Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Interview with Alli Sharma

I am delighted to interview Alli Sharma, artist, writer and co-director of transition gallery in london. Sharma is one of the four judges for this year’s Open Submission Competition that will be selecting works for an exhibition at core gallery which will run during the Deptford X 2011; an international contemporary arts festival in south east london, 23rd September - 2nd October 2011. (Other selectors include; Sarah Williams, Graham Crowley and Fiona Macdonald).

The Hippopotamus, London Zoo Postcard series, 2010, oil on canvas, 10 x 15 cm

Sharma co-directs Transition Gallery along with Cathy Lomax (founder) and Alex Michon. Since joining the gallery she has curated exhibitions ‘Fade Away’ and recently ‘Mock Tudor’. 

Sharma has a BA fine art from central st martins school of art (2007).  Recent shows include; Awopbopaloobop, Transition Gallery, London (2008); Un-Still Life, The Apartment Gallery, London and the Painting Room, Transition Gallery, London (2008). 

June 2011 >>

CP: As one of the judges for Core Gallery's 'DX Open Competition 2011, what will you be looking for when selecting artists?

AS: Interesting ideas.

CP: What is the significance of 'independent' competitions such as Core Gallery's DX Open?

: Gallery-run open competitions are increasingly popular at the moment. They give a wider spread of artists more opportunity to exhibit, but it also seems to be taken for granted that artists will pay a fee to be considered for selection. If the artist must pay a fee, then I think it should guarantee that their work is seen by all of the judges, and no pre-selection takes place.

CP: You are co-director of Transition Gallery, an innovative artist-run space and publisher, now in its ninth year. Can you tell us a bit more about Transition Gallery and your involvement? And what advice would you give to a relatively new space such as Core Gallery in ensuring sustainability?

Fade Away installation, gallery north, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2011

AS: I am one of three co-directors with Cathy Lomax (founder) and Alex Michon. There’s an energy at the gallery which is incredibly stimulating and supportive. The ethos is do-it-yourself, from publishing to curating and we do a lot of work at grass roots level with new graduates and emerging artists. Sustainability is tricky and generally we keep costs to a minimum. We operate at an exciting stage within the gallery system and we are careful not to overstretch ourselves. At the end of last year we held our first auction, Art Blitz, in order to raise funds for the gallery with an amazing response from artists and buyers. I think the key is to look outwards and not get too introvert. We’re always looking for opportunities to get involved in good projects. Recently, Cathy and Alex took ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ to an artist-run art fair in Limerick, Ireland, while I attended a symposium for an exhibition at Gallery North in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Alex and I will be selecting a graduate winner for the Transition Prize at Chelsea College of Art next week; the prize being an exhibition in early August. I will be setting up our publications at the A/FFair of Publishing in London Fields 22-24 July and in September, Cathy and I will travel to Belgium to install ‘Face to Face’ at Galerie d’YS. We also attract good interns who volunteer their time with remuneration in the form of support, guidance with their own projects and the opportunity to get involved with the magazines. We ask exhibiting artists to talk about their work to staff and they get first hand knowledge of how a gallery operates, which can be a valuable experience. I started at the gallery just over two years ago, assisting artists, like Emma Talbot, install their exhibitions and helping Cathy curate in the gallery.

Fade Away installation, Transition Gallery, London E8, 2010. Photography, Michael Ajerman

Last year I curated ‘Fade Away’, a painting exhibition with 43 artists, which toured to Gallery North with a symposium and publication. I also blog artist interviews on Articulated Artists and so my first piece for Garageland magazine was an interview with George Shaw for the Nostalgia issue.

Fade Away installation, gallery north, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2011

I help edit the magazine and am currently researching and writing a piece about mock Tudor for the forthcoming issue and generally learning new things all the time.

Edd Pearman 'the heart is a lonely hunter', acrylic and resin, 2011
CP: The current exhibition at Transition Gallery "Exam" involves Edd Pearman, who was one of the selected artists in Core Gallery's DX Open Exhibition 2010. Can you tell us more about this show?

AS: Edd sent Transition a fantastic proposal for ‘Exam’, which he curated himself. It was beautifully presented, well thought out and intelligently put together and stood out from a lot of submissions we receive. The works are mostly precisely detailed, controlled and uncanny. 

There’s an intensity of labour and an outsiderish theme, but it’s a very clean, obsessive type of outsider and something about it that makes me think of the isolated activity of building and painting intricate Affix models. The piece by Ceal Warnants mixes brutalist architecture with old-fashioned homely furniture and nicely reflects the building at Regents Studios where Transition is based. Her use of pattern is a theme shared in other works by Julie Cockburn and Matt Brown and repetition in Boo Saville. 

