This years Florence Trust artists have their exhibition opening this week which marks the end of their year spent at St Saviours. The private view is the same night as my WW Gallery Patio Project opening which had left me in a tricky position of trying to be in two places at once, thankfully we’ve decided to have my opening from 6-7pm with the viewing party then going on mass to the Florence Trust. Following my brilliant time at the Florence Trust (it was my turn this time last year) I can highly recommend the summer show as a place to discover dynamic and engaging work in a stunning grade one listed building.
Its been 6 months since I finished my residency at the Florence Trust and this Friday sees the first opportunity for this years artists to show their work to the masses. I’ve met a number of FT 2012 artists and can’t wait to go back to see the place and catch up with artists old and new. If you’ve not been I highly recommend a visit to this stunning building in a leafy part of north London. I recently met this years Florence Trust Axis Bursary artist Hanae Utamura at the London Art fair where she described how she’s used her studio as a large evolving installation rendered in layers of paint and plastic. While Ben Woodeson will no doubt be challenging health and safety regs in a new and nerve inducing way. Not to be missed.
Andy Wicks’ paintings depict objects that might initially appear otherworldly or imagined, but are in fact real structures for mooring boats that can be seen – should you look – dotted along the River Thames. Existing some place in the no-man’s land between improvisation and ordinary functionality, they appear alternately too decrepit for use, or else modern, robust and sturdy. These mooring stations are called ‘dolphins’, an appellation that seems arbitrary given their utter lack of physical resemblance to the marine creature. Also seemingly arbitrary is their ad hoc composition and materiality: they can be built out of anything from pressure-treated pine to hardwood, reinforced concrete, or steel girders and tubes. Here, form follows function – but there is also a unity to their robust armature and tide-washed weathering, rusty iron, and agglutinated patches of algae fronds. Wicks’ paintings have a striking figure-ground contrast: the backgrounds are often rendered with a muddy-watery effect created by mixing resins, thinned oil paints and other mediums, which the artist agitates into eddies of bare canvas and coagulated paint – a process that echoes the flow of the river itself.
Colin Perry, 2011 Published in Florence Trust 2011 Catalogue
Colin is a freelance art writer based in London and writes for Art Monthly, Frieze, ArtReview, Modern Painters amongst others.
Its been two weeks since the Florence Trust exhibition finished which signaled the end of my year long residency at St Saviour’s. Since then I’ve found myself in and around the studio quite a bit which while empty of my belongings, still had a hold over my time. After such a full on and immersive year it was sad to hand my keys back but as I move on a new set of artists arrive to start their own journeys.
I came to the Florence Trust as an artist looking to experience full time practice, to create time away from the constraints of paid work to see what I could achieve over the course of a year. The appeal of doing this at a residency such as the FT was the support network of fellow artists as well as the studio manager and director, something to ease me in to a new way of working, which isn’t usually available in large closed off studio spaces. On a personal note I’m happy with the shift i’ve seen my practice take in the last year and I believe this really is down to having consistency of thought from day after day at the studio, along with a heap of messing around with paint. But my overriding memories of the FT are the people and the space, being there really made me aware that I am part of lineage of artists who have been using the studios over the past 20 years. But is one dependent on the other? While the space is truly inspiring, beautiful and impossible to hide from, its the group of 11 very different artists coming together who made the experience. As a group consisting of multiple nationalities and artistic backgrounds it was our shared journey through the year that brought people together. Ongoing independent practice may consume the individual but the openness of the studios and communal areas created a schedule for dialogue and banter at lunches, tea breaks and social activities. The changes of seasons and the setting in of winter, while tough was a great catalyst for togetherness and a competitive survival instinct, demonstrated perfectly with varying approaches to polyethylene roof building. The end of winter and the start of spring brought new optimism to the studios with the gardens and wildlife becoming a bigger part of everyday life, our winter film club and pub quizzes turned to BBQ’s and beers.
The Basel trip while very near to the end exhibition came as a perfect remedy from possible studio blues and as we all knew each other so well by then was a fun filled trip away with friends. Once back we had two weeks of prepping the space for the exhibition, taking down the 3 central studios opened up the space and highlighted the architecture of the building, perhaps making a strong exhibition even more of a challenge. Thankfully in my opinion and those of many visitors it was a great success for which thanks should go to Paul Bayley (FT Director) for his problem solving and vision for how 11 different artist’s work could sit and read so well together. With a years worth of life on display I wanted to spend as much time at the show as possible invigilating. Talking with visitors about my fellow artists work opened up more readings of their work and created some interesting dialogue. I was happy with the response to my work, we had a huge opening night with far too many people to squeeze chats in with and delighted that a few of my works have now taken their place in a private collection in Italy.
Its been an absolute pleasure to have been able to spend time alongside each of my fellow artists, to watch their working practices up close and share their excitement over future projects and opportunities. If you want to keep an eye on the FT 2011 Artists you can find out more about their work and links to personal websites here.
