1. Tell us a little about your background. Where were you before the Griffin Gallery ?
I studied Fine Art at Northumbria University in Newcastle, and was a practising artist for about 7 years after graduating, whilst also working full time in different arts-based roles. I was the curator and gallery manager for a commercial gallery in Newcastle called the Biscuit Factory for several years, then took a position in a newly re-formed arts development charity in Durham. I worked there for 3 years, running festivals, events and an artist network whilst also re-establishing the business in the local area after a few years dormant. I then felt the need to return to my native south, and took a role as Arts Development Officer for Kensington & Chelsea Council where I stayed for 3 years, using that time to get to know as many people in the art world as possible. I moved from there to Camden Council for the Olympic year, where I was responsible for developing the cultural Olympiad programme for Camden. At the end of that year, I happened to bump into the HR Director for ColArt, who had just started looking for someone to take over the newly formed Griffin Gallery… Great timing for me, and an opportunity I absolutely jumped at!
2. Out of all the exhibitions you ever curated, which one are you most proud of and why ?
The Perfectionism series is the most interesting for me, because it is wholly owned by me as an idea, and it is also an area of great personal interest. I think it really exemplifies the Griffin Gallery ethos – each of the Perfectionism shows has brought together a group of talented artists, all demonstrating an utter and unwavering commitment to their practice, and each equally concerned with both conceptual rigour AND engagement with materials and technical skill. Also, due to the fact these artists in particular are meticulous in everything they do, they are also an absolute dream to work with, which makes the whole process of curating very enjoyable indeed!
3. What is the most challenging part of curating an upcoming exhibition ?
The biggest challenge for me is always ensuring the right context for showing the artwork; making sure each and every artist in the show is given the respect and attention they deserve, as well as ensuring the whole exhibition hangs together to tell an interesting story, or to ask relevant questions of the viewing public. Context is everything when it comes to contemporary art, and I’m always acutely aware of my role in creating or establishing that context. The potential for getting it wrong is very real, and is therefore a great responsibility that should never be taken lightly.
" Context is everything when it comes to contemporary art, and I’m always acutely aware of my role in creating or establishing that context. The potential for getting it wrong is very real, and is therefore a great responsibility that should never be taken lightly. "
4. What would you say differentiates the Griffin Gallery from other galleries in London ?
We are quite unusual in our set-up, in that we are wholly owned by an international art materials manufacturer, ColArt. Whilst that might seem like a shackle, it in fact gives us enormous freedom; we are not beholden to the art market (a fickle and unpredictable beast as far as I can see), nor do we have to meet constantly shifting political agendas in order to access public funding. Our owners are incredibly supportive and forward-thinking, and have a genuine desire to promote and support contemporary artists. As well as financial and managerial stability, we also benefit from the connection to the development and manufacture of art materials through the knowledge held in our science lab, our worldwide connections and the history and heritage of our biggest brands, Winsor & Newton and Liquitex. Our remit is to create connections between artists and art material makers, and to establish a network of likeminded people worldwide… I'd say that makes us fairly unique!
5. What kind of works does the Griffin Gallery represent ?
Firstly, we do not represent any artists. We are primarily a platform for showcasing interesting work. The work we show generally focusses on emerging international artists who have an engagement with materials and an interest in the question of materiality in contemporary art practice. This takes many forms, and is not limited to painting and sculpture; we have shown a wide range of work over the past 3 years encompassing installation, performance, video and sound as well as exploring the expanded field of painting. We are most interested in what is happening in the emerging contemporary art scene right now, with a particular focus on use of materials. I suspect this might shift into more digital and new technologies as things advance in that direction.
" We are most interested in what is happening in the emerging contemporary art scene right now, with a particular focus on use of materials. I suspect this might shift into more digital and new technologies as things advance in that direction. "
6. When it comes to representing new artists, what influences your choice ?
As above, we don’t represent artists. When finding artists for a particular exhibition, I always want to meet them before agreeing to show their work, if at all possible – for me, personal relationships are an extremely important part of creating a successful and interesting programme. Secondly, I am interested in artists who demonstrate a particular dedication and commitment to their practice, as well as the combination of technical expertise and conceptual rigour in the work.
7. What advice would you give to artists, applying for the Griffin Art Prize ?
The most important point I would make is to take VERY good photographs of your work. They are really all we have to go on when we’re looking through the work the first time, so the quality of the images will significantly affect the likelihood of getting through the first round. Secondly, make sure you read the rules properly – we often have people applying who are not eligible or able to participate which is a real shame, as it is such a waste of everyone’s time, not least the artist themselves!
8. Give us some insight into the upcoming exhibition, Perfectionism (Part III).
This is the third episode in the series, and this time we are looking at the idea of transformation of materials. The idea of the artist as alchemist is a long-held image, and in this exhibition I am thinking about this idea in terms of our modern world of images and information. The artists participating in the exhibition each take a particular source material through a series of very particular processes in order to change the status or presence of that material. I am fascinated by process, and the idea that a series of actions and interventions can completely transform something seems absolutely magical to me.
" I am fascinated by process, and the idea that a series of actions and interventions can completely transform something seems absolutely magical to me. "