Broadening Access to the Visual Arts: Q&A with Nathan Engelbrecht, Director of EB&Flow Gallery, London.

Interview by Bethany Rex

EB&Flow opened this spring in Shoreditch with an aim to build long term relationships with artists from a formative stage in their career and as their practice develops. The gallery aims to increase access to the visual arts by running an education programme on collecting, curatorial practice, and artist professional development, as well as artists talks and guest curated projects. The inaugural show, Since Tomorrow, celebrated the core group of EB&Flow artists and the new show, which opens today, focuses on the work of one of the EB&Flow artists – Katie Louise Surridge (b.1985).

Voo-Dology will be Surridge’s first solo exhibition in London, and features large structural installations from a selection of ephemeral objects sourced by the artist on scavenging missions. Presenting a new, large scale installation entitled Live Through This, which incorporates Victorian tobacco clay pipes sourced from the banks of the Thames, Shire horse collars and a cattle feeder, Voo-Dology explores the process of discovery and development integaral to Surridge’s work.

We caught up with galley director, Nathan Engelbrecht to find out more about the gallery, its aims and objectives and who we should be on the look out for this year.

Firstly, what was your background prior to opening the gallery? What motivated you to open EB&Flow at this time?
My business partner, Margherita Berloni, and I studied at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, completing our MA in Art Business. From there, it was the usual intern wilderness; I completed an internship at Phillips de Pury and ArtTactic. Fortunately I was offered the role of art market analyst at ArtTactic, which consisted of me researching many different art markets such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as areas like Photography and Design.

In terms of motivation, Margherita and I had decided to open our own gallery very early on during our studies. We started studying just after the Lehman brothers collapse, and as such we were always taught that our future was in our hands rather than boom time corporations. We were very fortunate to find our space and this space really exhilarated our business plans and investment pitches.

The gallery aims to increase access to the visual arts with its education programme, could you tell us a bit more about this?
We have always been very anti against the idea of a gallery, being a cold sterile place which begrudgingly lets the public in, while they only care about collectors. The education programme is one of our rebellions against this, and we seek to be a place where ideas about visual art and the art market can be explored. We will be starting after summer with three seminars, aimed at different groups within this art world: Artists, curators and collectors.

Could you tell us a bit more about your current show, Katie Louise Surridge: Voo-Dology?
Katie is one of those special artists, where the art begins way before completion or execution. Katie produces her installations in the gallery from discarded materials; be it old butcher’s bones from the Thames, rusted cattle feeders or stuffed red squirrels. Katie forms unlikely links between objects and weaves them into some not only visually exciting but intellectually profound.

You’re presenting Alessandro Librio’s Palermo in Venice at Venice this year. That’s impressive for a gallery in its inaugural year. How did this collaboration come about?
We were very lucky! Fortunately we had spent so much time researching and meeting different artists and curators that it gave us access to artists that other galleries might have missed. So when one of our favourite curators Attilia Fattori Franchini suggested Librio, we were delighted and of course very eager to work with him. We were fortunate to be working with him and once Venice came into the picture we threw everything we had at the project to see it realised.

You’ve spoken about providing a platform for ‘our generation’ of artists. Could you expand on this? How would you say our generation of artists differs from the last?
This generational aspect goes back to one of our founding principals; that we wanted to show contemporary art that was contemporary, not something produced in the 70s that one sees at auction. In doing so we sought to find artists that were forming their own niches within the contemporary world. This process was further complicated by another founding principal of that we didn’t want to have art that was so conceptual that it’s audience was only art history PHDs, and therefore we sought to find contemporary artists who displayed universal range.

In terms of this generation, it is often said that it is the generation of self, where online and social existences have made islands of people. Of course you would expect art to represent this, but what we found, in the artists we chose, was that they were interested not by self but by space and time. It was reaction which interested us the most and something we find very contemporary and generational.

With degree shows gathering pace and Free Range in full swing, it’s an exciting time of year for galleries looking for new talent, have you seen any work that has caught your eye? Anyone we should look out for?
I must be honest; with Venice, Basel and 2 solo shows going on within 2 weeks, we have missed out on one of favourite activities of scouting for new talent… We have been invited by various art schools to come through to their grad shows in the coming weeks and we look forward to finding something special. Watch this space!

Katie Louise Surridge Voo-Dology is on until 26 August

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So Over, Mixed Media (2010)
Courtesy the artist