Magazine: Issue 28
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Spotlight: Peter Von Kant
Peter von Kant is based in a seventeenth century house with an intriguing history. Built with timbers from Deptford's long-defunct shipbuilding industry and previously used as a bike workshop, the building's restoration won its architects, Dow Jones, the 2013 RIBA London Regional Award and the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize in the same year. Opening on June 27, the gallery's next exhibition features new paintings by Swedish-born, South London-based artist Sally Kindberg. With deadpan straightforwardness Kindberg combines bizarrely contradictory subjects in her paintings; cheese faces, dog-haired boys... The juxtaposition of unlikely materials provokes a mixture of humour and disgust. However, the individual materials that Kindberg chooses to depict also contain these contradictory attributes within themselves; cheese and hair can both be either luxurious or abject; a hair in your expensive cheese, some cheese stuck in your well-conditioned hair. Each of the paintings in this exhibition shows a human head against a brightly coloured background, like one of the backgrounds that can be chosen in a photo-booth. In each, beneath a mass of hair the entire face is unexpectedly obscured by a wedge of cheese. Alongside these paintings, Peter von Kant is exhibiting a collection of mugshots taken between 1951 and 1964 by the Philadelphia Police Department. Peter von Kant tends not to put on solo exhibitions, preferring instead to put different bodies of work into a room together. This is an effective strategy; there are strong and unexpected resonances between the two collections of images. The collection of mugshots recalls Andy Warhol's mural Thirteen Most Wanted Men, produced exactly fifty years ago for the 1964 New York World's Fair. The fair's organisers took exception to the mural and demanded it be painted over before the fair opened. Warhol chose to use silver paint for his enforced autoiconoclasm. Incidentally, the world's biggest cheese was presented at the 1964 World's Fair. The 15 tonne pride of Wisconsin's dairy industry, an uncontroversial exhibit. Warhol took the images of the Thirteen Most Wanted Men from a pamphlet distributed by the New York Police Department. Of course, the intended purpose of these images was simply to identify their subjects. But Warhol's appropriation of them is based on a deliberate misreading of the image. For Warhol, the mugshots of the New York Police Department's thirteen most wanted criminals have the appeal of film-stars' headshots. The image of a most wanted criminal, stripped of any context other than that of their crimes, is an image of infamy, which is just a type of celebrity. This subversion of the mugshots' intended purpose accounts for the decision to censor Warhol's work at the World's Fair. Unlike Warhol's Most Wanted Men, the figures in Peter von Kant's photos are petty criminals; mostly arrested for illegal gambling, all of them residents of Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia was once a centre for the cream-cheese industry, although the popular spreadable cheese product that still bears the city's name actually originates from New York. The last in the series of mugshots is dated 1964; the year that lotteries were legalised and the year of the New York World's Fair. There's no-one among them that is not utterly bizarre-looking, and yet there is no-one in these images who would look out of place walking past the gallery on Tanner's Hill. Text by George Major
Interview: Asylum
Hidden within the Caroline Garden’s Chapel, the ruinous décor of Asylum has been home to a new programme of art initiatives co-led by artists Jo Dennis and Dido Hallett. CM: For starters could you just tell me a little bit about yourselves and the Asylum space? I’m interested into how you managed to acquire such an interesting space to work with. The space was on the Southwark Council website in the Commercial Property to let section. We made a proposal to run it as an art space and we were lucky enough to be given the lease in 2010. Jo and I both studied at Goldsmiths College and were practising artists looking for a space to run an arts programme in. CM: Do you think the peculiarities of your space lend a certain something to artists/exhibitions, over and above the formalities of the white-cube milieu? And if so is that what attracted you to the space in the first place? Asylum is a challenging space to hang a show in as the space is a work of art in itself, when putting on an exhibition in this space a lot of the white cube rules have to be disregarded and new ones made up. Some of the best shows we have had are the site specific ones that work with the space and look into its history and use the unique atmosphere of the chapel. When we first saw the space we knew instantly that this was something special and would be an amazing opportunity for any artist to get their hands on! We have recently taken on another intriguing and challenging space 'Safehouse 1' on Copeland Road in Peckham, last month the 2nd year illustration and graphics Camberwell College and students put on