Getting your work shown in a gallery is a big step and can be an awkward one to make. Students in ‘bricks and mortar’ institutions are often required to curate group shows as part of their second year study. Although the OCA doesn’t have a gallery, students are showing their work more widely than ever before. The recent ‘Showcase’ exhibition on London’s South Bank and a show curated by the South West regional group are important developments in this area.
Another solution is to use your home to show work. Clearing some wall space and hanging a show – taking the endeavour seriously – and inviting friends and fellow students to an opening will help you think about your work differently. It could also lead to you curating a small group show in the same space.
Dale Holmes, an artist with a PhD in Contemporary Fine Art living in Barnsley, has done just this. He has created a gallery in the stairwell of his home: The Apples and Pears Gallery. Dale has exhibited his work widely and even though his family life and teaching – which includes supervising PhD researchers as Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art and Illustration at the University of Huddersfield – keeps him pretty busy.
I visited the gallery to see the first show of his paintings which, as Dale explains, are related to the domestic space and are hung close to where they were made. Rather than review the work as such, I wanted to find out about the thinking behind the decision to set up the gallery. The following interview took place via email a few days later and covers Dale’s rationale for Apples and Pears, extending what might be seen as a humble gesture – hanging a few paintings in a familiar space – into something more complex and stimulating.
Bryan: The ostensible subject matter and the site of production of the work is domestic as is the display area. Is that important and would it be something you looked for in sourcing future work for the space?
Dale: This is the key to the idea of operating a gallery space in this kind of site – a stairwell – and the way that this circles back into the content of the work I’m making that approaches ‘the domestic’ from a range of conceptual angles and a range of material processes, in relation to the reality of domestic existence.
Bryan: You’ve shown a lot of this work via instagram and have an instagram account for Apples and Pears. Can you expand on the relationship between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ viewings of the work and the space?
Dale: Instagram is very important, a lot of artists get their self efficacy from the instagram pages they manage and many make work for instagram in particular, even down to the cropping and the presentation, the way the page is curated and the works – mostly paintings – hover in a contextless non-space. Apples and Pears account always shows the surroundings of the work, the awkward viewing positions and the skewed angles. Real and virtual are very interesting ideas for me and sit at the base of my thought and practice in relation to making art from the lived experience of the domestic space – there’s the ideal of these spaces that we are introduced to by commerce and by the media – home improvement ads and shows, instagram pages dedicated to good taste in decorating, pimped cribs, etc., and then there’s the chaotic real of these spaces – which as an image is also covered by the media and commerce – that swerves at us constantly in the lived experience of the domestic environment.
Bryan: Has it changed your relationship to either these works or other pieces you’ve made since?
Dale: Not yet, but I imagine that going forward that could be the case. I have always displayed my work in the home – which is its own set of problems for relationships – and I had a space called Gallerie Ton van Breugel, that operated out of my canal side flat in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam in the mid 2000’s. I’m not about to make a series of stairwell paintings, but I am more aware of overlooked and transitional spaces in the domestic space. I’m especially excited by the idea that this would be a spider’s preferred space in the house, and the point of view such a space facilitates.
Bryan: This might seem like an odd strategy to people used to seeing work in galleries and museums. but showing in homes has a history. Do you see Apples and Pears as part of that or not?
Dale: Yes indeed. This is a serious effort to break some of the given and expected models for displaying art, which in the end trade on hierarchies and the idea of a sequestered, or even luxurious space for art. I wanted to think of an alternative, a corrective even.
Bryan: What’s the relationship – if there is one – with the traditional gallery space?
Dale: There is a relationship, one that looks at supporting new practices and allowing new experiences of seminal objects. Although this type of endeavour has a rich history – recently Slugtown in Newcastle for example – there is also a break in that relationship in that anybody can do this and that social media is the key facilitator in it and dare I say its potential for democratising experiences.
Bryan: Do you plan to show the work of others in the space? Is it an ongoing project?
Dale: Yes, in May there is a show by Gary Simmonds, in June Lianne Mellor and in August the Gallery expands into a Glasgow space at which I will be showing three works and in the Barnsley space Graham Lister will be showing. I am also working on a year long programme after this and I think it will become a publication in the near future. I am also in talks about a potential Newcastle space.
Bryan: Any advice for anyone wanting to do this?
Dale: Find a good angle, this is happening because its a stairwell, have some rules – Apples and Pears is showing three works only, always paintings, always work that is linked practically or conceptually to the notion of the lived experience of domestic space. Do it right and make sure you tell everybody about it all the time.