Tuesday, 26 May 2009
I recently moved into a studio in Bethnal Green, the first proper studio I’ve had since graduating in 2006. For the past few years I have worked out of a corner of my bedroom without much difficulty, compromising living space and a fume free environment I found that I could work on suitable large scale canvases and store a back catalogue of works without much disruption. I wasn’t particularly looking for a studio as I didn’t feel I was missing out and the financial implication seemed prohibitive. I learnt that a good friend from university who I’ve exhibit with regularly since graduation had found a studio share with SPACE studios at a great price which put the seed in my mind, it wasn’t until I saw an advert on Artist News / Jobs (the Arts Council daily email listing) looking for artist to take over a space in a studio share did I actually consider viewing one.
The studio is with ACAVA a not for profit organisation offering subsidised studios for rent to artists in return for opening up cultural and educational opportunities through open studios and educational collaborations. Similar organisations offer subsidised studios around London include SPACE and ACME.
The studio itself is shared with 4 other who work in various medias. The space is split 5 ways with a large communal table in the middle of the room for larger works, and in my case stretching canvases. My area is predominately wall based for large canvases with enough floor space for a couple of easels, a desk and storage. Like many studios it has 24 hour access for those late night sessions when deadlines are fast approaching and due to its busy east London location is surrounded by numerous galleries to pop into when it’s all getting too much or you’re looking for inspiration.
While the commute will take me away from my house (and former studio), a dedicated environment free from all the comfort and mod-cons of home will I hope add a certain discipline to my practice meaning longer stints of working and getting more out of the time spent there.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
So, forced to sit in the back seat of the car and released from the angst of my passenger seat driving, the rest of the space being crammed with artwork, I had time to muse a bit quietly – and unusually, seeing we were on our way to hang my show in John Jones’ Projection space.
‘Am I too loud?’ just popped into my head. It’s years since I had thought about this book by the pianist Gerald Moore and I don’t really remember reading it. The book is a bit of a classic and Moore became a famous accompanist for singers such as Elisabeth Schwarzkopt, Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau and Victoria de los Angeles. Moore raised the status of accompanists to that of a musical partner with the soloist. He achieved this by being sensitive and highly empathetic to each soloist’s musical personality, adapting to and eliciting the best from them.
I always felt my work on paper shouldn’t be framed; its physical nature felt confined by the act of framing and glass seemed to suffocate it further. However the surface of the work is delicate and the materials easily damaged, it needed protection if I wanted to exhibit. A grant and a curator’s recommendation brought me to John Jones. My work needed supporting, protecting and the image allowed to assume its full potential and strength and to claim its individuality. This all needed to be done invisibly. Much like a voice. Much like the way some art is made, giving way to the material, an equal partnership. There’s a satisfaction and professionalism in that supporting role that requires intelligence, sensitivity, experience and respect.
The hang went surprisingly smoothly and quietly. We put up a mixture of sculpture and drawings and hopefully, despite the show’s small size, viewers can get a sense of the development of the work and its relationships.
So we came home and this time I sat in the front, but still in a reflective mood, and pondered the slow learning curve that has been my framing and display experience, and how making art is a constant learning process.
And today a music quiz came on the wireless.
“Who wrote ‘Am I too loud?’”
“Gerald Moore!” I shouted, feeling smug.
Valerie Inns is the latest artist to show her work in the Projection space at John Jones. Projection, is a space for solo exhibitions which aim to increase the exposure of mainly unseen artists as one aspect of their professional development. This show is a selection of responses between work on paper and sculpture that demonstrates a fascination with materials and their eloquence. Valerie's work will be exhibited until the 30th June.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
We were recently invited to attend a panel discussion ‘The Art World in Recession – Practical Solutions’, designed for arts professionals and advisors to share their knowledge with younger galleries. Many there have been through at least two recessions so were well placed to share their wisdom and thoughts.
Organised by Hallett Independent, the arts insurance company (Louise Hallett told me that she’d owned a gallery that had gone bust in the last recession, hence her reason to support galleries this time round), it was held in the beautiful oak paneled rooms of University Women’s Club, Mayfair. Chaired by Keir McGuiness, the panel consisted of Louisa Buck (The Art Newspaper), Karsten Schubert (Gallerist), Nick Sharp (Lawyer) and Jeff Woolf (Business Link). As well as long term gallerists Alan Cristea and Antony Reynolds, also present were the transport and storage specialists, Martinspeed, Arts Council England and John Jones.
