Painting by Elsa Ruoy

When shit hits the fan (in the art world)

Guts Gallery have tackled the nationwide closure of galleries by setting up an online Instagram exhibition instead, featuring 38 emerging British artists who will be sharing their work over the coming weeks. Here, seven of them weigh in.

Shit hit the fan, so Guts Gallery founder and curator Ellie Pennick responded with When Shit Hits the Fan – an Instagram art exhibition featuring 38 of the UK’s most promising artists. It’s a response to the nationwide closures of everything bar Sainsbury’s Local and each artist will be sharing their work daily over the coming weeks (including all three of our very own Art Lads).

Since establishing in 2017, the gallery has operated as a platform for emerging artists offering them spaces to exhibit work. Simultaneously, Guts Gallery aims to inject new thinking into the stuffy art support system by removing class and gender barriers and going against traditional gallery structures that tend to only support established artists with cash in their pockets.

With all upcoming exhibitions either cancelled or postponed, Pennick found herself on the phone with a load of artists worried about what the uncertain future could mean for their income. 

I could have either sat in isolation waiting until this blew over, or put my ethos of supporting underrepresented contemporary voices into action by navigating this set back through a digital Instagram exhibition,” says Pennick. 

For two weeks, Pennick set about organising the exhibition by reaching out to artists she was a fan of. Luckily, the response was pretty damn good – Pennick has already seen a great deal of artists and art platforms supporting one another through collaborations. 

This online exhibition has bought together a large number of artists, building a platform of support for those struggling, as well as creating a united front in a time of crisis,” she says. 

Pennick is hopeful that this could be the start of a more inclusive, supportive artworld post coronavirus, with Guts being the number one spot for support. 

I am so excited to see what the future holds for young emerging artists. The art world would be a much more open, supportive and progressive place to work if we started working together, rather than pulling apart,” she says.

On that note, lets meet the art lot taking Instagram by storm…

Liam Fallon

How would you describe your work?
As a sculptor, materials are really important to me and I use these materials to explore themes of queer culture. A lot of the inspiration for material choices comes from the sculptors of the 60s, like Richard Artschwager, Richard Deacon and other artists such as Robert Gober and Cosima von Bonin.

Do you think online exhibitions will become the future of exhibiting work post isolation?
Most definitely! It’s such a great idea. The temporality of an exhibition is always something that lets me down – I always just miss out on a show when I’m in London. The bigger galleries are starting to work with Artland with the 3D generated exhibitions which means seeing art is no longer as limited as it used to be. One of the best things to come out of this so far is that the big institution’s collections are now readily available. There are some gems.

How do you think this weird period will influence your work?
I’ve seen the artist pledge floating around on Instagram and I think that’s a great initiative. I’m definitely going to try to support other artists as best as I can when the financial flexibility arises. Currently, I’m unsure as to whether it will have an impact on the influence of my work but it has definitely provided me time to reflect and research, whether I like it or not! 

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Dust off the cookery books
2). Maintain a routine
3). Watch a few series
4). Download Skype
5). Read around your practice

What’s getting you down in the dumps about isolating?
I’ve always struggled with taking time off because I need to be constantly doing or making something, but it’s now given me the time to actually research some ideas, so I’m going to see it as a positive in some way.

Who’s getting you all excited in the huge exhibition line-up?
A lot of the painters, to be honest. I finally met Hunter Potter and Lydia Blakeley quite recently and I love their work. And of course fellow Manchester-based artist Richard Hughes.

@lfallon

Kate Dunn

How would you describe your work?
I am a painter constantly trying to discover feeling through moving that buttery, gluey, viscid matter around. 

What is being a young artist in 2020 all about?
Yikes. I can only speak for myself, and as myself, it is about going inward. There is so much to be concerned within the era of information overload; the exciting, the terrifying and the mundane – so make sure you’re excited and that you’re in it. Otherwise, something’s gone wrong. 

Do you think online exhibitions will become the future of exhibiting work post isolation?
The question of our time! My work is about materiality, about how a mark or a colour behaves – so of course I wouldn’t want the sole interaction with my work to be virtual. Saying that, I get to devour so many visual, intellectual and other delights daily because of the Internet – experiences that would be impossible otherwise and that I wouldn’t want to give up. Does that answer the question?

What are your top five isolating tips?

