Q&A with Simon Oldfield, Director of the Simon Oldfield Gallery, London

Q&A with Simon Oldfield, Director of the Simon Oldfield Gallery, London

The Simon Oldfield Gallery opened in Covent Garden earlier this year and with an exciting exhibition programme, the gallery offers a platform for emerging artists. The last show, New Symphony showcased four exponents of a new generation of UK sculptors: Tim Ellis, Sam Plagerson, Katie Cuddon.

The forthcoming show, Modern Love, brings together 12 contemporary artists who have a shared interest in Modernism, which inextricably blends visual form with conceptual content. Underlining the ongoing development of art practice, as well as the dialogue between the past and the present, the show features paintings, sculpture and digitally rendered images.

Q&A with Simon Oldfield

Can you tell me a bit about the forthcoming exhibition Modern Love?
The main thing that underpins all of the work included in Modern Love is a visual generosity on the part of the artists – a way for the viewer to experience the work in a direct and dynamic manner.

What exactly is it that interests you about the subject of this exhibition?
There is a tendency in contemporary art to “buy-in” to a culture of explanation, when artists are often exploring concepts and ideas that might not have an explicit “outcome”. The artists in Modern Love bridge several generations, indicating the ongoing development of contemporary practice. Hopefully, this is an optimistic exhibition.

Bringing together painting, sculpture, digitally rendered images and accidental paintings; Modern Love shows 12 contemporary positions relating to the achievements of Modernism; what were your motivations behind showing such a vast array of artists?
The motivation to show artists from different generations was very important from the outset and the plain fact is that there could have been many more artists included in the exhibition. However, the gallery is only so big!

Coming from a “post-YBA” environment, the artists in Modern Love do not employ shock tactics to force a reaction from the viewer. In fact, the exhibition seems to acknowledge that the rules of the game have changed- what has your experience been of British art over the last decade?
Sometimes it’s vital for contemporary artists to shock their audience; but not always. The history of art is littered with examples of public outcry because of certain artworks, and with hindsight, these give an indication of where social conventions were set at that particular time. It’s possible that some works included in Modern Love might not adhere to everyone’s definition of what an artwork should be; and that might annoy or irritate – but “shock” is just one example of what it might take to “provoke”. For most artists, the first ten years of the new millennium has been a time of unparalleled interest in contemporary art. Because of the multitude of ways in which artists can now become “visible”, largely due to the internet, artists can now reach wide and varied audiences. This, in turn, has led to a very fractured and specialised array of positions in contemporary art.

Do you think there is historical exhaustion of the possibility of invention in art?
Every so often, theorists, critics, curators and artists alike all propose the end of this or the exhaustion of that. It’s true, things do, seemingly, come to an end, but even the validity of the most nihilistic tendencies in art have the capacity for re-appraisal by subsequent generations of artists. The curatorial re-staging of particular installations, performances and site-specific, ephemeral works in recent years indicates that ideas have the capacity to lie dormant, before regaining their momentum, sometimes decades later.

The exhibition raises important questions with regards to art historical definitions of Modernity; have you come to your own conclusion as to the place of the “visual” in contemporary culture?
Conclusions are not as interesting as questions, especially when it comes to contemporary art. It’s all too easy to deny the potential of the visual to carry complex and sophisticated ideas; the visual is a language – and can communicate, but not necessarily “explain”. Like most disciplines, art practice has its’ own set of conventions and precedents. It’s often useful to have a rudimentary sense of the art historical context in which a contemporary artwork might be seen, but unlike academic specialisms, this is not the only way in which an audience might engage with a work of art.

For visitors to the show, is there something you hope they will take with them?
Visitors will certainly experience a variety of work, and navigate both the intentional and incidental points of connection between the artworks on display. The ambition of the work in the show is serious, but not at the expense of a certain sense of wit.

Can you tell me more about your forthcoming exhibition programme? What should visitors to the gallery expect to see for 2011?
The gallery is planning some really exciting exhibitions in the future and hopefully the burgeoning number of visitors to the gallery will continue to find a variety of both new and established artists exhibiting here. There are a number of artists that are developing a relationship with the gallery, and this will naturally evolve into an exciting programme for 2011, beginning with Ben Ashton’s solo show. We are also delighted to announce that we will soon be launching The Bloomsbury Salon. This will be our second exhibition space in central London, allowing us to expand our programme and introduce a series of events. The Bloomsbury Salon is located on one of London’s oldest garden squares; providing artists with new opportunities to present and discuss their work.

Modern Love opens 8 October and continues until 13 November 2010. www.simonoldfield.com

The artists in the show are:

Image © Andrea Medjesi-Jones Perverted Boxer