“A gallery is constructed along laws as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling become source of light. The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically, pr carpeted so that you pad sound-free, as the saying used to go, ‘to take on its own life’.”
—-Inside The White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, Brian O’Doherty
I found this essay in the school library the day before our Cultural Orienteering, O’ Doherty discusses the idea of white cube(art gallery) becoming part of the artwork itself, as well as the relationship between artists, spectators and the space. He thinks a modernist space redefines the spectator’s status, tinkers with his self-image; and the artists should think about their works in relation to the space.
The galleries that we went to are in East London, mislead by the wrong tube station on Google Map, we started off quite late in the morning.
①Laura Bartlett is located on a little street near Bethnal Green Park, with residence houses and scrap metal place around, the gallery is not obvious with its appearance, which almost turns out to be part of the residence houses nearby.
The inside space of Laura Bartlett forms a huge contrast with its exterior, with spiral stairs leading to the first floor, a narrow corridor leads to a big open space, with one column, two flexible panels and five windows.
The most interesting part for me is the source of lighting in the space, with a combination of natural light from five windows and fluorescent lamps, the richness of light seems to enlarge the room and allows audience to focus on the colourful paintings on wall. Allison Katz is the artist who is on show, the paintings’ interaction with the gallery space impressed me a lot. For example, The Opening shows a lady with an umbrella looking towards her right, but in the real space there is a window beside her; my photo kind of frames a new image for this story-telling scene. Also, The Thick Pink Square is just below a window, a new ‘lighting square’ is formed on the surface when sunlight projects in. Another painting called Shower’s Head is hung against a panel, the painted bathroom wall almost become part of the panel!
②The second gallery we visited is Chisenhale Gallery near Regent’s Canal, the place was built in 80s based on a factory, which can be known by the heavy shutter door. Different from Laura Bartlett, Chisenhale is on a quite street with residential surroundings. With artists’ studio and dance studio nearby, though they are not from the same organization.
The exhibition space at Chisenhale is enormous, with no natural light at all but only five rows of lighting source. The huge contrast between space and works by Nick Relph, the idiosyncratic, homespum quality of his work echoes the rough, heavy environment in the gallery. Audience’s interaction with the space is also interesting, since the gallery is so big, they need to walk a long way from piece to piece, which gives them a practical sense of experiencing the place than the others can offer. As the introduction said “For audiences, Chisenhale Gallery provides an opportunity to experience the process of art production intimately – this is a place where art is not collected for presentation but where it is made.”
③Walking along the Regent’s Canal is a wonderful experience!
④Wilkinson is located on Vyner Street, one of the main East London art streets. The big heavy black door gives no significant impression for the first glance, but as you entered the space, walking up the stairs, the richness of light makes a huge contrast with the dull exterior.
My favourite part in the gallery must be the staircase between ground and first floor. Huge sheet of glass becomes the ceiling, blue sky is company with white wall and black stairs, geometric shapes and lines harmonize the colours to give a simple but modern appearance. The space is filled with natural and artificial lights, unlike Laura Bartlett, they limit the amount of natural light (with windows on only one side) so that the place is either not too bright or not too dull. The gentleness quality in Phoebe Unwin‘s paintings matches the atmosphere around.
⑤Our last stop is a little gallery at the corner on Vyner Street, Cultivate. Unlike the others we went, it is tiny, with works hung or laid everywhere in a ten square metre space. The owner is very passionate and friendly to each one who steps into his place. Maybe this is the start of every single great gallery?