Everyone is just so damn busy all of the time, which is why it took an absolute bloody age before me and the three lovely ladies of LeandaKateLouise were able to find the time to meet up for a chat.
I first heard about the work of LKL, aka Claire Dorsett, Sarah Kate Wilson and Rose Davey, via my wonderful soon-to-be husband Tom Jeffreys of Spoonfed fame. He suspected that their free-wheeling inventiveness would be right up my street and forwarded me a link to the first exhibition.
Though it wasn’t so much your standard exhibition as it was a series of postcards, mailed to a select group of “attendees” once a week for ten weeks. “We started talking about getting some projects off the ground after the degree show,” explains Wilson. “We didn’t really have any budget or a space, so we thought about what else we could do and came up with the idea of using the post as a gallery.
Armed with little more than a mailing list, ten willing artists and some money for the post man, the three staged an imaginative and witty exhibition which made the most of what they had to hand, rather than get sidetracked by what was then out of reach. The first week saw a simple cardboard box posted out, and every subsequent week for ten weeks, the recipient was sent a different post-card sized work, the idea being that each postcard was a one-week solo show that began when it entered the postbox and ended when it reached the cardboard box.
Their second exhibition about one year later, 26, was yet another exercise in making the most of what was to hand, only this time on a larger scale. "We did the postcards as that what we could conceivably do at the time, but for the next show we wanted to do something more static. We thought, ‘well, what have we got to hand?’ and the obvious answer was our houses,” says Wilson. A one-day only exhibition in a house in Islington, 26 saw works above the mantelpiece in the living room and in kitchen shelves, installations in bedrooms and a large sculptural piece in the back garden. “It was fantastic,” says Dorsett. “We only had it open for one day, but all day, partly because everyone tends to come to the private view and then never come back and it’s hard for people to actually see the work during the private view because there’s too many people. It was a gorgeous day and people were hanging in the garden next to Ian’s huge sculpture.”
It was hearing about this exhibition that made me want to write about the trio. If I thought that the postcard show was a splendid idea, when I found out that they staged an exhibition in their house I knew I'd found kindred spirits. Though the exhibition I'd planned to host in my Hackney Wick flat last year didn't go exactly to plan (a rather spectacular falling out with my flatmates meant that I ended up hosting the show in an Islington town house), I'd always wanted to stage a show in a domestic space (I should say that while there are quite a few "domestic space" galleries in London - e.g. the old WW Gallery space, Danielle Arnaud, Kabin - these are primarily or entirely cleared of other furniture and possessions in order to display the art) and to see LKL do it with such panache was exciting and inspiring.
So, when I received an email from them in advance of their most recent show, A Wall is a Surface, at LondonNewcastle Project Space about a month ago, I replied asking whether they had some time to meet up and chat.
Until I met them, I had no idea that all three were also practising artists. They often exhibit their own work in the shows, part of the reason why they decided to start organising exhibitions in the first place. "We all did painting at The Slade,” Davey says. “It was a great community, quite open and really free and we didn’t ant to lose that. These projects were a way of making things happen once we left.” Wilson chips in, “Also, it’s a way of creating opportunities for ourselves, our friends and other artists whose work we admire.” These aims carry through to the Wall show, their most ambitious exhibition to date. Featuring the work of 12 artists, the exhibition venue was secured thanks to a well-conceived application for the gratis use of Londonewcastle's project space on Redchurch Street.
The project space is enormous and, instead of fighting the size of the space by breaking it up into more manageable pieces, the three decided to make the most of the space and invite their selected artists to create a new piece of art on the interior walls. The artists decamped from their own studios into the exhibition space ten days before the opening to create the new works in situ. While I initially thoughts that it might have been interesting to open up the gallery to allow visitors to witness this process of making the works, Wilson disagrees: “We’re always trying to offer interesting opportunities to people and part of this project was about giving the artists an opportunity to use the space as their studio for ten days.” Dorsett agrees, “I don’t think it would have been fair to the artists, really. It would have made it more like a performance piece.”
The Wall show was excellent - some pieces were certainly less successful than others, but that's perhaps to be expected given that 12 artists each created a brand new work in the space ten days before the opening. Painter Tessa Whitehead (whose work I’ve exhibited twice before), had a sensational work on an enormous wall in the back room: a huge paper cut-out of a cowboy on a horse next to a square of hundreds of nails. Davey’s soothing painting running along the longest wall in the space was a simple, clean and lovely piece of colour work.
It’s rare to find a group of artist-curators who are able to dream up inventive curatorial concepts and then execute them with equally strong exhibitions. Given the rarity of such occurrences, it would be nice to see LKL average more than one show a year, but I’m always happy to wait for quality.