Spring Projects is an interesting experiment for a gallery, though whether the backers of the exhibition space, Spring Studios, would call it an experiment is doubtful. Spring Studios is one of London’s well-known photographic hire complexes. Based in Kentish Town, North London, the studio is renowned for catering to the top-end of fashion photographic talent. Offering various services (catering, digital hire, lighting hire, production, set build, moving image department, prop design, café bar), nine large studios, and an international outpost in Palma, it seemed a natural step that they should open a gallery. A commercial gallery at heart, they show work by fashion, product and graphic designers and fashion photographers, in predominantly one-off items or limited edition works, and aim to act as representation for the artists they show.
Fashion and art make uneasy bedfellows though not for want of fashion trying, and rather than bear a resemblence to a contemporary photography gallery such as Jerwood Space or an experimental, cross-disciplinary fine arts gallery like Ancient & Modern, Spring Projects have situated themselves at the crossroads of design and fine art. The location, for example, is in an area of London well-known for live entertainment. Save for a sprinkling of galleries, — fashion photographer Rankin’s Annroy Gallery,Anna Zabludowicz’s 176, the Camden Arts Centre, and rock-photography specialist Proud Galleries, to be exact — the immediate vicinity is populated by some of the capital’s most famous live music venues and arts centres. To its discredit, the work shown at Spring Projects, like Proud Galleries, is difficult to rightfully accept as fine art for the simple reason that it bases itself upon the documentation of another art form. Fashion, design and fashion photography all suffer from the same ailment.
Bermuda Triangle features work by Gary Card, Bruce Ingram and Jacob Sutton in collaboration with Hana Al-Sayed. All are young, emerging artists, based in London. Primarily a set designer, Card has created a cave-like entrance space 10 feet tall and 14 feet long, made from two tons of plasticine into which he has carved a thousand glaring faces. Perhaps designed invoke a sense of unease as you enter the gallery, Jacob Sutton and Hana Al-Sayed’s work is visible next. Film and photographic documents capture man-made objects — barrels of milk and balloons filled with powder, for instance — as they are systematically destroyed by force. Critical thought does not come much more phatic than the works this rationale has created. The group show’s saving grace is the sculptures that Bruce Ingram has created using natural rock layered within and without in textured materials, an obvious debt to Hew Locke. The totemic spectacle is effective and there is much evidence that Ingram has a clear ability to engage an audience with work that has a place within the narrative thread of 21st century post-colonial art (with a nod towards contemporary themes of travel as voyage, ownership and consumerism and the effects of this on the environment). A look through his CV provides evidence that his work is affected by the surround in which it will be created and exhibited (and it is telling that a piece such as “Dominator,” 2009, bears more than a passing resemblance to Mark Wallinger’s “State Britain,” 2007, since the Turner Prize-winning artist recently selected Ingram to participate in a group exhibition at the community exhibition space, APT Gallery).
Admirable but self-defeating is the manner in which Spring Projects have resolved to maintain a contemporary visual arts gallery. The interdisciplinary work frequently shown here (excellent was last year’s Julie Masterton’s dance for film work) can only make for scattershot results. The gap between fashion and contemporary art being too large to bridge, one must remain sensitive to the context in which these different forms can be appreciated.
SPRING PROJECTS, LONDON NW5
10 Spring Place
July 13 – December 19
[Originally published in Artwrit, Volume 1, December 2009.]