The discussion started with a summary of what a recession is – Keir described it succinctly as a situation where sales subside, cash decreases and debt occurs. He asked the panel for their advice on how to deal with this. A number of thoughts were offered, including:
2. Banks are not offering much support – they are squeezing credit and reducing overdrafts.
3. Speed is vital. If your cash flow suffers you must cut costs immediately. Don’t delay. Its painful but essential.
The panel moved on to discussing how to manage perceptions amongst staff and clients. It was agreed that it is absolutely vital to nurture existing clients as much as possible. Retention is key. Stay in touch with them. Even if they are not buying at the moment, they will do in the future, so make sure the relationship is maintained. New client acquisition is costly and timely. There were stories of a number of established galleries who have recently upset longstanding loyal clients, by selling sought after works to new clients – clearly excited by the opportunity to make a rare sale…
The concept of connoisseurship was debated, with some members of the panel suggesting that there will be a return to this as there is a limited amount of good art on the market. Others felt that the market is now too big - Keir pointed out that more people visit museums and galleries now than attend football games and the market has increased 100 fold in the past 5-10 years. Karsten expressed his distaste for art fairs, which he feels are not a pleasurable way to view art. He added that he hates taking artists to fairs, comparing the experience to ‘taking a free range chicken to a battery farm’.
Jeff suggested now could be a time for galleries to discover new talent. Most of the panel agreed with this, especially when Karsten pointed out that the YBA success in 1990 happened just a year before the recession hit. He felt confident that now is the time for exciting things to happen. Over the past 4/5 years there has been a status quo of vested interests, but everything is open now.
A member of the audience asked about discounting as she was finding more and more collectors pushing for discounts. Karsten felt it was a question of cash flow requirements as to whether discounts can be offered. He also pointed out that it will be difficult to wean collectors off discounts when the market becomes more buoyant.
A gallerist in the audience asked Martinspeed if they gave discounts, as she’d recently contacted them and couldn’t afford their quote. Both Martinspeed and John Jones highlighted that organised clients who plan as far ahead as possible are more efficient with their budgets. Also transparency is key – galleries who are clear about their budgets and work closely with suppliers are more efficient than those who simply shop around and don’t communicate what they are trying to achieve. Both companies work closely with clients and are open to negotiations where possible. Louise Hallett added that there are many ways to save on art insurance and they are working closely with clients at present to address their precise needs.
Louisa Buck reported that from having her journalistic ear to the ground, art is still being sold, albeit not at high levels. In these difficult times it was highlighted that galleries who are doing reasonably well are actually being far more successful than galleries who were successful over recent years, during which time success was, according to gallerist Alan Cristea, ‘as easy as falling of a log’.
Nick suggested that now is a good time for galleries to be ‘housekeeping’ – looking at their Terms & Conditions, staff contracts, leases etc. Alan Cristea felt that it’s important to be careful not to damage morale and set of warning signals by addressing staff contracts as its vital to maintain a good atmosphere in the team now. He felt the same way about artists – relationships are based on trust and by introducing legal contracts this trust could be damaged. Relationships must come first. He mentioned that the Society of London Art Dealers (of which he is Treasurer) offers guidance on Terms & Conditions, addressing subjects such as terms of contract and title of work.
Kirsten from ACE informed the audience that Grants for the Arts has funding of £52m in the UK, of which she has seen up to £4m allocated to visual arts in London in the past. There is less in the budget this year due to funding reductions and the London Olympics, but they are open to applications from artists, including those represented by a gallery.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Adrian Parkes - Artist Surfaces
The new gallery opens on Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia this Friday. The inaugural show will include works by Antony Micallef, Faile, Bast, Jonathan Yeo, JR and David Choe.
The Art Newspaper interview with Steve Lazarides http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article.asp?id=17208
Monday, 11 May 2009
The John Jones Award for Contemporary Painting will be launched this year as part of Matt Robert’s annual open submission exhibition Salon09. The award is eligible for anyone who enters Salon 09 working with spectrum of painting in its broadest sense. We are looking for work which shows promise for future development including unusual, explorative technically and conceptually innovative work that has the potential to challenge the perception of painting. Our award is intended to be a 12 month process offering support in terms of professional development and advice on artwork presentation as well as an opportunity for the artist to exhibit for 2 months in Projection and a monetary prize of £500 for the winner and £200 credit to use our services The winner of the award will also be offered a show in projection for 2 months.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Nick Allen - Head of Installation at John Jones