A conversation with the creators of Corridor Gallery
As you may or may not have known, One Eyed Jack's, the small photography gallery down in York Place has shut. Never fear though, upon my travels and travails I popped my head into the brand new Corridor Gallery, more than a suitable replacement and brain child of the cooperative Diversis Artibus.
So, I thought I would find a bit more about this wonderful gallery and had a quick chat - and cake - with the creators of the gallery: Barnaby Simpson, Emma Clear (I.e. baking goddess), Lucy Kenward and Aaron Howdle. We discussed everything from owning and opening galleries, being part of a co-operative, and the merits of creating a space devoted to installation work.
Tell us about Corridor Gallery.
Emma Clear: Corridor Gallery started a month ago, but Diversis Artibus which is the artist cooperative behind the gallery started about 2 years ago, to try and get diverse artists together to exhibit together, support each other and their work to create a bit of that community we all felt when in education.
Barnaby Simpson: We want to help each other and give advice to each other and provide support for each other’s practices.
So how did it get from purely discussion to become a gallery?
Barnaby: The idea was always to take it to a gallery.
Lucy Kenward: The lack of availability and affordable spaces was something we always felt was an issue almost from day one. Brighton has lots of galleries, no one is denying that, but a lot of those spaces have rent to make. So they either charge a high commission or high hanging rate, or they are not so focused on whats happening locally but interested in supporting those who make in the UK. What we saw were lots of people that we knew were really talented were having to go to London or Bristol to display or sell their works and this [the gallery] is something we all felt really passionately about from day one.
Emma Clear: We wanted to create a space that was more of an installation space as well. It didn’t really matter what type of work it is, the aim was to create a space solely for that artist to show how they work, if you know what I mean? And there isn’t huge amounts of space in Brighton where that is available. There is a lot of space that is sellable space, but not space that is designed to be ‘showable’ space.
What is the cost to show in your space? How do you guys sustain the space?
Barnaby: We have the gift shop side of the gallery which is all local artists’ work which helps to fund the space. And any sales from the exhibitions there is a commission which varies according to if you’re an exhibitor, or a stockist or if you join the actual cooperative itself, to which you pay a yearly subscription.
You then can become more involved in the decision making, and the ideas. We want to create a community where people come together and do stuff together.
Lucy: On a practical level, the whole idea behind this [gallery and the cooperative], is that it’s not-for-profit. The commission and/or the membership fees just go towards paying the rent and keeping the place open. Everybody involved who runs the space, does so on a volunteer basis, getting the space, the props and everything you see has, so far, been self-funded because we believe in it and we want to make the idea happen. If you want to make something happen, you get on with it.
As we are a cooperative, it makes everything harder in terms of dealing with banks, estate agents, even just registering as a co-operative is quite difficult there are many more hoops to jump through, which it’s taken two years to get to this point. We carried on going because we believe in it, and that’s the way we wanted to operate, and that’s the way it was fair, sustainable, transparent,
Barnaby: And democratic.
Before Corridor Gallery, were there any other places in Brighton where you showed as a collective?
Barnaby: We were all involved in the Knowledge gallery at various different points, which was supposed to be a pop-up but lasted quite a long time.
Lucy: And we’ve also done lots of trading at local crafts market to try and build up the pennies so we had a small pot of resources to help pay for things when we got to the pop-up stage and with this project. But we continue to trade at markets as well just to diversify and really spread the word about the people involved and hopefully take on some new people too.
Excellent! So, you’ve got a great space here, tell us about the exhibition on at the moment.
Barnaby: Currently we have an exhibition by the very talented “Petting Zoo”, who is a very enigmatic fellow and doesn’t really like people to know who he is. He is an excellent print-maker who, I think, just has one of the most fantastically talented… erm… sorry! Trying to find the words…
Aaron Howdle: Playful?
Barnaby: His combinations of colours are just fantastic and he makes a lot for bands, whether it be local or national bands, making one-off prints for their gigs to be sold in merchandise stalls. He has made a small range of prints specifically for this exhibition which is all based on sins. There are 6 prints, but each one is based on one of the 7 deadly sins.
Lucy: Following on from that, is the idea that things distract. That’s where the starting point was for him. His own personal stumbling blocks as a maker and as a creative, the delicious distractions that Brighton has to offer and things that kind of prevent him from creating.
Like cake. (Laughing)
Barnaby: It’s work from a career that’s gone skee-wiff, a mess of wonderful curiosity. Everything is playful, beautiful and fun! We all [the co-operative] have one that we want.
Aaron: I bought one yesterday. [Laughter] And Steve bought one… [More laughter].
This sounds great! So can you give me details of the exhibition?
Aaron: The exhibition is on already and runs until the 4th of October but the private view is this Friday [18th September] from 8pm. And we have Downlands Brewery who I’ve worked with in the past doing some of their illustrations, who are going to give us some beer. (And some other things which aren’t beer will be in!) We’re hoping to work with them on every opening, in return for some work on some of their pump shields.
Fantastic! Well, as a final question for you all: What is your favourite thing about the visual arts in Brighton?
Aaron: The connectivity. By that I mean the connections you make quite easily as Brighton isn’t very big, but it has more clout than its size. Most people are connected to London with what they do. You can do great stuff here but without being as lost as you can feel in London.
Emma Clear: What I like the most is how many creative people are actually here, and how incredibly talented they are. Maybe because they are at the beginning of their career, people are just trying things out. Literally every corner I turn people are doing something else creative, and when I hear it, see it, or go to an exhibition, I’m blown away and I love that.
We’re actually surrounded by it all the time, and I love it!
Barnaby: For me, it is pretty much exactly the same thing. It’s been known for a long time that Brighton is a creative hub but we feel that maybe it’s not supported enough, which is why we’ve done this [Corridor Gallery], just to get another space for the arts to be seen! Which, it often isn’t as people try and do things online or behind closed doors and actually we need more opportunity for people to physically interact with the work.
And, as artists ourselves we are trying to have a go at living off our work and create a bit of a community to connect with everybody else, as other galleries have tried to do.
Lucy: I love Brighton’s independence. The fact that everybody seems to follow the beat of their own drum. People don’t seem to be as influenced by fashionable things, they have a vision and just get on with it. Especially, coming from London before this which is almost the exact opposite, I find the attitude refreshing and inspiring.
A note from Art In Brighton: I found these guys absolutely wonderful to be around, they have a brilliant shop and ethic with respect to the arts. I would recommend following Lucy's blog, especially this post, which goes into greater detail the challenges behind creating a gallery and their solutions to all the problems that popped up
As said in the interview the exhibition is ongoing until the 4th of October and will be showcasing a different artist each month.
You can see more information about the current exhibition here: http://www.artinbrighton.co.uk/exhibitions-and-events/2015/9/2/dum-dum-stratagem
Or, alternatively, follow them on Facebook for more regular updates: https://www.facebook.com/corridorgallerybrighton?fref=ts