So whats next for me? Well firstly a bit of a break is in order. Whereas before this year it was a treat to get time in the studio, now it feels like one if I have a day away. With the realities of life once again at my door I will endeavor to seek a better live / (art) work balance to move forward with. The cost of London living makes everything feel like a compromise but if I take anything from this experience its just reinforced my desire to continue doing what i’m doing as much as I can. In the short term I’m going to be sans studio with my paintings and studio packed safely in storage, however I have got some ideas for a series of prints which I will be experimenting with in the meantime. There are also tentative plans on a building which maybe made into studios for myself and a few of the FT 2011 artists, it has the potential to be an amazing studio in another interesting period property, but until more discussions take place I’ll say no more.
I plan to get my curating/organizing head back on and push forward a few projects which have been on the back burner this year. One of those, a 3 person show with FT2011 artist Adam Watts and Peter Ainsworth is coming together nicely and we’re now seeking the right kind of space to exhibit in. I’d also love to do a solo show with the new work some day soon and imagine that the prints could fit nicely with the works on canvas. I’m excited to find time to take in more exhibitions in London having been out of the loop of late, I was blown away by Piccadilly Community Center Christoph Büchel’s immense installation at Hauser & Wirth last week and I still vividly remember his show at the Coppermill off Brick Lane in 2007. Through writing this and summing up it all suddenly feels very final, but far from it, the rigour and dialogue of the FT is something I will be looking to keep with me for the next stage.
I hope you can make it to the exhibition which is the culmination of a years intensive work, I will be showing a selection of new paintings that I’ve made over this period. There will also be a catalogue published documenting the work of each of the 11 residency artists, with a text from writer Colin Perry.
Here are a selection of my previous blog entries based around the residency and my experiences for those wanting some background.
February Plastic Shanty Town
February Midway point of residency
September 2o10 New Studio – Florence Trust
This is the extended version of ‘Making Sense of Art Basel’ originally published on Rise Art.
In keeping with Lorena’s article ‘Trading Places’, the question ‘Are art fairs the new blockbuster exhibitions?’ kept running through my head as I wrote my review of last week’s edition of Art Basel.
As part of The Florence Trust studio residency each year gets to go on a summer’s art trip, previous years have seen Glasgow and Liverpool biennale so when it was announced we would be going to Basel the excitement was clear to be seen. This would be my first visit to Switzerland and my first art fair outside of London. We flew on an early flight on Tuesday morning ready to catch the VIP preview. Walking through the airport to our departure gate should have been a clue of the world I was about to step into, with a YBA, a couple of famous gallerists, critics and numerous faces all etched into my consciousness who I was unable to place at such an ungodly hour. This budget airline flight contained the sort of art elite not usually found canned in to no thrills travel. As an artist, the idea of the art fair doesn’t excite me as it would the gallerists, collectors and maybe even the general public. But walking onto that flight was a real kick.
‘Art Basel’ is the main fair, while there are a handful of satellite fairs spread across the city as well as special events and late night openings at many of the museums. I must confess that I probably spent the least time at the main fair. But I did make sure I caught the UK galleries – Modern Art, White Cube, Sadie Coles etc and some of their European and American counterparts. But to be honest I didn’t have the stamina to compete with the excited moneymen and hangers on at the VIP preview.
Art Unlimited joins the main fair building at Messeplatz. It’s a large hanger style building and offers large curated site specific projects of individual works by big name artists. Each showing with their respective galleries but unlike the fair these aren’t manned sales booths. On the side of Unlimited was Art Statements which I would compare with the Frieze’s Frame, an area for solo presentation from younger galleries held within the main fair. I enjoyed Rodeo (Istanbul) who presented work by Emre Hüner who took Fordlandia (a city Henry Ford built in the amazon to extract rubber to produce tires) as inspiration for a varied set of sculpture and drawing of this failed utopian.
Other pieces of interest at Art Unlimited were Sarah Morris’ film Points on a Line which explored the Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House. As well as David Zink Yi’s Untitled (Architeuthis), a giant squid of legend recreated in ceramics and coated in copper and lead secreting an oily solution.
Outside of the main fairs there was plenty to see, with free shuttle buses linking you from one to another. Volta is set further out from the centre of town and had a far more relaxed feel to it which made for a more enjoyable experience. Although it wasn’t particularly busy so I’m not sure how the galleries felt? There were a number of British galleries on display here including Nettie Horn, Room Gallery, Vegas Gallery and Madder 139 who had some interesting G.L Brierley paintings. While former Vyner Street stalwart David Risley showed a good group of painters with his now Copenhagen based gallery.
My favourite of the fairs was definitely Liste, which shows galleries no more than 5 years old and artists under 40 (much like our own Zoo art fair). It was set in a stunning former brewery Wartech just off the North bank of The Rhine and had a much cooler feel to it with challenging spaces to hang works. The show definitely had a more curated hang compared to Art Basel and gave off the impression of project spaces rather than Salon hung sales booths. There was a conceptual feel throughout with a leaning towards sculptures and installations; good examples of these were Limoncello, Hotel (both UK) and Liudvikas Buklys solo presentation with Tulips & Roses (Belgium).
