An Interview with the Curators: “On Comfort” and “Distant Mountains”

With the Norman Rea Gallery hosting two opening events on the same night, the set up weekend was twice as busy. I managed to speak to the curators before their opening night.

Catrin Podgorski is no stranger to the Norman Rea Gallery. She joined the team in her first term at university, saying that ‘I had my heart set on it before I came to York, having heard about it on the university's website. It's been the best thing I've been involved with during my time here: I've met some wonderful people who I have a lot in common with, curated 3 exhibitions now, and have learnt so many invaluable things. Being vice-director alongside Chloe Tucker, and director Boglárka Medgyes, in my second year was challenging, but fantastic.’

Her experiences in curating are already impressive. Last year she curated her first solo exhibition at the Norman Rea Gallery titled “Free Beer” which displayed the work of Benjamin Brown. She admits that they ‘were rather overambitious and overzealous about the whole exhibition, but I wouldn't have changed that at all.’ She adds that she has learnt much from her experience and that ‘communication is key, as is the right balance of humour and seriousness.’ Podgorski has also curated exhibitions around York, including very recently in “And How Do You Feel About That? Parts I & II” at the New School House Gallery, which she curated with NRG member Tilly Heydon.

Podgorski came into contact with the work of Jadé Fadojutimi through the Slade School of Fine Art’s 2015 Degree Show where the artist exhibited last June. She says that ‘Initially, it was the tranquillity and beauty that the pieces hold that first drew me to them: they offer a calmness that, especially in a packed out art school show, was unique and soothing: it felt as comforting as coming home. The softness of the palette and shapes are what I love about them the most; they are welcoming and kind.’ Podgorski approached Fadojutimi and fell in love with the connection between landscapes and imagination, stating that ‘though I am not normally so enamoured with painting, her work changed this for me; I'm not sure that she knows that.’

On the other hand, for Jack Richardson, a student of English Literature at the Univeristy of York, this is a new experience. He is both artist and curator of his exhibition “Distant Mountains” which is the first public display of his work. Many of Richardson’s photographs feature his travels in Japan, and when asked about this inspiration, he said that ‘I think newcomers to a place have a head start, in some ways, over locals when it comes to finding inspiration.’ He goes on to add that, ‘knowing interesting places and things off the beaten path is all very well, but in those first few days and weeks one can see so much that is interesting in the apparently everyday. In Japan, I was lucky to be able to experience both viewpoints.’

In his exhibition, Richardson wanted to let the images speak for themselves, ‘I always aimed for minimalism, because it’s the photos people are there to see.’ He says that the display of the photographs shouldn’t distract from them, stating that ‘anything else should only facilitate further understanding of the artwork, but my photos are very definitely intended to be snapshots of a point in time, so in a way I think it’s actually quite helpful to present them without too much context.’

As both artist and curator, Richardson has a deep connection to his works. He says that ‘I love them all for different reasons. I’ve always really liked A Brief Grandeur for the quality of the light and the mystery involved with the central figure, but a lot of people really like The Titan, with the sumo wrestler squeezing through a ticket gate.’ He shows in these works ‘a very Japanese juxtaposition of tradition of modernity.’ Richardson concludes by stating that ‘aesthetically, though, I think Airborne deserves an honourable mention,’ simply, ‘because smoke looks beautiful in black and white.’

“On Comfort” and “Distant Mountains” will be on display from 19th January to 29th January, 2016.

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