  1. Go inward.
  2. Use what you’ve got; limitations expand options. 
  3. Don’t pressure yourself to make the isolation artwork. Just make what comes. 
  4. Catch some rays if and when you can. Even if it means sticking your head out a window. We’ll be depleted of Vitamin D by the time this is all over
  5. READ. I am gobbling down fiction after the constant niggle to be concerning myself with theory. My recommendation is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

What’s getting you down in the dumps about isolating?
Now that we’re pretty much on full lockdown, I miss the leisurely two-hour circuit around Hampstead Heath. Also being British, I miss the pub. Oh, and I’m about to run out of turps. But otherwise, I’m grand. 

Look into your crystal ball. What is it telling you about the art world post coronavirus?
I’d like this to help us help our planet. The art world is obviously awful environmentally, so if people could start looking deeper into that I’d be happy. 

Who’s getting you all excited in the huge exhibition line-up?
Robert Cooper
Daisy Parris

Florence Sweeney


They’d make a great pop group come to think of it…

@bellissi.mama

Wilfrid Wood

How would you describe your work?
I’m a portrait artist, both sculpted and drawn.

What is being a young artist in 2020 all about?
I have no idea because I’m 51

Apologies, Wilfrid. Do you think online exhibitions will become the future?
I hope not. I really want people to see my work IRL – they are physical objects. Otherwise, everything is based on the throwaway Instagram like”. Putting on shows is a hassle but there’s nothing like a physical event to mark a moment in time. Plus, it’s a good excuse for a piss up.

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Don’t try addressing any big relationship issues with your boyfriend because there’s nowhere to run.
2). A wet left hand is perfectly fine for arse wiping should the mountains of bog roll under your stairs run out.
3). Staring out of the window is a much-underrated activity.
4). Baked beans can be used to pep up almost any dull savoury dish.
5). Don’t be scared to cut one another’s hair. It’s daunting at first but after 3 minutes you realise there’s nothing to it.

What’s getting you down in the dumps about isolating?
As an artist, I’m used to inventing occupations for myself, although self-portraits can get pretty fucking dull. I’m missing all my favourite middle-aged evening activities. Badminton, choir, swimming, running and life drawing. All my workshops, talks and commissions have been cancelled so I’m not earning any money. 

Who’s getting you all excited in the huge exhibition line-up?
Lydia Blakeley
Rosie McGinn

Sam Harris

What advice can you give our readers on pulling through in these uncertain times?
It might be hard mid-crisis, but perhaps keep a bit of perspective. Yesterday I phoned an ancient friend of the family and asked him whether the virus was the most frightening thing he had ever known. He said no, being marched out of China at gunpoint in 1945 was.

Generally, people living in Europe have had a dreamy period of peace and prosperity for the last 75 years. Disasters like this are bound to happen every so often. What if the virus had been Ebola? It would have been even scarier. I’m a strong believer in the it could be worse” attitude.

@wilfridwoodsculptor

Amy May George

How would you describe your work?
I am a painter. I navigate the canvas through a subconscious stream and productively use raw emotion in my work. Taking from my experiences, I use a visual language that often involves characters and signature motifs.

Do you reckon this situation will influence your future work?
I’m trying to look at coronavirus in a pragmatic way but I know that whatever happens, it will affect the work I make for a long time. I guess it is also a lesson on how to create a smaller environment, working with what you’ve got. 

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Get up like you’ve got something to do in the morning.
2). Don’t just wear pyjamas all day.
3). Try not to wallow in self-pity because everyone’s in the same boat.
4). Read all the books that you’ve got a third way through and pretended to finish.
5). Watch old films to find inspiration.

What’s getting you down in the dumps about isolating?
I guess the fact I can’t go outside with people and enjoy the weather to the fullest… but I’ve pretty much snapped out of that mindset because it isn’t progressive at all and I think it’s important to practice PMA (positive mental attitude), otherwise we are all going to go mad. 

Look into your crystal ball. Was is it telling you about the art world post coronavirus?
I would hope that we have evolved a better sense of community for the art scene that is more inclusive of all platforms and is less about the middle to upper classes with glitzy galleries and endless white clinical spaces. I feel like everything is going to change after this. After the silence will come something big…

Which artists are getting you all excited in the huge exhibition line-up?

Elsa Rouy
Shadi Al-Atallah

Trackie McLeod

@liquidwonderment

Elsa Rouy

How would you describe your work?
I’m a painter who works with acrylic, inks and dyes to create erotic scenes from a female perspective that explore wetness; balancing between pleasure and repulsion.

