Art In Isolation More Industry Interviews – Oliver Malin




If this isn’t your first time visiting this series, thank you for your returning custom. You may know that it starts with an introduction, which salvages every word from the catacombs of my daily confusion, which isn’t becoming any easier. In order to dodge dishing out a lengthy sermon, I’ve added an additional contestant from the usual four on this existentialist hamster wheel. The bus first stops at the loafers of Jonny & Joe, the two that make Unit, London’s Instagram fuelled juggernaut contemporary art gallery docked in the heart of Mayfair via more strategic pop-ups (galleries) than a zombie film. Stepping onto the inquisition bus next is Antonia Showering, a gestural figurative hazy painter who conjures up ethereal beauty via the prism of family life with a touch of Paulo Rego in the depths of the colour washes. Taking the baton from her is a Basque maestro & an investigator of human form via paint. This version of paint is thick. It’s acrylic. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s known it’s a painting and it might be Britney Spears with her iconic shaved head or another moment in our recent history immortalised via the volume of memes, in its honour. From Immortality, to enforced Iconography comes Philip Colbert next on the conga line. This Scottish Pop creative instigator guides us through the idiosyncrasies of our artistic culture, sometimes on a roller coast and other times on a pleasure boat slowly meandering around a loch, but often with a Lobster leading the way into the light. Last but by no means least is, Roisin Mcqueriens a fine art enabler, organiser & sweetheart, who has been helping to make projects fly for a decade across all corners of the LDN. 

Art In Isolation

Joe Kennedy & Jonny Burt Co-Founders of Unit London

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

Significant challenges catalyse creative thinking – you are forced to think outside the box to circumnavigate the issues at hand. We love a challenge. We’re fortunate to have access to great technology that can keep us connected and keep communication constant despite us all being isolated. Our team we have been brilliant in brainstorming ways for the business to find new relevance in these strange times and we are going back to our roots in many ways – focusing on the artistic community and art’s power to bring people together and create common ground. 

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

We are great. This is a challenge and one which we are facing head-on with our tried and tested formula of hard work and creative thinking.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

We have Lots of ambitions to get back into painting or pick up French and new languages again, but somehow the days are flying by and there is so much to do across our group. Our focus is there. We have all learnt a lot of lessons already about what is really important for us as a society – our relationships, the people close to us, the amazing public services we are so fortunate to have, the value of the things we all take for granted. For those who have the time, we would always recommend Masterclasses and Stack. We’re addicted.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Experiment! Now is the time.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this Madness really kicked off?

All sorts – right now listening to Madness which is pretty fitting. Someone sent me a song with 8D audio technology last week, which is fantastic.

Antonia Showering

Antonia Showering  

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively? 

For the past year, I have been painting in the New Contemporaries x SPACE award studio… The award ran out today, but under these circumstances, I can’t move, so my place of work is definitely trapped in limbo for the time being. Luckily when things started to escalate, I did my own bit of ‘panic buying’ at GreatArt and stocked up on loads of Old Holland oils so I can see myself through the next few months at home. My solo show was meant to open a few days ago (I had been doing all-nighters preparing for it) so as a change I have recently been writing a bit more, trying to make sense of this mad, sad situation. 

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive? 

The anxiety comes in waves, but as things unravel the more, I am coming to terms with this as our reality for now. It’s definitely lonely. I thought living on my own and studio-ing on my own meant I was well prepared for a lockdown, but I’m definitely missing the hustle and bustle. Day times seem to be better. A friend has been sending daily meditation audio recordings and it appears to be helping with keeping a positive mind. 

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new? 

I am going to keep painting, so I don’t have much more free time. But for occasional evening entertainment, I joined TikTock and am quite tempted to perfect a couple of dance routines…! But don’t hold your breath for any evidence of this. 

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners? 

To try and see this hiatus from your normal routine as a moment to reflect on what really matters. Paint what means something to you. I’ve spent recent years trying to depict different ways of expressing intimacy.

I’m looking forward to what happens to my practice after being starved of it for a few months! 

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this Madness really kicked off? 

I’ve been going on 3 metres apart walks with my Swiss grandmother. She loves reggae, so we have been listening to quite a bit of Bob Marley from my portable speaker. She usually’s very sociable and I’m so impressed at how upbeat she is, making the most of a shit situation! I’m trying to adopt this outlook. 

