Having looked into some innovative and exciting artistic spaces, SuperGlue now looks towards London. Art Galleries in London have begun to climb out of their imposed hibernation, providing artists with opportunities to show their work in spaces across the city. As any Londoner will attest to, the spaces for showing and displaying art in London have tended towards an art establishment, comprised of money orientated, and often conservative manifestations of art. However, in recent times, art has moved to the fringes of the city, away from tired lights of the West End. One such space is Collective Ending HQ, based in Deptford, in South East London.
Collective Ending is an artist led project that champions art that challenges conventions, providing space for experimental artists to show their work. Forming off the back of the year-long exhibition ABSINTHE, the project has its base in Deptford, which serves as an exhibition space, as well as hosting various workshops and studios for artists. The project also has collaboration at its core, a feature us at SuperGlue love. Find out the exciting work that is happening at Collective Ending in the interview below.
SuperGlue: Can you please briefly explain what Collective Ending is?
Collective Ending: Collective Ending emerged during a year-long project called ABSINTHE, which encompassed a series of three large-scale exhibitions of emerging art hosted at the Spit & Sawdust pub in Bermondsey during 2019. Following this, a core group of artists and makers from the ABSINTHE project transformed a large unoccupied warehouse in Deptford, London into a collectively run studio and gallery complex which became Collective Ending HQ. Now in its third year of operation, the HQ provides studios for nine practicing artists as well as three writers and curators. The project is coordinated by those in residence and supports emerging artists by providing resources to explore and develop their practice in a collaborative and experimental setting with access to various workshops, peer networks and gallery space.
SG: What was the impetus for creating Collective Ending?
CE: There are many driving forces behind Collective Ending as an initiative and the creation of its physical space. Firstly, the acute obstacles faced by small/mid-sized galleries today, especially in London and in the established art market system, leads more often than not to the less ambitious, ‘playing it safe’ exhibition programmes intended to and present a specific form of commercialised art. The main outcome that arose from ABSINTHE was the clear need for a community, the need for a support system for emerging artists and practices that sit outside of a commercial gallery context. Many relationships formed through this project have led, not only to Collective Ending, but other collaborative ventures.
SG: As an artist-led organisation, how does artistic practice come into play?
CE: Collective Ending has artistic practice at its core. The initial series of ABSINTHE exhibitions saw all types of practitioners — sculptors, painters, performers, poets and musicians — come together to showcase their work without restrictions and with an emphasis on engaging audiences in an unfiltered and meaningful way. This principle continues at Collective Ending HQ, where resident studio holders have access to many on-site facilities: wood workshops, spray and resin booths, a collective office and gallery space stretching across 270sqm – as well as accessible dialogue with other artists and curators. From the perspective of studio provision, we aim to listen to and facilitate the needs of a developing artist working in London.
SG: How do you choose the artists within the exhibitions?
CE: It was a shared desire “to make things happen” that led to ABSINTHE, and it is this fundamental aspiration that continues to inform our strategy. In 2019, 90 artists exhibited in three back-to-back iterations of the ABSINTHE programme, hosted across three floors and the garden space of the Spit & Sawdust pub. This selection was made by founding members Billy Fraser and Charlie Mills and featured the works of emerging artists from institutions across London. At the HQ, our resident curators and artists group together to take turns in programming the gallery space – focussing on bringing new talent to the space and helping to formulate introductions and facilitate connections between various artistic groups. The gallery space was soft launched with a presentation by the resident studio holders, followed by an exhibition titled A Land of Incomparable Beauty organised by Alia Hamaoui, Charlie Mills and former member Byzantia Harlow. Most recently Billy Fraser and Hector Campbell organised the group exhibition ‘Old Friends, New Friends’ and coming next is another group presentation titled ‘Squeezebox’ organised by Elliot Fox, Georgia Stephenson and Ted Le Swer. The studio holders are able to work in a cyclical way so as something new and dynamic is always in the works to present to the public – which is exciting, both for us and hopefully for them!
SG: What is your general underlying discourse through the different exhibitions?
CE: Collective Ending is rooted in facilitating creative connections and bringing people together. This is not always thematic in our exhibitions but always an intentional real-world effect.
SG: How do you feel about the current state of art and exhibition spaces in London at the moment?
CE: London is notoriously exclusive and expensive, especially for practicing artists – Collective Ending HQ aims to contribute to a positive change, with an affordable, integrated studio offering for artists. That being said, the pandemic has shaken up the state of physical space in London. On the whole, rents in the centre of the city are reducing as more and more retail spaces close – we could be on the cusp of some significant changes to how creative spaces can occupy the city. Overall though, after a year of compromise it’s invigorating to be able to invite new guests to our space and to visit others in theirs.
SG: Finally, could you tell us about what is coming up at Collective Ending in the future?
CE: Our next exhibition, squeezebox, is opening on 5th June. Three of our studio holders (artists Elliot Fox and Ted Le Swer, and curator Georgia Stephenson) have designed and are building a temporary structure, made mostly from polystyrene. This material is commonly used for construction work and mould-making; where it operates as an inner tissue of sorts. The material’s malleable and speculative properties offer a range of ways in which it can interact with the artworks. In this, squeezebox attempts to offer an alternative mode for the presentation of artworks – by Niccolo Binda, Lucas Dupuy, Anna Gonzalez Noguchi, Clark Keatley, Eleni Papazoglou and Jinia Tasnin. Following this, the HQ’s studio holders will be visiting St Ives in Cornwall for a residency with the New School St Ives, and then towards the latter half of the summer we will be opening an events programme to the public, in the gallery space. There’s lots to look forward to!
Sticking it to the man since 2021