Alfie Kungu

Scrap that, lets Begin Again

Guts Gallery’s founder, Ellie Pennick, is back with another exhibition following the success of When Shit Hits the Fan. Now, she’s rounded up the troops for an online art sale benefitting The Free Black University.

It was at the peak of the UK’s lockdown when Ellie Pennick, founder of Guts Gallery, rounded up 38 artists to produce When Shit Hits the Fan, an online art exhibition responding to the nation’s sudden gallery closures. Featuring the likes of Trackie McLeod, Elsa Rouy and Lydia Blakely, the month-long exhibition acted as a support system for the burgeoning generation of progressive artists across the country. 

Now, Pennick is back with Begin Again, an online exhibition and art sale – featuring 48 artists including Jeremy Deller, Amymay George and Alfie Kungu – born from a conversation the 24-year-old Londoner had with co-curator Rayvenn D’Clark and artist Lotte Andersen.

I wanted to use the platform I already have to try and contribute to the radical changes that need to be made societally and within the art world,” says Pennick, referencing the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Begin Again felt like an appropriate way to do this – now is the time to take affirmative action.”

Wanting to take action through her resources, Pennick researched organisations she could partner with and came across The Free Black University on Instagram, quickly getting in touch with the organisation’s founder, 26-year-old Melz Owusu. 

The Free Black University exists to redistribute knowledge and act as an incubator for transformative knowledge in the Black community,” says Owusu. We firmly believe education should centre healing and wellbeing and that it should be free, anti-colonial and accessible to all.”

Setting up The Free Black University earlier this year, Owusu has been on a mission, alongside the small team of volunteers she works with, to address the lack of Black history in the British education system. Having worked in education spaces for a number of years in the hopes of decolonising education” with insufficient progress being made, The Free Black University is a radical organisation that has concrete plans to be around for years to come, not just for a moment.

Sales [from Begin Again] will help support our initial growth massively,” Owusu explains. All donations made will contribute to the critical work of helping us build a sustainable foundation to produce the work of radical knowledge production and providing wellness services to our community. Thank you, Begin Again!”

As well as buying art through the exhibition, you can donate directly through The Free Black University’sgofundme page. The organisation will be putting a call out for more volunteers soon, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

Alfie Kungu

Alfie Kungu

Describe your work in five words.

Carnival, summertime, bumblebee, candy cane, bounce.

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

Supporting and representing Black artists, especially female Black artists. Making artwork accessible to a broader demographic so we can all share what we love.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

Right now, it’s got to be anything by Austin Lee, absolutely love him. But, I’m a total sucker for anything by Peter Doig.

How will you begin again”?

It’s crazy times at the moment. Everything is changing and I hope things are transitioning for the better. I suppose I’ve begun again” by sticking to what I know and putting more work, time, effort, passion and love into my practice. Since lockdown, I’ve been painting more than ever and really loving that.

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

Seeing more diverse artists getting a fairer distribution of appreciation for their work.

@alfie.kungu

Alvin Ong

Hard to Say by Alvin Ong

Describe your work in five words.

Hard to say, always trying.

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

Visibility, and also the lack thereof.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. It will return to the Escorial, where it was for three centuries. It should have its own chapel and I will rent a studio space in a loft next to it. 

How will you begin again”?

To each a new beginning. Every new work marking a fresh start and end, and always write and rewrite the rules.

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

More hope, and less hype.

@alvinonglj

Brett Charles Seiler

Describe your work in five words.

It’s pretty gay, pretty sad, pretty obvious, pretty funny and pretty sexy. [That’s not five! – Sub Ed.]

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

I think there needs to be more attention to public art and accessibility, especially when it comes to monuments and education.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

I would own a work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a conceptual artist from the 90s. He made these beautiful drawers with papers and personal objects placed inside it. I would leave it in my room. I have such a need to go through archives and I think this work would always interest and inspire me.

How will you begin again”?

I would like to start a clean slate, especially in the art world and the changes we are seeing. I would just take every day as it comes.

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

I would like to see some more radical installations filled with volume. I would also like to see the artworld become intertwined with continents.

@brettseiler

Zeinab Saleh

Green Eyes by Zeinab Green

Describe your work in five words.

Playful, combination, paint, textile, pattern.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled (Underpainting), (2018). Marshall acknowledges how the history of art is told while questioning the place of Black bodies within this pedagogy. I would hang this painting in my living room.

How will you begin again”?

This global pause coupled with Ramadan has been a really introspective time for me. Being reminded of our limited time on this earth has made me super selective about what I’m working on and how I’m spending my time. 

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

I’m looking forward to seeing solo shows by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley in 2021. And I’m hoping to see less precarity and more budget for artists and freelancers.

@zeinabsaleh

Ashley Holmes

Time Times Fixed Text 2020 by Ashley Holmes

Describe your work in five words.

Archival, inquisitive, sweaty, musical, video.

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

To be really thinking about the ways we can critique and challenge ourselves, our work and infrastructures. And maybe that is not just specific to the art world, but more broadly in society.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

Night Strobe by Denzil Forrester (1985). It’s a painting from 1985 of a narrow looking nightclub space, packed in wall-to-wall with people. I love the energy it captures and that it depicts a moment in time so important to the histories of Black British music. 

How will you begin again”?

By trying to be slower, doing things with more care and with more empathy. It’s something I’ve been reminded of and been having lots of conversations with friends and family about throughout lockdown.

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

More space for thinking, work and creative practice to be developed and supported away from the terms of the current systems as much as possible. 

@ashleyholmes_

Daisy Parris

Daisy Parris

Describe your work in five words.

Tender, honest, reflective, universal, melancholy.

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

Holding institutions accountable for their erasure of culture and lack of representation of artists of colour and women. Institutional racism, exploitation and appropriation is unacceptable. We must educate and challenge ourselves, recognise our privilege and never stop working hard to fight for change and inclusivity.

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

Blinky Palermo’s Coney Island II. I always look to Palermo’s work when I need healing and to reflect on my life as to where to go next. I always go back to this work at different points in my life and it has always guided and inspired me. I would hang it in a room on its own and spend time with it when needed. 

How will you begin again”?

I will be working hard to educate myself in whatever way I can. I will listen, I will support, and I will go forward with kindness and compassion. 

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

I want galleries to work harder to create safe spaces, for artists to feel safe and supported and I want exploitation of minorities to stop. I want opportunities to be fair. 

@daisyparris

Douglas Cantor

The California Dream by Douglas Cantor

Describe your work in five words.

Things you want the most.

What is the most important issue in the art world right now?

There are so many, really. It’s hard to pick just one. Lack of diversity, elitism, market-driven institutions, prices of work dictating the relevance of what is being made…

If you could buy any work of art, ever, what would it be and where would you hang it?

I would buy from emerging artists, young artists and underrepresented artists. There are so many great artists out there I would like to support and be able to champion their efforts and talent that way. That is the kind of work I want to surround myself with. 

How will you begin again”?

I have begun again many times, and will do again in the future. I’ve been thrown around a fair bit by life which forced new beginnings; I left Colombia to try my luck in the UK, got kicked out of the country, started again in Berlin, to then leave it all to go back to the UK. As hard as it has been, every time has made more sense than the last. You come to accept that nothing is permanent. 

What changes do you want to see in the art world?

More equally distributed opportunities. A levelled playing-field that deals chances and attention beyond the western art world and market echo chamber. More women artists, more Black artists, more artists of colour, more queer artists, more trans artists. There is so much talent out there to be discovered and nourished. 

@douglas.cantor


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