A few years ago I decided to take a step back from making artwork, a short hiatus for reflection. I was busy and fortunate to be showing my work in galleries and art fairs, alongside travelling for artist talks and residency programmes. I was extremely grateful for such opportunities and learnt a lot on the journey, but the demands of the ‘art world’ began to feel stressful. I decided to move back to my hometown in Ipswich, Suffolk, and focus on my teaching practice and restart to build more local and intimate conversations about art.
Teaching, sharing, learning and collaborating became more important. I started to organise a project space to show art in my home, a flat in a building called Atlas House. Hosting and working with a variety of artists, some long term friends and new acquaintances, it created opportunities to share their work and foster the development of new ideas. I’m an artist, not a curator, but these terms are somewhat blurred these days. The experiences of discussions with other artists and staging exhibitions enabled a deeper reflection on what is actually rewarding to me as an artist. The project confronts the supposed neutrality of the commercial gallery’s ‘white cube’ status and promotes work that is experimental and more concerned with artistic discourse than commercial viability.
Last weekend the 15th show in the project space opened, titled Point. Of. View by Charlotte Warne Thomas, an artist and educator based in London and current PhD candidate at Kingston University. Charlotte visited Ipswich a number of times, discussing, observing, researching and uncovering different aspects of the landscape of the town and the history and context of the building Atlas House. Our conversations grew as her work developed and the corresponding outcomes became a sensitive and enlightening installation of print, text, audio, video and site specific work.
Taking as its starting point the panoramic vista from the top window of Atlas House, the exhibition interweaves a series of narratives surrounding Charlotte’s ongoing research into the unique materiality of gold and fortuitous coincidences with Atlas House’s history as a former glamorous shoe factory and a now infamous tower block of luxury flats on Ipswich’s skyline. Through a series of related works, including: an audible gilded window visible from across the neighbourhood; a semi-transparent curtain featuring a print from a letterpress for me; a short film of gold high heels, made in Atlas House during the 60s, now in the V&A collection, the work highlights distinct conversations, between artist and curator, the works themselves, the location, the town and its history, and the local audience.
Conversations amongst friends evolved into artworks, artworks resonate conversation, new knowledge and understanding, things I find to be at the core of art practice. As I continue to invite artists and grow projects at Atlas House my decision to step back from the ‘art world’ has enabled something more valuable to occur. From humble beginnings the project now feels more authentic to the founding principles of being an artist. Away from the capitalist economies of art fairs, biennials and international galleries, we are offered a more informal, slow and rewarding encounter with art, digesting the conversions and ideas of art outside their physical economy.
Atlas House is basically my spare room but reverberates far beyond. It is by no means the first alternative space for exhibiting artwork as there is a rich history of artist run spaces, in homes, garages, abandoned buildings. Artists doing it for themselves. If you have a spare room, an empty wall or other such space, why not put some work up, invite your friends, begin the conversations and see where it grows.
Atlas House –
Alternative exhibition space –
Alternative art spaces: (Looking for) Art off the Beaten Track –
Boxes, Kitchens, & Garages: Alternative Art Spaces –
Reimagining the Artist-Run Space –
Charlotte Warne Thomas, Capital Investment, 2019. Printed text, image, acrylic, gold vinyl
Charlotte Warne Thomas, Rayne T.363:1 2-1996, 2019. HD video loop Capital Investment, 2019 Printed text, image, acrylic, gold vinyl
Charlotte Warne Thomas, Untitled, 2019. 22ct gold leaf on window glass, audio loop
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