Zavier Ellis Talks To Artlyst About Young Gods, Narratives, And Toothpaste

Zavier Ellis

Zavier Ellis is a young artist/curator who runs the highly regarded CHARLIE SMITH London, a gallery with a history of identifying some of London’s best new art talent. Ellis has again curated ‘Young Gods’ at Griffin Gallery, and CHARLIE SMITH London, for the third year running. The artist/curator’s annual selection of graduates from London art schools is recognised as a barometer of the best new London artists. The exhibition has a proven track record for discovering vital new artists and introducing them to the international market. Previous selections have gone on to considerable success with galleries, museums, and collectors, including three artists from the 2013 selection being placed in the Saatchi Gallery collection.

Zavier Ellis was kind enough to give Artlyst a tour of the second part of the artist/curator’s exhibition ‘Young Gods’ at CHARLIE SMITH London, and talks about the work from his selection of up and coming artists from 2014.

“Young Gods started as my selection of London art graduates, when each year I will go to all of the London BA and MA shows, and make my selection of who I think is the most exiting and vigorous among them; it’s an exhibition that I started about ten years ago, which I ran annually at my previous gallery for three or four years – and then re-started the exhibition again about four years ago – after inaugurating CHARLIE SMITH here, half a decade ago. Shortly after, Colart which own Winsor & Newton, approached me about curating the exhibition at their gallery as well. This is now the third year in a row that I’ve curated the exhibition simultaneously in both locations – and that’s really exiting for me, because the Griffin Gallery is quite an institutional sort of space – it’s a big gallery, very high-spec, situated in Shepherd’s Bush in West London. So this gives me the opportunity to present the same artists, at the same time, in different locations – and therefore creating different dynamics, and play with the concept of bridging the two galleries as well.

The selection for this year is of seven artists, although I never limit myself – other than the physicality of the work, where it comes to fitting it in the space – I don’t limit myself to numbers, or to what medium I’m looking for, or which particular colleges I’m looking at. This year there are seven artists, and I have to say as things went, it is quite biased towards the Royal College of Art this year, and I have to say that the Royal College for me has been pretty much the strongest college since they consolidated down in Battersea, I think that year on year they are producing really, really exiting painters, sculptors, and installation artists. I’m also a big fan of the Slade, and Goldsmiths, but for me I think that the Royal College is pipping the others; but I also hold the Slade and Goldsmiths in high esteem. So we have seven artists, four from the Royal College, one from the Slade, and two from Chelsea School of Art. The show also represents a very international selection which I think illustrates the interantional intake at London art colleges; it’s an amazing city in that we have so many high quality art colleges.

The first artist Hilde Krohn Huse is a Norwegian artist for example [with her installation ‘Standing Narratives 2014] – I’m really attracted to text in art – it’s a personal interest of mine, and even more-so the combination of text and image; and I think these are very exiting pieces from the artist, which are basically invented narratives, and the artist is using found images, generally photographs; and in this piece in particular she’s used a box of found photographs that are actually from her family. These are family photographs, along with bits of other materials, like maps. This work is actually based on a true story where her grandparents were, I believe, first cousins – and so there was some sort of consternation within the family – and they moved from one island off of Norway, to another island – and this is a story, a narrative that revolves around that; and the artist represents the narrative in the form of a Police incident board, but I think it is also a signifier of how important the viewer is to the artwork.

For me, somehow, it’s like this with all work, but particularly when there’s text, because we will all read it in different ways. So for me it’s very much a three way relationship: the artist originally, then the object, then the audience; and with a piece like this where we can move around it as well, we aren’t necessarily going to read it left to right, and we are all going to have a different experience of the piece – which is very important to the artist as well. It really is an illustration of how fluid narrative can be and how dependent on personal reading it is – the reading of it by the viewer.

The next work is by Russell Hill, which is ‘Line Drawing’ 2014, I like Russell’s work for its audacity. He uses found objects and everyday materials; they tend to be household materials – here we have a jigsaw [that cuts a line along the wall, and is left protruding from the slit which forms a line mirrored by the electricity cable running into the wall socket behind it] and next to it he’s created a false electricity socket there, in the wall – and it’s very convincing, as I can tell that it not only got you! but Hilde was going try and plug a monitor into it – and I said ‘er actually that’s an artwork’.

But this work is even more interesting when seen in combination with the artist’s other work, where he’s created a wall-sized mural or installation, which is actually a painting made from toothpaste; which is very visceral, like this work, where you get the sense of smell which becomes quite acrid, and there I think, is where the artist’s work is clever as it forces you to question the materials, and your everyday use of them, and maybe even our assumptions about materials. When you have that overpowering smell, and your eyes start watering – you know – maybe you start to question what you’re putting in your mouth twice a day.”

Read part two of Zavier Ellis’s tour here

Read part three of Zavier Ellis’s tour here

Words: Zavier Ellis with Paul Black Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2015 photo Artlyst all rights reserved

Young Gods London Graduates 2014 – Griffin Gallery & CHARLIE SMITH LONDON

Exhibition Dates until Friday February 6th 2015 The Studio Building, 21 Evesham Street, London W11 4AJ

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON Wednesday Until Saturday February 14th 2015 336 Old St, 2nd Floor, London EC1V 9DR


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