From screaming mouths to kinetic tapestries, the group exhibition at Karin Janssen Project Space on Well Street, GROWTH follows Karin Janssen’s curating debut in April, and shows that she is well able to juggle her personal practise with artist collaborations alongside running the gallery.
Netherlands-born Hackney artist, Janssen, prides herself on operating an “artist-run space” meaning approaching her approach is more artist-to-artist, rather than as a gallerist wishing walls to be filled.
She said: “We talk about our work, why we make it, what it means to us and the materials and techniques we use.
“It is really quite an amazing thing to be able to do: to see an artist I admire and then to be able to offer them a space and work with them. It’s a privilege not many artists have.”
From a rather long shortlist of 25 prospective artists, Janssen chose Gemma Nelson, Anna Smith and Rachel Bullock on account of the impulsive way that each artist works, the theme is central to GROWTH.
The work is allowed to take over in the vulnerable ‘creatures’ of Angela Smith which start with the pouring of paint which is then left to run and Gemma Nelson’s obsessive, cell-like tapestries appear to breed across the canvas.
Rachel Bullock’s charcoal drawings rise up like a flowing mountain of hair and fur coats while Janssen, whose work here features a paintings of a screaming mouth, plays with abstraction and familiarity in her human body series, Silent Screams in The Valley of Uncanniness.
Janssen said: “In some of the works the artist quite literally started in one corner and then saw where they would end up.
“That comes across in the work itself; you can see the searching and the chance findings.”
But it’s not only the GROWTH exhibition that has emerged from the evolving nature of each artist’s practise, Janssen said that over the last few months, she too has seen a change in the way she works.
“My practise has evolved a lot in the last few months as I have taken the narrative out of my work; it is pure emotion and flesh now.
“Often I start with a screaming mouth or something that vaguely resembles a mouth and then just see what I feel like drawing or painting around it.”
Janssen says that after independently curating her first show, Raw Skin in April, it suddenly became apparent that she needed to “take her work to the next level” and since the exhibition ended, she’s been “exploring the depths of an immense iceberg” in her work, which she says she is “nowhere near finished”.
And with each exhibition she sets up, Janssen says that she comes closer to her personal vision and that it’s important to get the balance right.
“It is truly a privilege to be able to wear those two hats, of curator and artist and to be able to let them feed into each other.
“But, as much as they complement each other, it’s an eternal balancing act, and I am very aware that I am first and foremost an artist; I wouldn’t want the gallery to take over my artistic side.”
After the success of Raw Skin, Janssen felt under pressure in the same way as those releasing the sequel to a best selling novel and said the whole thing was “nerve wracking”.
But the proof is always in the pudding and GROWTH, running until 17 November, has given Janssen confidence and inspiration for future exhibitions.
Having set up the Karin Janssen Project Space two years ago in an old hairdressers on Well Street, Janssen says GROWTH ties in with Hackney, in ways she did not initially see.
“The area is changing and growing quickly, but it happens organically and there doesn’t seem to be a big master plan.
“That’s what makes it such a dynamic, lively and interesting place to live.”
Drawing on the uncanny, the beautiful and ugly in the human body in her new work, Janssen suggests her latest series of paintings create a “repulsion/fascination” in the viewer and has noticed this reaction in the community who visit the gallery.
“Hackney has a very varied population, you get people from all walks of life here and that is really reflected in the audience of my space.
“I love that, to have to talk about the art I show here to everyone, from a highly educated art audience to teenagers who live down the road, and to see all audiences react strongly, is a big compliment.”
GROWTH runs until 17 November
Karin Janssen Project Space
213 Well Street, E9 6QU