Selecting work from the open call was a challenging but fun and inspiring process. We had thousands off high quality applications to view and from which I had to choose my favourites. I’m sure you can see why this was challenging! At first, I was getting excited about work that was good and well executed, as well as those works that moved me. Once I realised I had selected way more than would fit in the gallery, and had unwittingly created a very extensive long list, I had to really consider what moved me – what made me have a visceral, embodied reaction. This is far from a logical way to select artwork but I had already selected a large number of very well executed works and needed to cut it down significantly. After some time, I realised that most of the works in my selection felt solid and somehow meaningful to me. At this point, I knew I was on the right track.
All of the judges will have had their own way of selecting. This is what makes this opportunity so unique. What I would like to say to the artists is that if this and other judging processes I have been involved with have taught me anything at all, it is not to take it personally if you are not selected. It doesn’t mean the work isn’t good. It could be that the work didn’t fit the curatorial vision of the selectors. And as an artist, you have no idea what that is. The great thing about this opportunity is that there are six judges and therefore six people with different tastes and visions. So six chances to get in. So if you didn’t get in this time, try and try again.
I am really excited about my invited artists and I have no idea what most of them will be submitting. I invited artists whose work I have admired for some time. I am particularly excited to see some new pollution absorbing sculptures by Dr Jasmine Pradessitto, another masterful hyperrealistic drawing by Kelvin Okafor, a funky new work by Emmanuel De Sousa, new abstract works by Othello De Souza Hartley and new sculpture work by Arlene Wandera. Of course I’m very excited by the prospect of seeing works from all of the ladies from the two collective I am a founding member of- the BBFA Collective and the INFEMS art collective.
Like most of us who work in this industry, I am particularly excited that things appear, at least at the moment (touch wood), to be going back to normal – as evidenced by the fact that Frieze week seemed to go without a hitch and there were a tonne of fabulous events to attend. I am very happy about the fact that we get to physically place these works in the Mall Galleries and to have several in person events around the exhibition (all being well of course, fingers crossed). However, I think the pandemic has taught us what the real value of art is, especially with regard to our mental health. We need it to sustain and connect us- those of us who make it, those of us who love it, those of us who are indifferent and even those of us who hate it or claim not to understand it.
If fair season has shown me anything, it is how badly we have all missed being able to physically be with great art and each other to discuss it and absorb its magic. Getting to see shows again has shown me how resilient art is and how important it is to help us to interpret, digest and heal from the trauma we have all faced. Seeing the various ways other artists have used their work to deal with everything has been nothing short of inspirational. But art has always done this for humans, it’s just that sometimes we forget.
I think it will be fascinating to look back on the work produced now in five, 10 and 20 years time. Then we will really see in retrospect if we as artists have managed to capture the spirit of the times we are living in.