We want to celebrate and find out more about the characters driving the renaissance of the London gallery scene, and what better way than to resurrect our THAT’s Interesting feature.
Last time we had Hector Campbell of Soup Gallery. This time we have his recommendation Helen Neven.
Helen Neven is a curator and gallerist based in London. Her eponymous gallery Neven opened in Bethnal Green in September 2023 with a solo presentation by Woodsy Bransfield, whose installation of diamante and aluminium display cases containing rows of artist-branded sunglasses addressed the intersection of class, celebrity and desire. Neven’s upcoming presentation of new works by artist Jen O’Farrell opens on 9th November. Follow Neven and its programme on Instagram @nevengallery
Some Art I’m interested in
A couple of weeks ago, I had a studio visit with artist Ebun Sodipo during which we discussed Tumblr and the ways in which assembling and archiving imagery feel like a generationally-specific practice of personal narrativisation – something crystalised in Ebun’s stunning collage practice. I often find myself drawn to aesthetics of nostalgia and assemblage.
I (along with the Focus Stand Prize jury) was moved by Adam Farah-Saad’s solo Frieze booth presented by Public Gallery which conjured the latent poetics of the shopping centres and HMV stores of naughties urban adolescence. I’m also looking forward to Soup’s upcoming solo show of British-Asian duo Athen Kardashian & Nina Mhach Durban, whose work enshrines Bollywood imagery, British idols and corner shop trinkets in bedroom-like odes to diasporic teendom.
Some Design I’m interested in
Aside from finding the space itself, the gallery’s visual identity was perhaps one of the hardest things to nail down. Branding, like our faces in late capitalism, can be changed further down the line, but it might cost you and it’s probably preferable to like and stick to what you started off with. The exercise reignited a love for typography and I spent hours getting inspired on fontsinuse.com which shows different fonts combined and laid out. Ultimately, I landed on a medieval font – a nod to my Belgian surname – re-imagined with a vaguely 70s/Kibbe Scale flamboyant natural twist, inverted second n and combined it with a classic sans-serif. You can never go too wrong with a sans-serif.
Some Culture I’m interested in
Something about niche, ephemeral and hyperlocalised cultural references are really tickling me at the moment. It’s the IYKYK effect and the warm feeling of identification that ensues, however occasionally embarrassing. When it’s done well it’s smart yet dumb, entirely unverifiable yet highly recognisable to a small, unwittingly participant demographic. Within this category, I count the podcast Nymphet Alumni whose hosts dissect, forecast and at times coin the microtrends they observe on TikTok and in the general fashion-aesthetic zeitgeist e.g. French Girl Style, Broquette, Spiritual Bimboism, Twee… The list goes on, it’s good. The Instagram account @socks_house_meeting in turn memeifies the lifestyle and fashion trends of yuppie London. It’s douchey, spot-on, and hilarious. @artreviewpower100 does this for the art world. Already-iconic substack Spittle arguably scratches this itch for the microcosm of London’s emerging scene. I am sometimes left to wonder whether these commentators are highlighting the culture, or in fact, creating it. They name it, you suddenly see it everywhere. I love the internet.
Some Tech I’m interested in
I have a confession: my memory isn’t great. I realised this pretty early on in my working life and swiftly harnessed technology as my crutch, my aide-memoire, my around-the-clock PA. I use Monday.com, sometimes Notion, always iCal, and together they work in beautiful, reliable synchronicity to make sure that I might appear to be, in fact, one of the least forgetful people you’ll ever meet.
A museum show and gallery show coming up
Prem Sahib is an artist I have admired since first encountering his landmark 2015 ICA show and I had the privilege of showing him in one of my own first exhibitions in London. Prem’s current solo at Phillida Reid ‘The Life Cycle of a Flea’ is a recent highlight. It features hallmarks of his practice – gorgeous aluminium and resin condensation paintings and floating clothing items, spectrally devoid of bodies -, while also masterfully playing with architecture and atmosphere. Prem has a uniquely poetic grasp of psychogeographics, something that is expanded on in his new book ‘The Fire Over There’ published by Book Works earlier this year which I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of.
In terms of museum shows, this may be a cheat but I can’t wait for my long-time friend Aindrea Emelife’s inaugural Nigerian Pavilion at next year’s Venice Biennale. An incredible line-up of artists (Toyin! Precious! Tunji!). Aindrea’s let me in on some spoilers and I can’t wait.
Some Music I’m interested in
Last year, friends of mine with the best music taste took me to see DjRUM’s live show with the London Contemporary Orchestra at the Southbank Centre. His fusion of electronic with classical was breathtaking and he’s now my go-to for mellow-sensual-astral feels. At home, we generally play a lot of techno, house and trance.
Chicago House pioneer DJ Deeon (RIP) and Miss Kittin come up regularly. I painted the entire gallery listening to the audiobook of Emma Cline’s ‘The Girls’ and Pablo Bozzi mixes on SoundCloud. Something about Italo Disco and paint rollers, it just worked.
I’m delighted to hand the THAT’S Interesting baton to Mazzy-Mae Green, whose gallery Sherbet Green opened on Hackney Rd, around the corner from Neven, just over a year ago. Alongside her great gallery programme that has included friends and stars Louis Newby, Leila Majid, Billy Fraser and Bo Sun amongst others, Mazzy also had a busy Frieze, showing Li Li Ren as part of Frieze Sculpture and participating in First Edition and Minor Attractions. I’m looking forward to seeing her next show which opens on the same evening as mine, 9th November. Make sure you do your East End rounds to both our spaces that evening