Gala Knorr

Gala Knorr

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively 

I had just finished a series of workshops in secondary schools in Basauri, a small town neighbouring the city of Bilbao. It was part of my commitment with the Juan y Pablo de Otaola Fellowship that took me to the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris last year, and my exhibition of this project is supposed to be this May in the Basque Country. I flew down right after to my folks. The ambiance was very weird at the airport. I left my hometown Vitoria which at that point was the biggest focus of contagion up north. I had to pick up my things in Málaga and pack for Lisbon. I was due to be on residency there for three months and have a group show in the summer. Now everything has been postponed with no definite date for the projects to go on. I guess myself and my work are currently on standby since I am quarantined in southern Spain with my family. Now we are all mostly relying on social media to keep up with the life we can’t live socially IRL and I am not sure how easy it is to respond creatively to this situation right away. I am actually kind of shocked. I see artists posting online how much work they do during the quarantine. I find that notion of productivity under this situation quite revealing of the late-stage capitalist neoliberal system we all live under. As for myself, I decided to slow down, read, look through my things, things that inspire me and make me happy, process, write, give myself goals for a near-future after all this has passed. 

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive & with all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

It has been nine days since our president Pedro Sanchez announced the state of alarm, I am lucky to not be alone during this terrible time. I am fortunate to be surrounded by family, if this had caught me somewhere else I would have been pacing all day confined in whatever apartment, room, or wherever I would find myself in. I am always in touch with my friends who I already spoke to almost daily. Still, I have created the ‘Cuarentena Breakfast Club’ which basically is having breakfast with my closest artist and gallery friends with our video chat game on. Chatting about our day while quarantined, keeping our morale up, talking about books we read, movies we’ve seen, and chat about the situation we are in. We also share a lot of the memes people have been making during quarantine, videos of how witty and funny people can be when things have turned so strange and frightening with the COVID 19 outbreak. Humour is a key element for me and my work already, and it has become a coping mechanism for everybody. I think this is a time of self-care as much as a time for caregiving, contributing to the wellness of our neighbours even if it’s just through humour brings us all together a lot more. I am taking this time to reflect, to think, to slow down and reassess what I want from my practice. It has also revealed how much I need to get my driver’s license, I know it sounds unimportant, but with the state of alarm only one person can be inside a vehicle, and I can’t drive to town and get groceries, my mother who is in her sixties has to do it I can’t help her, and my dad is in the high-risk group so he can’t leave the house at all. I can only go to pharmacies and bread runs by foot, we live quite far from the city centre in the country. This time I think is making everyone reassess how things work, how certain toxic attitudes have been, what things we need to ask our government to fix, it has been showing the beautiful solidarity of people, and how we need to put health and safety into account, stop cutting funds of our healthcare systems, and appreciate those who take care of us in hospitals and clinics during this crisis. 

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners? 

My advice on the personal side would be to put yourself, your loved ones and your health before anything, take care of yourself, be conscious of those around you, this virus is very contagious and staying home you help those who are in hospitals already swamped. On the work side, I imagine there are many self-employed people such as me suffering cancellations and getting their shows, residencies or compromises postponed. Rely on others like us, ask around how people are coping with this situation, organise, find out what measures your government is implementing for the economic impact this will have on workers. All European countries are reacting differently and implementing different measures, stay up to date with what is happening where you are from. Do not feel obligated or stressed about making, this is not an easy time to be productive if you are quarantined home and can’t access your studio like me try to think and reflect on how to resolve your work with what you have around you. Find things that inspire you and hold on to them. 

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this Madness really kicked off 

Actually, funnily enough, I have not been listening to Spotify that much, I have rediscovered the pleasure of actually listening, of sitting at home in Spain and going through all those records I have collected living the UK for nine years and in France for 5, putting records on and enjoying that moment. My dad lived in London and Cardiff for almost three years during Franco’s dictatorship and he managed to bring amazing 45s with him, he’s been telling me about the first time he saw Tom Jones sing, and all the tricks and random jobs he had to support himself as a student. Going through all the records has brought memories of great times and travels has been quite fun. 

 How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice and how have you chosen to respond creatively? 

This situation escalated very quickly for everyone. So I’ve had to adapt rapidly & adapt my studio accordingly. I was actually working on a show in Scotland which was going to be launching today, in fact, or opening today, this evening. So I was like full steam working on that. I do actually have a quite significant team who work with me, which makes it more challenging to adapt, whereas, I could individually work anywhere. Still, when you have a team, it’s been a new dimension working across webcam from home has been a new dimension and challenge. But, amazingly, we are in our current era as so much technology around it, you know, like everyone being on the computer and also using these like sharing apps and stuff, which is quite impressive. 

Conversely, It’s felt like a new concept of an art studio, working remotely, digitally, effectively. Because I guess when you’ve built up a team and you sort of on you know, everyone has a set role and an established synergy and a team/ work attitude, which is really cool, in fact. And I think the fact that we were able to sort of in a way adapt to the situation and actually start working on a lot more digital stuff, which is an exciting arena.

To answer the question from another angle, there has been no doubt like for anyone. This is a crazy time to be living in terms of what we are witnessing in a complete global shutdown of our way of life in a way. It’s a crazy phenomenon, which will define our time and calls everything into question. I think the general contemporary art world, the rug is slightly pulled from under the sea of people because obviously, you know, people that took art quite seriously suddenly are like; actually, it’s not that all the museum are closed, there are actually more important things like food, water and safety, stuff like that.

