A gallery in a crypt, now thats pretty cool! How did the idea come about and what was it like turning into a physical concept?
The Crypt has been a gallery for 12 years. The previous vicar, who was my partners father, was looking to do something with the empty space when he first started the job as a way of generating money for the church, and after visiting the space I suggested rather than using it as a cafe - why not turn it into a gallery? And leave it as it is- no need to renovate- just leave it as it is and the natural beauty of the space would act as a great back drop to all types of artwork- and the rest is history. The space was originally managed by Claire Pinney and I took over 3 years ago which seems appropriate after having a hand in its conception!
What are the key things the Crypt strives for, what is it hoping to contribute to the art scene in central London and further afield?
The Crypt provides a unique and unusual space in the centre of London which is affordable and without agenda. The gallery was set up as an inclusive space, with no house style or agenda – just a great space open for hire to artists of all backgrounds and disciplines, showing a high standard of professional and interesting work.
It quite a unique venue, what do you feel the space lends to artists and how does it affect the types of works that are shown?
The space is very strong- but actually acts as a brilliant backdrop to all types of art- from traditional painting to installation and performance. Our advice is often to embrace the fact that it is not a white cube space and use the space in interesting ways to hang work and look at work in a new way. The dark spot-lit spaces are a perfect backdrop to offset painting and are great for projection. The fact there are lots of chambers and corridors makes the space work really well for group shows. The space has a very otherworldly feel- as if the spectator is walking into a different world- which puts visitors in a very receptive frame of mind- visitors really feel as if they have experienced something going into the space which is a great for the artists exhibiting- it gives artwork the feeling of being special and perhaps even mystical in some cases.
Throughout the year the space is used for a variety of exhibitions, talk us through some of your most recent and what people have got to look forward to in the coming months?
Our most recent shows have included a three week exhibition featuring 46 Female Artists from Arab and Muslim cultures inspired by Arabic Poetry of Love & Lust , A Drawing Theatre event with London Drawing based on the David Bowie Blackstar video and a residency by artist Zeynep Dagli on MADNESS AND SANITY where visitors were invited to be recorded screaming , footage from which was used in a film by the artist. We have various degree shows booked in with University of the Arts colleges coming up, a book launch for a Harry Potter based publication and a special series of events with the British Library and Bompas and Parr.
Theres also a whole host of other events run out of the space, like Creative life drawing workshops, what a space for that! Talk us through the curatorial decisions when putting on events, how do you decide what will work well in the space?
I try not to influence the style of work which is scheduled into the gallery in order to keep things open- I just look for things with are interesting and professional. The space attracts the type of artist who is interest in space and something a little unusual. The mix of work on scheduled in is a little random, sometimes things work, sometimes not quite- but that is the beauty of the space- you never quite know what you are going to find when you come to the gallery.
You also run the ‘Crypt Residency’, tell us more about what that entails and how one can apply for a spot?
I began the residency as a way of using the gallery when the space is empty, if there re any last minute cancellations or during quiet times of year. I dont generally advertise for artists for residencies until the last minute when I know the gallery will definitely not be used for anything else- so they are fairly low key and improvised. Its a good way of keeping the gallery open and to offer the chance for artists to make new work and for those who cant afford to hire the space. Artists are encouraged to create work in the space in response to it- so its great to see the space being used so creatively and inspiring new journeys for the artists involved- often with unique results.
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT www.cryptgallery.org
INTERVIEW by HANNAH SMITH