July 2014, Kingston upon Thames, London

Artists – Kerr McIlwraith, Ben Giles, Eva Lekaj, Harry Fletcher, Perry-James Sugden, Jack Laurilla, Sophie Morton

Curator – Kelly McIlwraith, Kerr McIlwraith

Assistance – Henri Holz, Tori West, Patrick Mills

Journalism – Daniel Milroy Maher

Kerr McIlwraith, founder of Pen etc. has curated his first group exhibition, entitled ‘Rooftops.’

The Kingston based exhibition aims to “juxtapose the traditional white walled gallery that is often associated with visual arts” and branch out to less prevalent locations. As well as Kerr, the artists showcasing their work include Eva Lekaj, Jack Laurilla, Perry-James Sugden, Harry Fletcher, Sophie Morton and Ben Giles.

The unconventional setting is unique in its intimacy, striving to offer a different backdrop and, by extension, a different viewing experience to the classic boxed in feel of a gallery. This may be part of artists’ increasingly exploratory attempts to leave behind archetypal display locations, and push the boundaries of not only the art itself, but the external factors that can consciously (or subconsciously) affect it.

I spoke to some of the group who exhibited their work about their take on this.

Your pieces were exhibited in a location not conventionally associated with the displaying of visual arts. Does this have any profound effects on the art/provide a different impression for viewers?

Eva Lekaj: I think it is vital to hold exhibitions in unconventional spaces because after all art is what makes life interesting and doesn’t always have to hold an answer. It creates questions that we all tend or need to ask.

Jack Laurilla: Most people will experience the exhibition through photographic documentation. As such, the effects of the location will be slightly intangible when viewed in the context of the screen to on paper. this being said, the unusual backdrop provided by the setting will probably catch the eye greater when scrolling through images online than the customary plain white background that accompanies most of the art we see. If this is the case then this exhibition will have been a success, as the most difficult task an artist faces is getting an audience to pay attention to their work.

Do you think the art world in general is moving away from the conventional exhibition spaces, and if so, why?

Eva: I still think galleries are popular ways of exposing artwork, but I don’t doubt that from the emerging graffiti artists we can see how art can effect us either from just stepping outside our house or going to work; we are met with powerful messages.

Jack: Artists will simply move towards whatever spaces are cheapest.

The answer is simple, then, younger generations of artists are losing interest in some of the extortion ally prices gallery spaces, and taking their work to the street – nothing new there; after all, it’s been an integral part of the East London art scene for a while now. Dark basements and decrepit warehouses are commonplace for art displays

Though, with projects like Pen etc. looking to take this initiative a step further, this may be the start of increasingly unorthodox locations. Cheap and, judging by Rooftops, challenging to get to. Be on the lookout for Pen etc’s next exhibition, which will be taking place in a cave so deep, light will never penetrate it.

© Pen etc 2020