Top image: ‘The Mirage’ (2018) by Gareth Kemp
Welcome to HERO Art Month, our cross-sectional study of the international contemporary art scene during which we look at the key gatekeepers, from artists to gallerists, architects and curators, the established and emerging feature side by side as part of our month-long investigation into some of the most influential figures in the scene.
Kirsty Ogg has spent the majority of her career championing young artists, spearheaded by her time at the forefront of the Glasgow DIY scene, founding the legendary artist-run project space Transmission, and her work as Director of The Showroom in London – an exhibition space dedicated to the commissioning of new work by artists at an early stage in their careers.
Today, she heads up New Contemporaries – one of a growing number of institutions providing major support to young students, graduates and budding professionals within the British art landscape. Providing a touring exhibitive platform for these new and fine art graduates, each year, Ogg joins a panel of influential art voices to select 50 winners for the finalists exhibition.
Here, Kirsty Ogg goes head to head with three artist highlights from this year’s line-up. First up, Gareth Kemp.
Intro by Kirsty Ogg:
“In his paintings Kemp explores a personal geography and history shaped by memory and a strong sense of place. His works depict fictional landscapes of non-specific places in which elements repeat themselves – the basket of snakes, the flames, the house plant – creating an ʻafter imageʼ, described by the artist as akin to “looking at the sun for too long”.
Kirsty Ogg: Tell us about the work that was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries.
Gareth Kemp: I have five paintings which all relate to one another. The smaller paintings contain individual motifs and the larger paintings are landscapes made up of a number of these – often repeated – motifs. The landscapes are of undefined places. They play around with things like the placement of the viewer, perspective, internal Vs. external space and scale is often disrupted, or there is a blurring between foreground and background. In The Mirage, a lot of the motifs are traced from the same source; the basket of snakes, the flames, the house plant – this creates an ‘after image’, like looking at the sun for too long.
KO: How will you develop your work following your selection for Bloomberg New Contemporaries?
GK: I am currently away in Texas on a research trip, funded by Arts Council England through their Artists’ International Development Fund. The idea is to spend three weeks building links and starting dialogue with artists, curators and organisations here, with a view to showing work in Texas in the future and also raising my international profile. I will also be collecting source material for making new paintings on my return. I am hoping my experiences here will seep into my new work. I have made some paintings in the past with vague American themes based on folklore and popular culture rather than research. New work might be based more on specific research.
“We need the next generation of artists to come through – I think we will see more and more Alternative Art Schools opening up.”
KO: What are the current challenges faced in your own practice?
GK: I guess the main challenge, like it is for most artists, is to make my art practice financially viable.
KO: Can the UK arts industry stay strong in the face of funding cuts and a fall in pupils taking creative subjects in the school curriculum?
GK: It is worrying that there is a fall in pupils taking creative subjects, as Bob and Roberta Smith said, ‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools’! We see the work of artists everywhere, not just in galleries. We need the next generation of artists to come through – I think we will see more and more Alternative Art Schools opening up. There are plenty of Alternative Art School Alumni in this year’s edition of New Contemporaries – I myself am one of four from Turps Art School. A lot of people can’t afford to do a traditional MA now.
It makes me angry that some people think that in these times we have to choose between funding the arts and funding schools and hospitals. It doesn’t have to be a choice, we should be funding both instead of pumping billions into wars and losing billions in tax loopholes.