A Very Personal View.
It all happened very suddenly. One day there was a message from FPS Manager Gabriel Parfitt about an exhibition space being available at the Espacio Gallery for a reasonable price and at short notice - and by the next day a few of us had already shouted loudly:”Here!” and rallied under the “UNFIXED” banner of Sally Buchanan’s curatorship. Two weeks later the impromptu show was up and running. At first there were only eight of us from FPS, then more artists joined, some of them new to FPS, and in the end there were 15.
For us, the participating artists, it was the speed, the unexpectedness of it all, the playful sense of improvisation that made the organisation appear like a child’s game. This playful mood certainly prevailed on the evening of the hanging. I am not the only artist who never before partook in the actual physical creation of a show. Usually I am happy when one or two of my pieces are selected and I await with great expectation the moment when the show opens. I now experienced the magic process first hand; when the works go up on the wall and the show becomes alive - when the parts become a whole.
Obviously Sally had a carefully worked out plan for the place of the individual pieces, but the spatial conditions and the nature of the art works demanded adjustment and alteration. A small show like UNFIXED allows for democratic decision making. It also encourages a leadership style that is nowadays often referred to as feminine. Thus Sally was open to the views from all artists present who in turn had a hands-on approach to the hanging. This generated an exhilarating co-operative spirit which is so helpful in the bonding of any group. What better way to get to know each other than doing something together?
In some beautifully synchronistic way, it was not just the artists but their works as well which chimed in with each other. Yet, as always on such occasions, there were the devilishly individualistic works that seemingly do neither want to harmonise with anything else, nor do they want to be left hanging all by themselves. They needed quite a bit of coaxing into suitable spaces. Not to forget, there were also some late arrivals of art works on Monday, apt to throw the arrangements of the night before (in some places) over board. It was nearlymidnight when we went home, but Sally worked all through Monday to put on the finishing touches, (euphemism for doing the tedious and time consuming tasks such as labelling and sweeping the floor). When the appropriately named “UNFIXED” show opened on Tuesday there were, of course, still some artists diligently trying to tuck and nip their works and get them to behave properly in their allocated spaces.
By the time of the Private View on Thursday everything was fixed and sorted. The viewers were guided to the exhibition space in the basement through the colourful displays of a solo exhibition on the ground floor. There were so many people enjoying the art and the wine, that we ran out of white wine early in the evening. Gabriel, being the purse string holder and guardian angel, sneaked out and replenished the drinks.
Then it was business as usual: patiently waiting for people to see the show and faint hopes of selling something, which alas did not happen. Zoe’s piece de resistance “Mini She” was spoken for before she got to the show. But then Sally, who was there much of the time to support the “baby sitters” had an idea: She, Zoe Landau Konson and Maria Kaleta would do some “serious” marketing. They donned a sandwich board with the UNFIXED poster, put on paper hats and went down Brick Lane on a Saturday afternoon. Before they set off I was just about able to warn Sally that people might jump to the wrong conclusions if she advertised herself as a “free”artist.
The success of this campaign was stunning! Within three hours more people came to see the show than during the whole of the previous three days! Mainly young folks, but at times the gallery was as crowded as during the Private View. Among them was an elderly gentleman, who Zoe had urged to see the show and to talk to me in the gallery. After a short conversation between two people with entrenched views, he walked off and reported back to Zoe, that now he knew that he would never ever want to see another exhibition of contemporary art. Well, maybe even block- heads like him help to spread the name of FPS!
Among the other unexpected guests there was a man who was fascinated by Sally’s stitched up maps of the world. It must be him, who later contacted her and bought both pieces.
Looking back to this show I like to think that a new model for exhibitions has been created. My problem with our big shows, be they the members or the open show, is that the art on display is too diverse to come together in a unified way. In the UNFIXED show it was by sheer virtue of the limitation that a greater sense of coherence was achieved. I like to think that this is not merely a subjective impression because I was involved, but a perception of potential for the future.
Sally’s advertising spree in Brick Lane could mark the beginning of more courageous and off-beat marketing that will create a wider public awareness of the existence of FPS as a force to be reckoned with, within contemporary art.