What’s it like being a young artist in 2020?
It’s about getting through struggles and being innovative about obstacles that are beyond our control. It is about supporting other artists and working together to have the motivation to keep marking art; creating and maintaining platforms for it to be shown.

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Relax and have a wank (it boosts your immune system).
2). Relax and have a wank in the bath.
3). Contact your loved ones daily.
4). Go out in your garden. (If you don’t have one open a window).
5). Remember this isn’t forever, and although it’s a scary time ultimately it will cause change and that’s a good thing.

Look into your crystal ball. What is it telling you about the art world post coronavirus?
I think my crystal ball has a crack because I honestly have no idea. Art wise, short-term? Lots of art reacting to the situation most likely – celebratory art, celebratory collaborations, celebratory exhibitions, the list of celebrations is endless. I can’t predict the future; however, not knowing can be exciting nonetheless. 

Which artists in the huge exhibition line-up are getting you all excited?
The line up is full of some great artists but I’m particularly excited about these three:

Valerie Savchits
Sam Harris

Robert Cooper

What advice can you give our readers on pulling through in these uncertain times?
Keep yourself busy and entertained at home, contact your mates, contact new people, organise yourself, plan collaborations, projects or parties for when we have pulled through, and remember to eat all your greens.

@elsa.rouy

Thomas Langley

How would you describe your work?
Interdisciplinary, working mainly through painting, sculpture and installation. 

What is being a young artist in 2020 all about?
Absolutely no idea but I can’t wait to find out.

Do you think online exhibitions will become the future of exhibiting work post isolation?
I’d say it’s a big part of how artists reach audiences already. I personally love to work with the physical. Architectural intervention and exhibition curation is a big part of how I learn about my practice. It’s exciting to work in a virtual realm in the current context, but I couldn’t ever renounce my engagement with physical space. 

What are some drawbacks of being an isolated artist?
I’ve run out of oil paint. I’m currently working and isolating from my home studio in Lisbon where we’ve been in a lockdown situation for a few weeks ahead of the UK. Art supply shops are obviously not being considered essential so popping out for paint is impossible. Obviously there’s been several postponed fairs and shows dropping off but I was lucky enough to open my recent solo show Courage just last month, so I managed to get my playing in space” fix just before shit really hit the fan. 

How do you think this weird period will influence your work?
My work often draws on personal experience. Currently, the COVID-19 crisis is still so fresh and uncertain it’s hard for me to project how it will filter into my work if it ever does. 

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Start growing some veggies for when you are super skint in three months.
2). Reach out to people and give as much support as you can. It has really helped me maintain some level of positivity in the midst of this gloom.
3). Good slippers.
4). Try to put your phone down as much as possible and do anything that’s not screen-based if possible.
5). Nap

@thomaslangley86

Lydia Blakeley

How would you describe your work?
I am a painter and would describe my work as soft realism – representational paintings which are transfigured from media encounters. (I paint stuff I find on the internet). 

Do you think online exhibitions will become the future of exhibiting work post isolation?
No, I don’t think they will become the future of exhibiting work. I’d like to see online exhibitions thrive, but I hope that exhibitions IRL will always be the dominant way of viewing art. No matter what, I don’t think the virtual experience of viewing art could replace the feeling you have when you visit an exhibition – they function in very different ways. 

How do you think this weird period will influence your work?
As I’m in isolation I have turned to the internet to keep connected and I am already inspired by the media encounters I am making each day. This time has really given me the opportunity to stop for a moment and reflect, and I have reminded myself that I need to take more risks in my work, take the time to fail and just give myself the freedom to let things organically develop. I’m looking forward to seeing where things lead.

What are your top five isolating tips?
1). Schedule your day.
2). Catch up on sleep.
3). Try to limit social media.
4). Keep in touch with friends and family.
5). Get some exercise.

Look into your crystal ball. What is it telling you about the art world post coronavirus?
A generation of artists are galvanised and have their sights set on making changes. Despite this, large institutions are a dab hand at getting away with bad behaviour. It’s hard to know how things will change once it’s all over, but I would like to think that the art world will move away from individualism and be shaped by a community spirit.

Which artists in the huge exhibition line-up are getting you all excited?
Honestly, I am buzzing about all of the artists on the line-up – it’s an incredible show. But if I was to highlight three in the line-up…

Liam Fallon
Sam Harris

Jake Grewal

@lydiablakeley

Head over to @guts_gallery to check out the online exhibition running until 16th April


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