Julie Cockburn and Ceal Warnants, Exam Installation
2011, Transition Gallery
Julie Cockburn has meticulously cut out geometric shapes in a found painting ‘Shellshocked 1’ then reconstructed the pieces in a different order. It sits uncannily above another painting ‘Provenance (Dining Room)’ of what looks like an old black and white photograph featuring ‘Shellshocked 1’ in the background, suggesting it’s previous history. Adam James has created a plaster head, eyes closed, lying on it’s side, which I think is based on his father, but modeled on his own face and is exacting in detail with an extravagant, curly beard. I shared a studio with Alex Ball at St Martins and admire the painstaking detail in his paintings. His immobile, solitary figures are taken from literature and often suffocated by matter. Figures in the show generally look stiff, dead or vacant, even humanoid. 

Adam Dix’s figures take on a subservient position next to communication satellites and technological apparatus. Matt Brown has drained the colour out of a pixellated face and Edd’s St John’s Ambulance man carries a weighty resuscitation replicant. There’s a sad story behind the doll who’s face is based on a girl who drowned in the Seine River and so her dummy, which is the default worldwide, is constantly resuscitated. And it’s by strange co-incidence that his piece is called ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ (after the book by Carson McCullers), which happened to be the title of the previous show at Transition by Tara Derby.

Pebbles, 2010, oil on board, 20 x 15 cm

CP: On Axis Alison Sharkey states about your paintings "Her luscious paint marks transform rejected piles of junk ornaments sold for pennies at second-rate charity shops into objet d’art, subjects worthy of portraiture and desire.” What is your intention in reviving these discarded objects? And the paintings seem to emanate nostalgia and sentimentality, are these works inspired from personal childhood memories?

Pipistrelle, 2009, Oil on board, 20 x 15 cm
AS: The objects, for me, are usually more than their object selves and make me think of other people or places. You know that feeling when you walk down the street, minding your own business, then you stumble upon something and you’re transported to another place and time, it’s that’s sort of thing or when things become so familiar that you don’t see them anymore. I like sentimentality, things that are over-the-top, like paintings of animals by Landseer. Looking at the past is just a part of being human but I don’t dwell on it too much. I think the things are painted with a particular attitude, getting something down fast, quite bold and immediate. 

They don’t shy away from nostalgia and sentimentality but I hope there’s humour too. If there is an intention then it is that they are motifs for painting, excuses to engage with the stuff of paint.

Young Chimpanzees at Tea, London Zoo Postcard Series, 2010, Oil on canvas, 10 x 15 cm

CP: Your works are often presented on a small scale, in a series, grouped together as collections like keepsakes above a mantelpiece, is it your intention to tap into the viewers sentimental urge to collect? Can you describe how desire manifests itself within your work?

Pawnshop Pendant, Anne Boleyn, 2011,
oil on canvas, 40 x 30 cm
AS: I hadn’t thought about the collection of things. They are mostly objects although I have painted animals but I think the idea for them comes from a similar place, in that it’s something to do with our relationships with things. I make work and then I have to look at what I’ve done to try to make some sense of it, so I don’t have the intention to tap into what a viewer might think, I get to the point where I want to try out an idea in paint to see what it is. Probably the series and collections of things comes from the dissatisfaction with just one thing, it’s not enough, so I try several. Or it might be that I make a lot of things that are scrapped and just a few survive. But I do collect things that I might consider for paintings. I was delighted to see Sir Peter Blake’s collection of animals made from shells at Holburne Museum in Bath this week because I have collected a few of those myself and they are quite ridiculous and definitely something my grandma would have had on the mantelpiece. 

Pawnshop Dad 5, 2011, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm
CP: Can you tell us about the recent paintings you have been working on for the forthcoming Transition Gallery OFFSITE exhibition ‘Mock Tudor?

I moved recently, to a house opposite a park, which once housed a medieval manor, and found the local pub signs like The Swan, The Old Ship and The Hart also evoked an ancient past. Painted pub signs are disappearing with the introduction of trendy new bars and The Hart chimed in particular as I had been chased by a stag in Richmond Park. I’d also been looking in the pawnbrokers’ windows in Hammersmith and had read they were gaining popularity at the moment because they provide cheap borrowing. There were initial necklaces, like the one Anne Boleyn wears in the Holbein portrait but without the pearls, lockets and DAD rings. There are so many stories there. Things burst in and puncture your everyday life and offer the chance to consider things that you might ordinarily overlook. So I’m working on a series of pawnshop jewellery paintings and animal representations based on pubs.

CP: Do you have any forthcoming projects / news to divulge?

I have been making small paintings from images of postcards from London Zoo for over a year now, which will be part of ‘Zoo’, at The Meter Rooms in Coventry in October 2011. It’s a new space opened by Dan Pryde-Jarman who runs Grey Area in Brighton and also features work by Mike Bartlett, Cathy Lomax, Anton Goldenstein and Stephanie Quayle.

Lion and Lioness, London Zoo Postcard series, 2010, oil on canvas, 10 x 15 cm

CP: Thankyou Alli.

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