a show there. CM: How does co-running and directing the space usually play out? Do you both take equal responsibility for the management/curation of your exhibitions? Similarly is there a certain process that you follow when producing an exhibition or does it change with every project? It changes with every project, sometimes one of us will take a more involved approach and sometimes we are completely hands off. We have collaborated with other artist lead groups and curated with other artist/curators. The exhibitions and events we have are a mixture of Asylum projects and other people renting the space. We have had shows with students from Camberwell, Goldsmiths, central St Martins, RCA and with more established artists. We have recently started a residency programme curated by Ed Ball who is on the MA curation course at the RCA. We generally work with artists who are passionate about the space and want to show there rather than source artists and curators. CM: I’m aware that you enjoy working with pop-up exhibitions and was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your interest in this area and what you think it offers artists and exhibitions? We don’t really think of Asylum shows as a pop up exhibitions. Short 3 or 4 day exhibits suit how we work and where the space is. Asylum is situated in gated gardens which doesn’t get much passing footfall, having short exhibitions puts the focus on the launch event and encourages artists to get the people to the shows in a small window. CM: Finally, is there anything coming up soon that you are involved in that you can tell us about? Thursday 3rd July we will be having performances and screenings from artists involved in our residency program. I will put all the finer details up on SLAM web site. 24th-26th June at Safehouse we have MA film students from Goldsmiths doing a live performance.We will be putting in a proposal for the Artlicks weekender in October. We have Joran Rappa solo show at Asylum in October and also in October at Safehouse we will be hosting 2 exhibitions as part of the South East Asia Art Festival. Interview by Charlie Mills
Spotlight No 2: Matt Gee & Block 336
Block 336 When first entering the artist-run space that is block 336 it’s easy to understand why bringing in a group of artists all focusing on different concerns and practices and curating a show around the artist relationship with the site seemed like a natural and reasonable thing to do. The concrete walls of the ex-bank/ ex-illegal rave venue are not only a refreshing change to the conventional white-cube-est gallery we’re so used to seeing, it’s uniquely structured architecture is screaming to be played with. Its underground location on Brixton road emphasizes its uniqueness and makes the space a real hub of possibility. Responding to the environment artists Murray Anderson, Rosanna Greaves, CJ Mahony, Frances Scott and Lisa Wilkens have collaborated to produce ‘Heavy Sentience’. A show depicting their responses from working together within this unusual structural, acoustic and intensely atmospheric underground setting. Whilst talking to gallery manager and studio artist Alex Gough about the space and their curatorial process I got the feeling that the place is a real hub of creativity and energy. With their inclination for group shows, having resident artist, visiting artists and private views going on till late there is definitely an exciting creative community developing within the grounds of the historical building. Without it being forced upon the artist there is a sense of encouragement for site-specific work. With a building so unique both visually and historically it would almost seem surprising to not want to explore the possibility of their surroundings and be inspired by the place. With this encouragement for collaboration and conversations between artists and practices ‘ Heavy Sentience’ which runs from 21st June right through till 18th July challenges the logistics of the more traditional curatorial process. Block’s 336 is on the outskirts of the Peckham hub, and with Peckham being the spotlight hub this month why not exploit the good weather and drop into the show. Located afew minutes away from Brixton Police station it’s a great example of one of the many artist ran spaces that South London has to offer. HEAVY SENTIENCE Private view: 20.6.14 | 6 – 10 pm 21.6.14 – 18.7.14 | Thurs – Sat 12 – 6 pm or by appointment Publication launch and live event: 11.7.14 | 6 – 9 pm The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with texts by Kathy Noble. For all further information please contact Thomas Groves, info@block336.com Spotlight by Bethany Lloyd — Pop-up Interview Matt Gee As the popularity of 'pop-up' exhibitions are growing we thought we'd focus on one in particular every month. This month Matt Gee held his debut curatorial show 'Canvas Assesmbly'. We talked to him about his curatorial process and what else he has coming up. Definitely one to watch! Steven Gee Toothpaste Tash Velcro, Masking Tape and Nails, Dimensions Variable , 2014 Ralph Anderson Stripe Painting II, Acrylic on Plywood, 70cm x 50cm, 2014 BL: ‘Post Canvas Assembly’ is obviously based around the possibility and