Located near Oxford Circus, GRAD Gallery focuses on Russian art, and its latest exhibition Taint will be its first to showcase contemporary art from the country.
The show will bring together artists working in the UK and Russia who examine painting and push the medium’s boundaries. Many of the works use the constituents of the medium: scale, paint, surface and gesture to reconstruct painting, whilst exploring the artists’ individual concerns. The show is curated by Katya Sivers, based in Moscow, and Hannah Campion, based in London. The pair met when they studied at Chelsea College of Art, and both Silvers and Campion are also showing works in the exhibition.We meet them as they prepare for the show.
WHAT WORK WILL BE SHOWN AT TAINT?
HC: Katya and I wanted the work in Taint to be broad-ranging in both approach and media; we selected work ranging from film to painting, photography to installation. Some works are expansive, covering the gallery floor, others are smaller and compact.
KS: The works will show very different approaches to what can be considered and defined as painting today. Acrylic, metal plates, fluorescent lights, projections, inkjet prints, fabric– these are new media for painting in addition to tempera, oil and canvas
THIS YEAR IS THE UK-RUSSIA YEAR OF CULTURE, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT IS?
KS: The UK-Russia Year of Culture program gives people the opportunity to meet in a variety of areas including arts, education and science via a variety of collaborative projects. The interdisciplinary projects from the two different countries have some incredible results, and we’re pleased that Taint can be part of it this year.
HC: In my mind, the UK-Russia Year of Culture seeks to foster and promote new collaborations and serves as a starting point for new conversations. Taint is in line with this, by initiating both discussions and collaborations between British and Russian artists. The Year of Culture has helped us in our roles as both curators and artists, by extending our current networks of artists, curators and patrons, opening up opportunities for us to pursue exciting future projects.
HOW DID YOU BOTH MEET AND WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH EACH
HC: We initially met in the first week of our MA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2012. The network of studios is a little bit like a rabbit warren and it wasn’t until a few months before our final show that we ended up sharing a studio, working directly across from one another. This consolidated our relationship; Katya has a dry wit and we have complementary skills.
KS: After graduating from Chelsea we stayed in touch for a few months and when GRAD gave us a brilliant opportunity to curate a contemporary show it was very easy for us to start working together.
THE SHOW BRINGS TOGETHER PAINTERS FROM THE UK AND RUSSIA. DO YOU THINK THERE ARE DISTINCT STYLES THAT EMERGE FROM THE TWO COUNTRIES AND CULTURES?
HC: Many of the works in Taint are politically engaged with latent humour and satire, but this could not necessarily be called a typically ‘British’ or ‘Russian’ trait; we tend to see art as international. The art world is global and this exhibition shows art as a form of international mediation.
KS: Without reading the captions next to each work in the show, it can be interesting to guess the nationality of each artist. There is often crossover in the questions artists pose through their work. Taint looks at whether they are coming to similar conclusions.
THIS SHOW IS VERY CONTEMPORANEOUS, WITH THE RECENT AND ONGOING EVENTS IN RUSSIA AND THE WORLD’S (INCLUDING THE UK’S) RESPONSE. DOES THE SHOW ADDRESS THAT OR MAKE A POINT NOT TO?
HC: Taint was initially discussed and planned a long time before the Olympics and the crisis in Crimea. Our focus has always been to remain committed to making this exhibition interesting and thought-provoking for viewers and ensuring that we do our utmost to represent the artists to the best of our abilities.
KS: In today’s Russia it is almost impossible for an artist to avoid political issues. This atmosphere leaks into the artists’ works whether on a conscious or unconscious level. There are some works in Taint that directly reflect Russian politics, and some works hint at it. GRAD itself does not have any political affiliations; its purpose is to increase the opportunities for Russian art and design to be seen in the UK.
THE SHOW USES PAINT AT ITS FOCUS, BUT NOT ALL WORKS ARE STRICTLY ‘PAINTINGS’. COULD YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE INTERDISCIPLINARY NATURE OF THE WORKS, AND WHY THIS IS OF INTEREST?
HC: We have both always had an interest in painting, with an awareness that the boundaries of its definition are constantly being pushed by artists, curators, writers and galleries. Taint shows film, installation and photography, along with documentation of demonstrations, with humour and a sense of exploration. As curators we did not want to be prescriptive; we wanted to provide an opportunity for artists to show their work and to allow them to have the freedom to embrace their own definitions of painting.
Taint is at GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, 8 April – 3 May 2014.