The Jessica Carlisle Gallery was established in January 2014 and is a brand new gallery model that revolves around regular pop-up exhibitions at 83 Kinnerton Street, Knightsbridge, London as well as private events throughout the year both at home and in artist studios. The aim is to create an intimate, friendly and relaxed environment in which to discover and appreciate contemporary art.
I met Jessica recently through a mutual friend and was really inspired by her career as as an art dealer – she actually started out as a solicitor and after qualifying, worked in art law before moving to work at an artist agency.
Today she runs her own gallery representing some incredibly talented artists – a major accomplishment and a great lesson to us all that doing what you love with a quiet, but steady and unwavering perseverance will take you far. Last week I caught up with her for coffee to find out a bit more about life as an art dealer in London…
Working with YBA’s (young british artists) as well as younger artists gave Carlisle a unique insight into the inner workings of the art world, particularly as she was helping out with the business and legal side of their practice. Boosted by her experience and insight into the London art scene, Carlisle was soon running a gallery in the East End. A little further down the line, setting up her own gallery was a natural next step.
A major perk is the variety of the work she undertakes: “Every day is different, which is one of the things I love about my job” says Carlisle, “I could be working at home or at my club, visiting a studio in Peckham, schmoozing a client in Mayfair, or mopping the floor in the gallery”. The work above is by Vera Boele-Keimer, a German artist living and working in Bristol.
Choosing clients is a difficult process as there are so many talented artists out there, but relying on a sixth sense and her years of experience has served her well, “it is as much about their outlook, their motivations, their way of thinking, as about their work – though really this is all one and the same thing” explains Carlisle. “Fundamentally, I am interested in artists who are curious, clever and passionate; those who see the world differently and who can show us how to look at something anew”.
The work shown above “Foča, Bosnia” is from The Atrocities – part of a larger exhibition “Alone in Berlin” by the artist Hester Finch and shown in 2014. At a quick glance it seems a fairly straightforward and serene landscape, yet on closer inspection the intensity of the saturated colour quickly becomes oppressive. As with all Finch’s landscapes, the atmosphere feels electric, the air charged. Are we looking at the beautiful mountainous landscape complete with lakes and pristine blue skies, or are we looking at a desolate country ravaged by war? Are we admiring a view or are we looking out of a prison window? The diminutive scale of the piece – oil on linen and measuring just 6 x 8in – jars uncomfortably with the gravity of the subject.
Finch’s work, along with work by William Stein, was recently shown during the Frieze New York week at the David Krut Projects in Chelsea – New York’s premier contemporary-art district. The exhibition came about through David Krut, who has been a great supporter and mentor for Carlisle. Print publisher, gallery owner, dealer, and book publisher, Krut is based between Cape Town and Johannesburg, but has a project space in New York. Describing the US exhibition as “a blast of fresh air”, Carlisle went on to comment that the beauty of exhibiting in New York is that “people are not intimidated by art in the same way they are at home”.
“On Serdica” by William Stein is part of the exhibtion “My Heart. Red. Bloody. Thumpy.” whereby Stein sought a release from categorisation. Born from a desire to move beyond the inherited modes of discourse that bind and shackle us, Stein has build upon a foundation of opposition and contradiction.
The work above entitled “Headless Nude (Seated / Orange, Pale Blue, Blue) by Hester Finch is part of the “Portrait of a Lady” exhibition shown in New York which sees Finch continue her central themes of identity, personal freedom, and societal restraints on our actions and thoughts – but here from the female perspective.
The works comprise a series of paintings of highly coloured nudes. They sit, lie and stand in informal poses – only the head of each has been removed. Despite the apparently violent act of decapitation, we don’t immediately recognise the nudes as headless. The insouciance of the models’ poses jar with the shock of the headless body, and the flat planes of colour mislead the eye.
The figures sit in what appear to be domestic settings, a physical space that amplifies the psychological, and blur the line between sanctuary and prison. The mundane is set against the macabre and the result is a pervasive sense of fear and unease. Drawing on her own personal anxieties, as well as from 24 hour news reporting of atrocities abroad and violations of women’s online privacy, Finch brings together both the interior and exterior worlds in these forceful and arresting images.
I asked Jessica about investing in art and her advice was this: “always buy art you love, and you will be investing in the artists and galleries you believe in”.
For more information about Jessica Carlisle and the amazingly talented artists she represents – take a look here and do join the mailing list to be first in the know about an exciting project for October, yet to be revealed….