In 2020 the gallery will represent the work of Martin Janecky (Czech), Emma Baker (UK), Laura Quinn (Ireland), Alberto Lago (Italy), Alexandra Muresan (Romania) and James Maskrey (UK). The history of glass is full of ‘origin stories’: stories of how and where glass began. North Lands Creative at Collect 2020 takes this as a starting-pointing for the six artists exhibiting, each exploring a fundamental component of contemporary glass blowing.
The Future of Making – Tradition to Liberation and how the artists have each broken the mould by creating ground-breaking work which sees traditional techniques evolving. How does the glass community start to create a new language and support the freedom of artists, makers and curators to break the conventions around tradition. Guiding the creative process for glass blowing, North Lands Creative uses the studio and gallery as a freespace for people to gather and exchange, with new networks emerging, new possibilities taking shape and achieve a global dialogue that can weave through gender, social politics and sustainability. The exhibition will be playful, witty and provocative, Origins asks us to look again at the myths, conventions and histories that guide how glass is created and experienced. My perspective as Director in running North Lands Creative and the studio gallery is very curatorial. As a national charity our income goes directly into helping build a stronger glass community, which benefits many artists and crafts makers globally so events like Collect we need to still think like commercial galleries but the difference is the artists benefit directly from that success. We are very interested in discovering artists and so, having been doing this for over two decades now, we exhibit artists from the contemporary emerging, mid-career to masters of the craft. Having begun to represent artists at various points during this period, it is obvious that we have grown together and that those that would have been considered ‘emerging’ then are working their way towards ‘established’ now.
We see our relationships with artists as similar concentric circles. Residency and associate artists are core artists, those at the centre of the circle. We work together and communicate constantly, and we are at their service. Then there are others with whom we have a relationship, but do not currently work on a project with us. We are very active off-site curators, our location on the periphery of mainland Scotland dictates that we do not have high footfall at the gallery but a strong international collectors base.
Attending Collect 2020 was devised as partly a response to the needs of collectors – to show work in a considered fashion and in a spectacular location; and partly a response to artists – to show work in a high profile, large scale show, but which is not restricted by the limitation of a booth stand. We are constantly identifying and working with new artists, and depending on how things develop, an artist from a particular project can often transfer into another project, sometimes even becoming an associate artist. Likewise, our audience might also come over from one project to another.
Our target audience is primarily collectors but also the craft world audience generally. In terms of the positioning of our gallery in relation to others, with a cursory glance it might appear that we run a traditional model. As a gallery in itself this is true, but combined with the other projects it can be considered a far more complicated, multi project that emphasises curation, ambition, hard and dedicated work, lateral thinking and collaboration – and in collaboration we mean with other curators, other galleries, arts organisations artists, and collectors. It is important that the main ingredient – the artwork itself – has a relevance to contemporary practice as well as a potential resonance with the audience (collector).
My mission is to find like-minded artists to pair with like-minded collectors, with like-minded gallerist / curator as the fulcrum. I search for authentic artists that are engaged wholly with their internal critical model. As someone who took the route to being a director/ curator by studying design at degree level and then fine art at masters, I have a profound understanding of what it is to be an artist. And so I am perhaps unusually equipped to relate to the struggle of making work (and in fact still make work myself). I am open to all mediums (but perhaps have the deepest affiliation with crafts and of course in my current role I have fallen in love with glass), and I respond to work with strong content.
I am interested in horror and beauty; the sublime; the psychological and psychoanalytical; magic and mythology; sexuality – that which is concerned with the big human themes. Just as I look for authenticity in the artist I also look for an authentic, instinctive reaction in myself when attending work, and even if one of our shows looks varied visually, by considering these subjects the sense of cohesion becomes quickly apparent. And so, the above must be considered the key factor at the beginning point in a relationship with an artist. From there I will look for consistency and professionalism, and there is an element of needing to be able to work together in terms of personality as well. I am not looking for a difficult artist or a lazy artist. I’m looking for an individual that can continue relationships and work in a climate of mutual respect and trust. And these relationships can only be maintained with honesty, integrity and progress. And so there must be drive, ambition and commitment on both sides.