Other events I took in over the 4 days were Francis Alys’ Fabiola at The Schaulager, a reconfigured version of the show seen at The National Portrait last year, here mixed in to their permanent collection. The beautiful Foundation Beyeler, which can be found a 20 minute tram ride out of Basel, had an incredible show of Constantin Brancusi & Richard Serra in the Renzo Piano designed building (famous for Pompidou centre). Not forgetting the Swiss Art Prize which saw the Florence Trust’s very own Annelore Schneider take home an award as part of (collectif_fact) with collaborator Claude Piguet. Some of our group got to the Museum Tinguely which was heaped in praise for his kinetic sculptures and interactive displays, there was also a high profile exhibition ‘Car Fetish. I drive, therefore I am’ – definitely one for next time!
The party of the week had to be the Vitra party at the famous Vitra Campus (just over the German boarder). A stunning location with buildings and structures by a who’s who list of celebrity architects, including Herzog & de Meuron, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry amongst others. The sun was shinning, DJ playing from the Jean Prouvé designed Petrol Station/come DJ booth for the night and delicious never ending supply of Canapés and drinks.
So are art fairs the new blockbuster exhibitions? Through my artist tinted specs I would compare art fairs to theme park. They offer entertainment for the masses with short lived thrills, and after so many paintings I know I saw some good pieces but I would struggle to name more than a handful of them. With high price entry and long queues it’s certainly not how I would choose to view art, no matter how good. But what the art fair does do, especially in a place like Basel, is to ignite a city for a week and open up all the museums for people to explore. In London our commercial galleries open shows of their biggest sellers to coincide with Frieze, whereas Basel seemed to have institutions from across the spectrum celebrating all things art and design. To me Basel was more exciting when I went outside of the main fair to some of the stunning museums that open all year round. But with a record 65,000+ people in attendance this year who can argue with the formula?
If a blockbuster exhibition is a high profile, glitzy affair then maybe the art fair is just that. The blockbuster is something our museums should be producing. However with cuts in funding in the UK I believe it’s the private patrons and blue chip galleries of this world that truly have the ability to produce a blockbuster exhibition without the claustrophobic fair setting. Just look at Gagosian’s (Britannia Street, London) Picasso and Crash (A Homage to JG Ballard) exhibitions last year – epic in resources and scale without compromising the viewer.
Its the last full week of studio time left of the Florence Trust, having started the year back in August its shocking how quickly time has flown by. Rather than an almighty rush to finish things off, I’ve found the last few days as more of a natural conclusion to my time here. Putting time into finishing a few pieces and reviewing the body of work I’ve created. The catalogue has been designed and is looking particularly sharp while somewhat progressive for those used to Florence Trust publications of past years. The essay is done and nicely sums up 11 individual practices, i’ll upload what writer Colin Perry put together for me once its been published next month. Its safe to say the catalogue will be a great keep sake and resource for any visitors and art enthusiasts that get their hands on it. As well as winding down and preparing for the show, we’ve also been keen to make the most of the studio gardens in the sun (this is our reward for surviving some cold cold months throughout the winter!) so we had a BBQ last week which did the trick. We enjoyed some special pork prepared by (Taisuke) Makihara which believe it or not will form part of his exhibition piece, so as well as eating some tasty meat we were also doing our bit to help with his work!
We’re all off to Art Basel next week, my first taste of Switzerland and one of the worlds biggest art fairs. Everyone’s excited about going and I can safety say, we’re looking forward to letting our hair down following some busy recent weeks and with more on our return. I don’t really know what to expect from Basel, I guess it’ll be like a bigger Frieze. Things to look forward to – LISTE, billed as the young art fair where all galleries are under 5 years old and artists all under 40. LISTE sounds like Zoo art fair which was always a refreshing change to the buzz and bluechips of its bigger brother. Another one i’m told to look out for is Art Unlimited which is a curated show within the fair dedicated to large scale installation, video, installation and performance. One of my fellow resident artists Annelore Schneider is half of Collectif-fact who have been nominated for this years Swiss Art Award, another exhibition which coincides with our trip. It’ll be great to see Annelore and Claude’s (Piguet) work installed amongst the fellow nominees and our fingers are crossed for them.
I’ll be writing a report on Basel which I’ll publish on my return. Once back it’ll be time to take the current studios apart and reconfigure the space for the Summer show. I’ll start to sort through my work to choose what makes the cut for the exhibition before getting on with tackling the hang. An early reminder for those interesting in seeing the show – the Private view is on Thursday 7th July (6 – 9pm) and its then open daily until Monday 18th July.
Here’s a first glimpse at some pieces I’ve been working on over the last few months, continuing my body of work of Thames mooring constructions. While I always try and keep on top of documenting new work, my main motivation for getting these shot now is that I have to select a couple of images this week for the forthcoming Florence Trust catalogue (due to be printed to co-inside with the summer show 8th – 18th July). I have a good idea of which images i’m going to choose but will confirm later this week, meanwhile we also have a visit from writer Colin Perry next week who is going to be writing the catalogue essay and a short piece on each of the residency artists work. Things are about to get busy!