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Following the recent opening of Vitrine Bermondsey Street, VELOUR caught up with gallerist Alys Williams and artist Richard Gasper to discuss the new gallery space and the launch show.

Velour: What attracted you do Richard’s work?

AW: I’d been introduced to his work whilst he was at The British School at Rome. As with all the artists we programme at Vitrine, there was something that I felt was really exciting about his practice. His intrigue, understanding and approach to material is something particularly striking and relevant when placing his work in a contemporary framework. He pairs this with a dark humour that I also like. That stops the work taking itself too seriously, despite the very serious use of subject matter, material and form. The work is bold, thoughtful and desirable. He uses the term ‘Dirty Bling’, which I think works to get a picture of how this all comes together. It incorporates sculpture, print, relief and object, and simultaneously flirts with references from painting, which is the type of crossover that I am interested in, and much of Vitrine’s programme explores. It most importantly seemed the right moment for a solo exhibition of his work in London. I go on instinct so it’s difficult to pinpoint, other than it being great work and an artist that I believe I understand and appreciate.

V: Richard, why choose Vitrine for your first London show?

RG: What I find exciting and fairly unique about Vitrine is its duel spaces. On Bermondsey Square, one has the opportunity to exhibit in a public arena which is on show 24 hours day. This space lends its self to more of an installational or perhaps performative arena. Paired with the more conventional gallery space of Bermondsey Street, an artist has the opportunity to create a show of two halves. Obvious crossovers between the spaces can or will occur but due to the nature of their radically different architectures they will always tend to have their own individual presence. I think this kind of structure is great and there are very few galleries who can offer this kind of contingency.

V: How do you make sure that Vitrine Bermondsey Street and Vitrine Bermondsey Square complement each other???

AW: I am constantly addressing the relationship between these two spaces and how this should grow. My goal is for Vitrine Bermondsey Square to continue to present an ambitious cross-disciplinary programme of installations, performance, screenings, talks, events and public art. Marrying this with the more formal gallery space – Vitrine Bermondsey Street – where artists have a commercial platform for their practice and I can become more involved in an ongoing relationship with a number of them. I think the two spaces need to work in unison and complement each other whilst also maintaining their separate identities. I know that it is difficult to bring together the public and private in art, and I’m?aware of needing to develop this thoughtfully. It’s exciting, particularly to see how artists are responding to it.???

V: Richard, what is launch exhibition Black Pudding all about?

RG: The works on show at Vitrine Bermondsey Street deal with ideas surrounding consumerism and the relationships we have with materials and our bodies. In the show, there are photographic images of luxury foods such as lobsters or caviar. They have been photographed with a heavy flash which makes them glisten and shine. They are blown up in scale and start to resemble more human or bodily forms, but in distorted ways. For example, I have come to think of the work Gasher, which depicts a live lobster with its claws restrained and held up to cameras, as being like human genitalia. And the pile of caviar in Man in the Mirror is like a disfigured face. In part, I aim to make work which is materially seductive but at the same time poses a certain violence or breakdown. I’ve always been interested in how one can make something that contradicts itself.

V: And what impact were you wanting Black Pudding to have on viewers??

RG: I’m always looking to engage people through materiality and form in a seductive manor but also unpin the work through some level of deconstruction. I’m trying to make people consider an idea of perfection which is fractured or broken. In a subtle and slightly absurd way, I’m trying to make people think a little more about consumerism and, at times, the violence associated with obtaining what we want. This all sounds quite heavy but there is also a strange, dark humour involved with all of this. Perhaps it all boils down to my interest in excess.

V: What’s next for Vitrine?

AW: We have a solo exhibition of Bruce Ingram coming up in October at the Bermondsey Street gallery. I did a studio visit to catch up on things with him last week and am extremely excited about this new work. It brings together three bodies of work, shaped by his interest in the Japanese art form of Ikebana. The exhibition will include a series of sculptures – or as the title of the show suggests ‘Arrangements’ – as well a huge collage piece. Bruce first showed with Vitrine Bermondsey Square in May 2011 and is one of the artists that Vitrine will now represent so I am really enjoying building this ongoing relationship and working with him on a show for the new space.?At the same time we have Clare Kenny and Natasha Rees in Vitrine Bermondsey Square. Both artists employ the photographic image as a means of navigation in their practice, often as a strategy to inform a three dimensional or moving image piece. Natasha is an artist I have worked with for a number of years and whose practice I admire. It will be the first time I work with Clare, who is Manchester born and has lived in Basel for 5 years. I think this is going to be a really exciting collaboration. Vitrine Bermondsey Square is a challenging space and more so for a 2-person exhibition but I am confident about the work and these artists working together.
V: With the new White Cube gallery just down the road, do you think Bermondsey is becoming London’s new cultural hub???

AW: Definitely. It’s been growing for some time and, although White Cube has had a huge effect on the area, there is so much about the artistic community down here that’s been developing over the past few years. There are constantly more places popping up. My favourite thing about the area is that artists, project spaces and galleries are sharing it. I hope that, despite the quick growth, this equilibrium can be maintained.

Words by Keiren Buchanan