Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Interview with Nick Kaplony

It is a pleasure to interview Nick Kaplony, a freelance curator, practicing artist and education officer at Battersea's Pump House Gallery. He is also the programme coordinator of Artquest.

Untitled (Siren) © Debbie Lawson
Kaplony is curator of the forthcoming exhibition at Core Gallery 'Psychometry', an exhibition of works by 12 contemporary artists that channel and manifest the intangible and invisible through their work. The exhibition takes its title from a practice employed by psychics and mediums, whereby past events and personal histories are divined through physical contact with an object.

I talk to him to find out his motivations on contemporary curating, more about the forthcoming show, and his recent developments within his work. 

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CP: Can you tell us about the forthcoming show at Core Gallery ‘Psychometry’?

 Monkey No 6 © Peter Jones, 2007, 30.5cm x 25.5cm, oil on linen

NK: Psychometry is a group show that takes it title from a practice undertaken by spiritualists and psychics that allows them to ‘read’ the intangible attributes of an object by touching it, such as its history, or the history and emotions of the previous owner. It’s looking at artists who can be said to do a similar thing with their practice: Making intangible and invisible ideas associated with their subject and the materials they’re working with manifest and visible.

There are twelve artists including myself involved in this show Claire Haddon, Peter Jones, Sean Langton, Debbie Lawson, Sophie Molins, Michaela Nettell and Tom Simmons, Richard Paul, Helen Pynor, Melanie Stidolph, Karen Stripp. All with very different approaches.

Jungtis © Michaela Nettell and Tom Simmons, May 2008
To give you a flavour of some of the sort of thing to expect: Debbie Lawson’s carpet sculptures and furniture installations which take gallery visitors on a psychological journey through domestic space, where everyday things are eerily animated and the very fabric of the interior comes to life. Peter Jone’s paints meticulous portraits of old toy monkeys. The wear and tear of their history animates their features and imbues them with character and life. Richard Paul immaculately photographs seemingly disparate objects. The photographs are at once detached, poetic and evocative, the pairing of objects suggests not only a relationship between them but an overarching significance that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Range © Richard Paul

CP: You were recently involved in the judging panel of London Art Award 2010 that was part of the London Fringe Festival.? You said: ‘I see it as the Fringe Festival’s role to help discover hidden gems.’ What did the festival unearth and what were the highlights of the selected works?

Well it’s the first year of the festival, so it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s already showed up the vast diversity of practice being undertaken. There are some impressive developments in painting particularly this year.

CP: You were involved in the Slowfall projects, an artist-led collective that held the aim of ‘creating local and international exhibitions of art in unconventional venues’. How important is the ‘space’ when considering the curation of a show?

There are many different approaches to curating and putting an exhibition together. I enjoy working on exhibitions where the work has some kind of relationship to the space its being shown in. Particularly when exhibitions are put on in locations or buildings with a rich history of strong identity of their own. It’s a wasted opportunity to ignore that I think.

Installation shot from 'Ringing'. Exhibition in St Augustine's Tower,  2003 © Nick Kaplony

CP: The collaborative process has become a growing interest within contemporary curating, with exhibitions such as ‘Indian Highway’ at Serpentine Gallery, 2008 and Subversive Practices at W├╝rttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, 2009. What is that excites you about the polyphonic voice within the exhibition process?

One thing to say is that I think curating is (ideally) a collaborative process even with only one curator involved, where the curator is collaborating with the artists they are working with. When a group takes on the task of curating much of what excites me about it can be said to be true of collaboration in any process: If its goes well several points of view bringing unexpected results, greater than the sum of its parts. There’s also a relinquishing of control which is liberating.
Vigour Mortis © Jock Mooney, Exquisite Corpse Exhibition

© David Raymond Conroy, Exquisite Corpse Exhibition

CP: What are the challenges and uncertainties, involved with putting a show together, such as: Exquisite Corpse, Core Gallery, 2010 which brought together 11 artists and curators. How did you effectively manage the collaborative process?

NK: It’s funny because Exquisite Corpse, though it was most certainly a collaborative exhibition, in that contributions came of several artists and curators, there was very little collaborative process in making it happen, no negation and no compromises that often play a part on collaboration. I set up a system, and a set of rules whereby curators/artists could make contributions to the show without having an overall vision of the exhibition. A chain of curators was created. Each curator then made a selection of work based on that of the previous curator in the chain. The work was placed in the space in the order that it was chosen. 

Exquisite Corpse, Exhibition shot, 2010 © Core Gallery

CP: ‘Exquisite Corpse’ was an experimental approach to curating that presented the viewer with an insight into the selective processes involved. Was it your intent to demythologize the notion of the ‘exhibition’? Will this exhibition influence future projects?

NK: I was interested in how artwork is interpreted, and how people make connections between individual pieces. I thought that setting up this chain of selectors visitors would get a flavour of the processes and thinking involved in putting an exhibition together. I’m sure it will have an influence on future projects but I’m not quite sure how yet. Its bubbling away at the moment

CP: Where do you get your inspiration for curatorial projects and does your own practise inform your approach? 

NK: Definitely, the sort of themes and ideas that I’m interested in my practice are also the things that I’m excited by as a curator (though not exclusively). In terms of what can lead me to develop ideas as a curator, it can be anything from a space, or sometimes I see an artist who’s work I particularly like, and then, gradually, as I come across other artists in my work, I can’t help but see connections and slowly the idea for a show is formed. This is very much what happened with Psychometry, the next exhibition I’m working on at Core gallery.

Breath, 2010 © Nick Kaplony
CP: What are you currently working on within your own practice?

I’m working on a new video work called “Breath” which is an exciting departure for me. I haven’t worked with moving image before (well, barely). It’s leading me down an interesting path, looking at ideas around faith and medicine.

CP: How do you resignify artworks in order to create a fresh perspective that has a strong curatorial authorship?

I think (hope!) that creating a sense of curatorial authorship isn’t my concern. In getting a body of work together inevitably the relationship between individual pieces in an exhibition colours the reading of the works, they resonate and effect each other, and I guess you try to create connection which highlight relationships that you have observed as a curator and also offer the possibility of new interpretations.

CP: As the programme coordinator of Artquest, the London-based service provider for visual artists. Would you have any advice to offer graduates, in preparing their degree shows? Approaching gallery spaces and the continuation of their careers?

In a nutshell read the Artquest website! No, seriously everything that you need to know is on there and it’s an invaluable resource. But in terms of bite sized advice: Treat your degree show as it’s the beginning of your career as a professional artist, not as the end of your studies and with regards to approaching galleries, unless they specifically say they accept unsolicited proposals, don’t approach them cold! Build a relationship gradually.

CP: Do you think the economic downturn offers the possibility to cultivate a new landscape for the art world? What impact do you think this has on artists and institutions?

I would use the word necessity rather than possibility. Its going to make it harder for everyone, but it will be interesting to see what direction practice takes when there is less money / funding leading the way.

CP: And finally if you could curate any show, with any artist/s and in any space what would it be?

That’s tough. I’d love to do something in huge country manor, with a maze and sprawling grounds. As to the specifics of the artists it would depend on the location but something with a mix of young and more established practitioners.

Thank you Nick Kaplony!

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