining an expensive studio. The knock on effects of this are huge.”

Those knock on effects are out to be seen in the opening exhibition The Devil’s Necktie, a group show of the studio artists’ work and a good one to kick off with. Despite there being fifty-six artists with studios and as a result, sixty works in the exhibition, the density is a really positive factor – from sculpture to video, installation to wall painting – this diverse exhibition shows the talent that is working under the roof of The Woodmill and how together they have created an effective working community. Tom explained the importance of this starting exhibition:

“This was, in a sense, a watershed moment for us. The moment that made all the planning and hard-work worthwhile. As with everything so far, all the artists worked hard and we managed to install the entire exhibition of 56 or more pieces in under two days.”

There is an undeniable sense of common purpose already at The Woodmill, these are not the type of studios that you slink in and out of, “we often eat together in large groups, discuss ideas and offer solutions to problems. Without this supportive network we would be just another studio and gallery complex in London.”

Almost as if spoilt for choice – there is a project space and two gallery spaces - one being in an out building, dubbed The Hanger. This is the first part of The Devil’s Necktie you will find. Welcoming you is a wonderful work by Yuri Pattison, hanging ceiling to ground, these swathes of fantastically coloured fabric immediately pump energy in to the vast space and states that this is an exhibition that is not intimidated by scale – just like The Woodmill project as a whole.

Their next exhibition will open in April, a solo show from the Spanish artist, Elena Bajo. In the next two years of The Woodmill, both Naomi and Tom will curate the exhibitions and will invite guest curators for collaboration in the gallery, whilst Thom O’Nions will curate the project space. There is no set theme or structure to the exhibitions – Naomi and Tom want things to remain fresh, interested to see how different artists work together. There is also a residency programme, managed by Thom and Dave, who will invite national and international artists to The Woodmill.

It is not just exhibitions that this project offers the public. Talks and film screenings will be held in the project space. Print studios, sounds recording rooms and wood workshops are all being set up, managed by Emily. A reference library has also been created, titled Past Projects, which will be open to the public during exhibitions. Artists and curators will recommend books to be held here and so over time, it will begin to chart the project.

The project is self-sustainable, allowing it to develop in its own way, which avoids the usual financial and policy restraints. There is also a political motivation to the project. As Tom recognizes, “A gallery or art space is an actor in a wider network of social and political situations. With the numbers of artists working in The Woodmill we occupy an amazing position to realise certain potentials that a smaller gallery might not be able to.”

So all in all, The Woodmill is certainly going to be contributing a great deal, both to a large group of emergent artists and to those who visit the complex. You cannot help but be impressed by the scale of this project, and the enthusiasm with which it is being carried out. This is definitely one to watch. Bookmark it, post-it note it, pencil it in your diary - make sure you go visit it.

The Woodmill

Holly Willats

The Devil's Necktie: 12 February – 7 March 2010
Elena Bajo: 8 April – 16 May 2010

Thursday to Sunday, 12 - 6pm

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lost to LimaZulu

There are moments in my life when I do wonder – what on earth am I doing here? With entirely good intentions, I will trek across London to the edges of the compass to see an exhibition opening in the evening – however tired, I will push myself to go. Thank goodness – I used to think, for the TFL travel planner, my fairy godmother for these missions across London; or so I thought. However, on Thursday evening the TFL journey planner and I had a fall out, and I think this time, I will hold the grudge. It all looked so simple to get from the Barbican to LimaZulu project space, just nip on the 141 bus for half an hour, few minutes walk, and we’d be there. Perfect. No, it wasn’t.

A rather crucial piece of information that was left out of this foolproof plan, was that the bus stop we needed to get off at, was closed. Brilliant. As we sat on the bus in our oblivion, the bus zoomed past our stop and took us to somewhere I cannot even name, as even two days later, I have no idea where we were. It was the last stop on the 141, this I do know. As the bus driver abandoned us with this news, we resentfully walked across the road to get the same bus all the way back again. These sort of moments do make me wonder – when I’m sitting waiting for a bus with a slightly irate friend who is trying not to question whether it was in fact me reading the TFL site wrong, in the cold and the rain with a bus promising to arrive in 10minutes for the last 15minutes; was this ever going to have been worth it?

With hindsight, of course it would have, had we got there, but a total of a two hour jaunt on the 141 did dampen my enthusiasm for that evening. Will try again next week to find my way to LimaZulu – but one thing I do promise myself is I will never take the 141 ever again and the TFL journey planner and I will no longer be working together.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Zines for Sale?

Zines! - a few pages put together of creative genius, (most of the time!) They are independent ventures, self-published, hand made - they don’t have to be glossy or designed to perfection; and it is because of this lack of expectation, that they are often beautiful and inspiring pieces of work. They can be made in the fleet of the moment, or carefully put together over time. Zines give the opportunity for experimentation, a chance for artists to question and explore, or even a moment for meaningless fun. With the zines, anything goes.

This week, the artist collective, Artinavan// have set up a zine shop in their pop-up gallery in the Brixton Village Market. I went down there to have a snoop around and we all got talking about the zine dilemma – should you charge people for a zine, and if so, how much? Zines are meant to be fun collaborations that are distributed as a way of sharing ideas and not a way of profiting; there is no hidden agenda. You swap zines, you hand them out to friends, you leave them in studios for lucky passers by. But on the other hand, the amount of time and effort that often goes in to making them should surely be recognized by some sort of fee – even if it is a small one at that? I will happily pay a couple of quid - but does this go against the tradition? No? Yes? We remain undecided.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Buckminsterfullerene Dream

There is a good reason this was the Art Licks' event of the week. Sometimes the enthusiasm for organising a pop - up gallery can get in the way of the quality of a show, but Space In Between know what they're doing, with both enthusiasm and curating having worked effectively together rather than against one other!

Space In Between is an artist collective in London who open pop - up galleries around the Capital to platform emerging talent.

Blog Apology

They say if you have a blog, you must update it at least once a week. With this in mind I will admit, I have broken the rules and apologise for this blog betrayal... but I do have a fairly good excuse having launched a new website this month:

What is that!? - Art Licks is an online platform for emerging London art activities and new initiatives. The website offers publicity to art events in the capital that have limited budgets in press and marketing. The website acts as the primary information point for art audiences, providing a weekly events listing alongside feature articles, seeking out the best up and coming artist run spaces, artist collectives, curatorial groups, exhibitions, performances and publication events.

So yeah... I have my excuses. I promise to do better though. x