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.
I grew up between Xi’an and Beijing in China and got sent to Yorkshire for school when I was 14, just over 10 years ago. My family still lives there and what I do now was fairly alien to them; my cultural upbringing was mainly through antiquity and history up until I came to the UK. The programme started in March ’22, not long after I graduated from Central Saint Martins. I felt there was a wave of exciting young artists coming through, of my generation, and felt it’s important to stay and grow with it. The first space I found was through Jonny Tanna of Harlesden High Street, on Fleet St in the City.
By September that year ZÉRUÌ relocated to Vanguard Court in Camberwell, a hub for artisans, makers and designers, as well as artists.
The programme largely tackles the current and the infinite, which can be found in almost all the artists we’ve shown through solos and group shows, examples being in the dark elements of Jack Laver’s work, surrendering to the material and at times resembling natural phenomenon; in how Mia Vallance’s paintings challenge motion, space, proximity, blurring the line between immediacy and obscurity; Isabella Benshimol’s sculptures freeze the temporal moments, taken for granted, and carry such energy through anatomy, geometry and the idea of the moment; and Johannes Bosisio’s practice treads between the material and immaterial, the figures and objects are jagged, at times confrontational, the surfaces are fetishised and treated as if they are ready to be activated.
I could go on and on.
Some Art I’m interested in
The show we have on right now is really exciting for me. It deals with our interaction with nature and control. We have a few growing installations from artist duo Aléa, where the mycelium in their works interact with soil and moisture in the space, sprouting oyster mushrooms out of human intervention. Henry Kitcher’s installation piece ‘Ebb and Flow’ is a series of soil bricks, forming and dissolving the confine of the space to Meryl Yana’s weathered works on handmade papers, the Moroccan carmine pigment becomes dried blood, echoes how the environment interacts with ‘skin’.
All the other gallerists covered the emerging scenes in London fairly well in the previous interviews, there are so many exciting spaces and every programme has its own focus. Recently I went to see the show at Final Hot Desert. They are showing a few works from Stefania Batoeva, Alexis Kanatsios and Isaac Lythgoe. They’ve produced some great shows in unlikely places, from the desert and salt lake in Utah to a muddy beach in Kent. I’m sure they have many exciting projects in the pipeline. Their programme is vastly different from the one at ZÉRUÌ, and it’s refreshing for me to reassess and look at works and exhibition-making with a new perspective.
I came across Benoit Pieron’s show Slumber Party at Chisenhale recently, the installation has quite a minimal setup, which generates a pacifying aura. It felt calm underneath the massive teepee of bedsheets and the soft blooming lights were serenading. After encountering the context and materials used for the commission, the show changes, softness and harshness collide.
Chen Zhen’s show ‘Double Exil’ at Galleria Continua in Paris felt really important to me. His life’s works navigate integration, migration, community and nomadism. The use of inanimate objects one experiences in his works can be highly reflective and spiritual, I still can’t get the purification room there out of my head.
Some Culture I’m interested in
Apart from the variety of art press, one magazine that I read consistently is Apartamento, they do great interviews with a plethora of people: designers, artists, musicians, restaurateurs, architects, gallerists, and so on. They print beautiful photo essays and interviews that document each interviewee’s home, at times shot on film. I’m always curious to see how people live, and an interesting home with its objects indirectly reflects how someone lives and creates. Visually it’s really fun and some of the things people have in their house are bizarre.
I recently watched Akira Kurosawa’s 1986 epic ‘Ran’ (Chaos & Tribulations), set in the Japanese warring state period, it’s a nod to King Lear, beautifully choreographed and colour coordinated, from the costumes, banners and interiors, epic scenes with no VFX, inexplicably stunning, I highly recommend.
Some Design I’m interested in
I’m not quite as immersed in the contemporary design world, but some influential interior pieces for me are the iconic BKF butterfly chair, Noguchi’s Akari 14A lamp, and Joe Colombo’s lounge chairs, to name a few.
Some Tech I’m interested in
A friend of mine is developing an AI therapy platform, it’s already quite sophisticated with the variety of ‘therapists’ you can speak to. I think in a short period they’ve already got over 20k users. The prediction is that in 60 years a person could communicate more with AI than other people around them. There are huge ethical issues at play here. The impact on how art gets created and disseminated will be gradual and swift, and the idea of how a gallery could evolve and stay relevant will be constant.
Some music I’m interested in
I listen to a lot of jazz/funk/hop artists, mainly either instrumental or in languages I don’t understand, they influence my daily experience whether I’m cooking, cycling, painting gallery walls and floors, or sealing the roof and making occasional eye contact with the fox running on the skylight above me.
Top picks of mine right now include:
Hermanos Gutiérrez – Latin instrumental
Tèsfa-Maryam Kidané – Ethiopian saxophonist
Banda Ionica – the Sicilian jazz/folk/funk band
A museum and gallery show recommendation –
The Mark Rothko show at Louis Vuitton Foundation was probably one of the best I’ve seen for a while, akin to the feeling I had in the Forbidden Palace as a child and when I first saw Rauschenberg at age 14. True creation has that thread of touch I believe is universal, a touch of divinity that connects everyone.
Condo’s return to London is exciting to see early next year. The galleries taking part have some of the most exciting programmes in London and the world. Somerset House has a group show opening in January titled ‘Cute’, there are a lot of artists in that lineup that I really like, and I hear it’s sponsored by Hello Kitty, so clearly vetted by the OG god of cuteness.
Of course, next year’s Venice Biennale, curated by Adriano Pedrosa – I felt somewhat the theme of migration for me is self-reflective and personal -‘no matter where you find yourself, you are always, truly, and deep down inside, a foreigner’.
I’m passing on to Nicolas Sorbac of Nisoproject, who is opening his permanent space soon in West London after 2 years of nomadic programming between London and Paris. They recently showed the estate of the Japanese artist Hitoshi Nakazako with the London-based Columbian artist Daniel Brusatin. It’ll be exciting to see how his programme develops, bringing bodies of works from overlooked, important artists of the 20th century.