Magazine: Issue 25
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Spotlight: George Major
George Major: On Artists' Studio Floors With each updated edition, new galleries are added to the South London Art Map. But sadly, it is not infrequent to hear about long-established and well loved galleries closing down. These galleries sometimes manage to reopen in new homes, but such closures are indicative of the constant struggle that is required to find and maintain art spaces in London. There has already been ample discussion elsewhere of the function that we; as artists, gallerists and gallery visitors, play in the gentrification of our neighbourhoods. And there has already been just as much discussion about the problem of artists being priced out of the areas they have made fashionable. Rather than add to the debate I would like to reflect here on one of the practical implications of this phenomenon; how does it affect life on the paint-flecked floor of the artist's studio? Finding an exhibition space requires immense amounts of perseverance and ingenuity. South London Art Map galleries spring up in all sorts of places; retail units, industrial spaces and railway arches. Some galleries find more unusual solutions for exhibition spaces; using shop windows, shipping containers, or even the gallerists’ own houses. Artists need to be just as ingenious when looking for a place to make their work. While most artists would love to have a studio in some airy loft space; bare masonry walls and grey-painted floor, very few can afford such an idyll. However, in recent years there has been a glut of empty office space around London and many artists have efficiently sought out and temporarily adopted these buildings as studios. Lately I have heard several such artists all make the same complaint; photos of their recent work tend to have a backdrop of ugly carpet tiles and inelegant office furniture. To a generation of artists raised on images of art set in pristine white cube galleries, the reality of producing art in late-capitalism can look rather unspectacular in photographs. I'd prefer to put a positive spin on it though. Simply finding a space to work as an artist in London does require a huge amount work. But adversity (the mother of invention?) provokes artists, who are after all a sociable bunch, into pooling their resources and finding new ways of operating. And it is through this kind of social activity that great art-scenes - like the one we have in South London - emerge. Pale grey-painted floorboards are out; dull grey carpet tiles are the new studio paradigm. George Major is the editor of the Geographies of the Artist's Studio book series. www.georgemajor.com / @GeorgeMaj0r
Interview: Nick Jeffrey
There’s some blazing yellow monstrosity hanging round Peckham at the moment. A brutally overbearing sculpture of detritus, stuff, life paraphernalia, all sucked together like a black hole for art objects to gather and reassemble. Nick Jeffrey’s solo show over at Hannah Barry gallery combines this fast attack of using materials with a final product that has an endearing slowness, quiet and hallucinatory. The works flicker in the region of seductive pastels and nuances of colour change, like the soft hum of an amplifier just about to kick into action. Improvisatory and lo-fi yet with a quality that can't help but drag you in and hold you wanting more. DB: You're works melt between a purposeful and accidental abstraction, could you tell me a bit about your working process and techniques for some of the works in the show. NJ: A lot of the time spent in the studio is just looking, over a long period of time and seeing dust fall on a surface and marks gradually land in the same way, something happens at 3 am, the next day at 1 pm.  A few of the processes have to happen extremely quickly but its good to have the work around for a while to see what's working. Generally I like using materials which are to hand rather than sourcing something outside, as I'm wary of work which has a direct purpose or is too finished.   I try and replicate natural phenomenon, rain/sun affecting a surface for example, but using paint & just the materiality of stuff like a wall of faded posters on raw concrete, the idea of an ashtray, but using other material's which aren't usually associated with the original source which is all from memory, as you can get some distance from it.  Also the processes usually include all the paintings at some point piled up on top of each other, pouring paint though them, leaving them over night or for a few days, which I have no control of how its going to turn out and which imprints each work onto the next, like a negative, so they all lead indirectly into each other physically. In many ways its similar to exposing film but with completely different techniques.  DB: There's hints of realism floating round in the works which have an interesting slowness to them, in a way making you notice them more, what's the idea behind employing these elements  NJ: The ideas vary within each work but with a lot of the paintings I tried to make them initially completely unaware of what was going on in them, not having an hierarchy as a starting point; spray painting a plant pot works as well as preparing & grounding a surface to work on, & letting the space open up naturally and then I would follow & direct it. In a couple of the paintings like 'Jah happenings' and 'along with the zebras' they have a semi hallucinogenic 'lsd-fied' quality in the sense you see things which you bring to it like looking at clouds, a mirage, which I really enjoy. I was aware of it going on but not in control of it & didn't want to accentuate anything, as that would kill it. I think its partly synesthesia as well, associating colors with certain sounds and trying to & translate that into form.  Hearing a really synthy track and using the paint as the same material. Time as material as well & trying to make that in to a permeable tangible thing is really tricky. I love how painting slows everything down, especially these days with people figuring out how long people look at stuff for; it's the resistance movement lol Nick Jeffrey – Jah Happenings – 2014, Ink, bleach on canvas, 170 x 170 cm Nick Jeffrey - Colour of fire, 2014, Ink on canvas, 200 x 145 cm Install Shot – Hannah Barry Gallery – courtesy of Nick Jeffrey DB: Titling in your work (and the show) feels like an important fun last stamp, what's your thinking behind some of the stuff?  