physically of painting, and questioning what we class as painting, could you give us a brief introduction to the show and was this a theme that developed before or after the 6 artists were brought together? MG: Post Canvas Assembly was designed with the aim of being a gathering of artists who at this time in their careers are producing work that has a high essence of painting, but with the absence of canvas. This essence of painting could exist either with use of a tactile composition, mark making, or with visual painterly qualities, with or without paint. I feel these days some shows seek to achieve too much, or break down too many barriers in a world where most art forms have been covered relentlessly, and feel the intrigue and what seduces the viewer should lie in the ounces of originality that has been tweaked out by well researched artists. With this in mind I didn’t want to put on a show rejecting canvas as a viable material, nor was it an exhibition challenging painting in general, but an appreciation of a grouping of current artists, some mixed media, some purely painters, who may use unorthodox materials or surfaces in artwork that still heavily references painting. Josh Berry Framework 3, Perspex, animal bones, balloons, 45 x 33 x 33, 2014 Ralph Anderson Stripe Painting, Acrylic on Plywood, 70cm x 50cm, 2014 BL: As well as your work being in the show it’s your debut curatorial exhibition, do you see these as too separate practices or was curating just a natural progression of you work? You give us abit more of an incite to your curatorial process for this show? MG: I see curating as a separate direction, but also as a great testing ground, as it results in a larger version of a peer critique as conversations arise between the other artists, the visitors and myself. The crossover between curating and my art practice lies in this conversational dialogue I wanted to create by hanging my work alongside other works of artists that I felt fit the theme I intended to portray. This dialogue for me was very rewarding, I didn’t just want to hang a show and be done with it, I wanted to create friendships, bonds, and new ideas amongst the artists and visitors. I had a set of core themes for this ‘Assembly’, in a way a manifesto I set out for the show, and heavily determined the hanging and positioning of the exhibition. For the hang I decided to split all the works by the different artists and hang works in pairs, creating couples and trios in a couple of instances, all relating to some core themes I set out as subtitles for the show. I decided to explicitly and purposefully illustrate these core themes, and in some cases the artworks cross over the themes and link up with each other. Josh Berry Framework 1, Perspex, animal bones, balloons, 40 x 35 x 20cm, 2014 Matt Gee Exoskeleton Cabinet of Curiosity, Pearl Clam, Geode, velvet flock, Perspex, 60 x 60 x10cm, 2014 BL: Here at SLAM we’ve seen is a growing trend of ‘pop-up’ one night only exhibitions and it’s something we really want to get involved with. Why do you think they’re becoming so popular and what would you say are the pros and cons that they bring? With one-night shows there is a sense of urgency as people realize they need to come and catch the show. The show has the added element of it being an event, and in this case ‘Assembly’. Having said that, with past experience, most of the visitors come for the private view anyway (unfortunately sometimes for the beer more than the art) and visitor numbers can be very low during the following days anyway. The main disadvantage for me is that if people can’t make the specific day, or day before the show, then there is no opportunity to show them around after. Documentation and the stories last forever, however the best and most viable way to view art, is still in the flesh. BL: How have you found the experience of playing the role of both artist and curator in this show? What’s coming up next for you? Being an artist in the show was the easy bit, being the curator has given me many positive learning curves for the future; and In fact enabled me to distance myself from the work as it allowed me to see it within a group of artworks that I was working with in this project. As for what’s next, I hope to get involved with some more shows here and there. For the moment I work in SE1 studios in Bermondsey, and later in July is the Bermondsey Art trail, then in September SE1 open studios so I will definitely be having a rigorous tidy of my studio in the coming weeks! I’ve been collaborating with musician Halina Rice in making an AV installation. I’m not going to reveal too much for now as the AV production will be premiered alongside live installation and audio in a show called ‘Synthesis Cuts’, in November this year at Art Lacuna Space, in Clapham Junction. Stay tuned. Alastair Gordon Vibac: PM71 Oil paint on wood, 50 x 40cm, 2014 Philip Elbourne Hand-held Painting, 5th Generation: Caesar Oil and acrylic on board, 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 2014 For full interview visit www.mattgeeartist.com Facebook: Matt Gee Artist Twitter: @MattGeeArtist Interview by Bethany Lloyd
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