Sophie Dishman

Interview: Crab Walk Curators

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Crab Walk is a new exhibition that is being held at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland. 

Sophie Dishman went to the opening night of the exhibition on Thursday October 29 and spoke to the curators, Ned McConnell and George Vasey.

S: Can you tell me more about the Crab Walk Exhibition? 

N: Well it came out of an exhibition that we did in Plymouth earlier in 2015 which was called ‘Breaking Up is Hard To Do’. It’s got all of the same artists but has two additions. We were interested in developing the ideas around Breaking Up is Hard to Do which is based on a Kazimir Malevich painting called the Black Square. This show Crab Walk comes from the term “Krebsgang” and it’s a translation of that into the term Crab Walk. It comes out of a book by Gunter Grass and it refers to the idea that you have to move backwards to be able to move forwards.

G: Crab Walk is an exhibition that Ned McConnell and myself co-curated. We were using the 100 year anniversary of a very famous painting which is seen as the first abstract painting called Black Square and in that 100 years it’s cracking up and breaking up and under that black painting is a kind of figurative painting emerging so that’s kind of the metaphor for a lot of work within the show.

When we toured the show we wanted to change it, we didn’t want to just re-present the same show.

S: How did the event come together?

N: We spoke to artists.  I came up in the summer and me and George had a whole day together to talk and look at the gallery space and figure out where things would go and what would work and what wouldn’t.

G: I had the commitment in place already from the show in Plymouth so I thought it would make sense to connect it to what I was doing in Sunderland rather than just doing two separate shows and it’s nice to work with artists over a two year period – to really get to know their work and then invite them to make new work – I think that’s really important.

S: What do you like about Crab Walk from an arts perspective?

N: I think it’s an interesting show for us because it’s not your average show I suppose where all of the works have a kind of intrinsic connection to each other. There’s a real variety of medium, a variety of practice and I think that’s what’s really interesting.

G: I work with artists that I admire and I’m interested in their practice and their work. That’s all that matters to me – supporting artists that I like.

S: Do you think Crab Walk will do well?

N: I hope so. I think there’s some important artists in it, some young artists in it getting a chance to show stuff to a new audience for the first time. I just hope that the people in the North East get a chance to engage with it.

G: I hope it does. There’s two ways of doing well – there’s getting big audiences and people enjoying it but there’s also principle and critical success – hoping it can get reviewed. It’s important for the artists. It’s important that it gets written about and the artists are happy and get opportunities from it, that for me is success.

S: Have there been any challenges within this exhibition? 

N: I think an exhibition like this is always quite challenging. Fundraising is always a challenge. I think that working together with another curator is really great but it also brings challenges  when we have a different perspective on things but it’s great to be able to talk through things with someone else and you learn from that process.

G: There’s always challenges with each and every exhibition – predominately budgeting and logistical issues. But those are the things that make you creative, having limited amounts of money and having limited amounts of space and time to do what you want – people would be frozen by that.

S: Are there any other exhibitions that you will be getting involved in with the NGCA?

N: Not currently, no. I suppose I would never say never.

G: I’m working on 6 or 7 shows for next year, I’m doing shows up until 2017.

You can see the Crab Walk exhibition on the third floor of the City Library from now until February 20 2016.

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