NJ: The title of the show was very last minute, which is sometimes best although I like to work differently. I heard the sculpture might have got destroyed in the floods so then it just clicked. Usually with the titles they all occur naturally at some point through the duration of the process. If they do happen last minute for a show or whatever it just means I haven't found it yet. More recently I try & keep some humor in it, and critiqueing situations. No matter how shit things get there will always be something to laugh about. DB: You studied over in London but are now based in Berlin, how's life over there treating you artistically? NJ: Berlin is just a different rhythm of life to London which a lot of people prefer, some people hate it lol, but its good for now, I'm sure if I was still in London the work would be different. Nick Jeffrey - Bringin three spare tyres, 2014 Ink, acrylic, pigment, spray paint, bleach, fabric on linen 190 x 160 cm Nick Jeffrey - Kill computers 2013, Polyester, canvas, ink and pigment, 170 x 170 cm Install Shot – Hannah Barry Gallery – Courtesy of Nick Jeffrey DB: Your output as a whole is quite diverse, what's your studio routine like? NJ: 24/7! Literally as its joined onto my apartment, which was bad to begin with but now its actually alright with a larger apartment & has been really useful, but a new separate studio at some point would be amazing. DB: What's lined up for you over the coming year? NJ Just working on a couple of projects tbc & on to the next body of work. Also thinking about traveling again, detachment from the city, leaving some work out in the desert for a while & bringing it back so trying to figure out some kind residency.Sorry to end on such a boring note! There will be some werewolves in the new work so stay tuned. Interviewed by Dean Brierley As part of his exhibition Shiver me timbers! Nick Jeffrey will be collaborating with the label  Astro:Dynamics for a afternoon & evening of live performance between 15.00-21.00  29.03.14   featuring, LUKID, BEST AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY, HAKOBUNE, & more TBC https://soundcloud.com/lukid https://soundcloud.com/b-a-t https://soundcloud.com/hakobunemusic Hannah Barry gallery  4 Holly Grove SE15 5DF  Nick Jeffrey will also be giving a talk at the gallery on the 30th around 13.00 www.hannahbarry.com www.nickjeffrey.com http://astdyn.com/ http://astrodynamics.bandcamp.com/
Review: Welcome to Iraq
Welcome to Iraq The offer of a cup of tea, sit back and relax on a sofa laden with throws in a miasma of patterns. Grab a book, maybe some serious prose, or how about a comic or two. Except this isn't a quaint cottage out in the sticks with endless views and the fresh air filling in your lungs. Welcome to Iraq. A restating of the group exhibition 'Welcome to Iraq' originally shown as part of the National Pavillion of Iraq in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. The atmosphere oozes a required relaxation, relaxation in the angst and historically chaotic circumstances of a country that has seemingly been in a permanent state of rearrangement for a generation of onlookers. The show as a whole is bound by the notion of domestic traditions as central to the lives lived in this region, that regardless of the exterior problems raging on outside, the home can root you back to a state of calm, of reflection and safety, and can at least become a sanctuary for artistic practices to thrive. The works of Kadhim Nwir ooze an abstracted angst as if the chaos of the exterior world is contained within these surfaces, dragged in off the street and splayed bare. Graffiti like and distressed, the canvas is piled with layers of pictorial codes, either explicit in their reference or open to a much wider interpretation. Jamal Penjweny's video 'Another Life' glimpses first hand the realities of survival. Lo-fi mobile phone footage documents alcohol traffickers who risk their lives to make ends meet, in an unending state of migration with little personal baggage to carry beyond the memories of past lives. Snapshot pictures of Walsall carried around like our holiday snaps from the Bahamas. In a sense that dreariness of England seems seductively exotic in comparison to their current state. And yet throughout the film is woven a notion that the trafficking of alcohol is their emancipation, both in its content to inebriate and its popularity of consumption which forces them to travel and in turn provides their livelihood. Abdul Raheem Yassir – Miscellaneous Cartoons 2003-2013 In sharp contrast the paintings of Bassim Al-Shaker feel like lost relics of a past never to be played out again, with seductively colourful scenes of southern marshlands dragging you into a landscape of tradition and simplicity. These landscapes seem strikingly void of the turmoil which has landed on this marshland area, an area which before the fall of Saddam's dictatorship were drained to 10% of their original size. Upstairs in the first floor gallery WAMI, an artistic partnership of Yassen Wami and Hashim Taeeh have slipped back the gallery's converted house space into its original purpose, yet with a very temporary quality. The use of cardboard as a material to craft everyday home furnishing from articulates a spirit of 'make do and mend', sharply in contrast to the gilded tastes popular in Iraq. Whilst being strikingly fun it has an undertone that it is not just the lives of people that can be fleeting in Iraq, but equally the rooms we assume would outlive us. This articulation of utilising the paraphernalia of the surroundings is beautifully played out in Cheeman Ismaeel's work. Simple and refreshing, she applies decorative styling to a variety of surfaces, from old TVs to oil heaters and a lunchbox, joyful daubing which speaks of nothing but fun. As with Ismaeel's output much of the work in the show seems to act as a separation from the politics at hand, in a way questioning why these artists must comment on a situation due only to their geography. Do these more domestic concerns and facades in fact create a sanctuary away from the politics or is it in fact suggestive of a place wrought with the angst of long heated debate, arguments played out between family and friends unable to forget the outside world. In a way the exhibition creates a personal tactility with a country that a generation has only viewed through 24-hour news channels and sensationalist imagery plastered throughout the media. The speed of this waterfall of imagery seems to have removed our view of the personal lives involved within the troubles and conflict. The audience is brought back to the level of a more intimate relationship and presented with the consistently overlooked point that art can and will continue regardless of the historical or political circumstances. The distraction of media feels swiped to one side in this exhibition and in doing so has brought out the nuances of both the lives and art within a conflicted land. Here the resilience to create will always exist. Dean Brierley
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