 How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

 I have two kids, who are quite young. Two and four homeschooling and balancing my studio practice has been beneficial in not catastrophizing. Some positive projects have also helped such as creating an art against the virus program software and creating a range of merchandise like sculpture & toys with a company in Asia and a variety of like t-shirts, which can be sold with all the profits going to aid charities. 

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

I’ve started reading about artists from other generations & am particularly engrossed in a study of Graham Sutherland and his dialogue with Francis Bacon, both having parallels in a way but equally going on different journeys, I’ve also been looking at the connections between art and philosophy. 

What advice would you give your fellow creative practitioners? 

 From an Artists point of view, It’s quite a luxury, this whole thing, because it’s time with the solitude that can really help your practice develop. Crazy restriction can be quite a good thing. 

 What do you listen to on Spotify since this Madness really kicked off? 

 I don’t actually have a Spotify account, Apple music (I think). Yeah, I haven’t been listening to much music but did hear a great recording of Richard Burton reading of Dylan Thomas. 

Roisin McQueirns 

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively

I lost work, but I have gained new opportunities. I was working with an artist and planning international museum shows, commissions, collaborations – all of which have been postponed. But I’ve gone online, done an Instagram takeover for @feministartmuseum, and am planning new projects in London and overseas for when this all blows over. Which it will.

I curated an exhibition of work by the Glasgow based artist Adam Lewis Jacob, called “Crud Love”, at Peak in Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, London, which had to close early. We planned a talk which was cancelled so that we will do a podcast instead.

I’ve also taken up tie-dying.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive 

I’ve had a few out of body experiences where I think I’m in a parallel universe. I miss my boyfriend and my family, but I have a dog, hilarious friends and peaceful home, and I’m grateful for that. Routine, laughter, music is vital. And burning copious amounts of sage! Also, Capitalism is on pause and nature is allowed to breathe for a while, and we can all take something positive from that.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

I’m enjoying connecting with new people. I’m working on offering some works by younger artists to try and support us all during this time, and researching all of the amazing artists I often never have time to, and do more tie-dying.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Don’t take any setbacks or job losses during this unique and bizarre time personally. Think ahead. Reach out to one another, start something that you would normally wouldn’t do. I feel like social boundaries are being broken down, which is a really positive thing.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this Madness really kicked off

The Durutti Column, and Snoh Aalegra.

 

Philip Colbert

Philip Colbert

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice and how have you chosen to respond creatively? 

This situation escalated very quickly for everyone. so I’ve had to adapt quickly & adapt my studio accordingly. I was actually working on a show in Scotland which was going to be launching today, in fact, or opening today, this evening. So I was like full steam working on that. I do actually have a quite significant team who work with me, which makes it more challenging to adapt, whereas, I could individually work anywhere, but when you have a team it’s been a new dimension working across webcam from home has been a new dimension and challenge.  But it is amazing we are in our current era as so much technology around it, you know, like everyone being on the computer and also using these like sharing apps and stuff, which is quite interesting.

Conversely, It’s felt like a new concept of an art studio, working remotely, digitally, effectively. Because I guess when you’ve built up a team and you sort of on you know, everyone has a set role and an established synergy and a team/ work attitude, which is really cool, in fact. And I think the fact that we were able to sort of in a way adapt to the situation and actually start working on a lot more digital stuff, which is an exciting arena.

To answer the question from another angle, there has been no doubt like for anyone, this is a crazy time to be living in terms of what we are witnessing in a complete global shutdown of our way of life in a way. It’s a crazy phenomenon, which will define our time and calls everything into question. I think the general contemporary art world, the rug is slightly pulled from under the sea of people because obviously, you know, people that took art quite seriously suddenly are like, actually, it’s not that all the museum are closed, there are actually more important things like food, water and safety, stuff like that.

 How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

As I have two kids, who are quite young. Two and four homeschooling and balancing my studio practice has been really helpful in not catastrophizing. Some positive projects have also helped such as creating an art against the virus program software and creating a range of merchandise like sculpture & toys with a company in Asia and a range of t-shirts, which can be sold with all the profits going to aid charities.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

I’ve started reading about artists from other generations & am particular engrossed in a study of Graham Sutherland and his dialogue with Francis Bacon,  both having parallels in a way but equally going on different journeys, I’ve also been looking at the connections between art and philosophy

What advice would you give your fellow creative practitioners? 

From an Artists point of view It’s quite a luxury, this whole thing, because it’s time with solitude that can really help your practice develop. Crazy restriction can be quite a good thing.

What do you listen to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off? 

I don’t actually have a Spotify account, Apple music (I think). Yeah, I haven’t been listening to much music but did hear a great recording of  Richard Burton reading of Dylan Thomas.

Interviews Oliver Malin © Artlyst 2020 Top Photo: Philip Colbert

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