Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Artsper Interview with Paul Carey Kent

Bernard Frize: Lescilia, 2014

Estelle Pérouse de Montclos, of the originally French online platform Artsper, which is expanding in Britain,  interviewed me for the 'Inpirations' section. See www.artsper.com/fr

Could you tell us a little about yourself, background and career path?

I was always interested in art, and although I was in the academic stream at school, I was allowed to take O level art without any lessons. I couldn't do that at A level, and I went to university to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Afterwards I qualified as an accountant, opting for a career in public sector financial management: my main aim is to help make the most of available resources to provide services – mostly in local government, but I've also been Financial Controller for Social Care at the Department of Health. I continued making my own art, and also wrote poetry and did a part-time MPhil in creative writing. Those various interests came together when I was involved as Editor at Large of the new magazine Art World which ran from 2007-09. It was widely admired, but not profitable!  Then I started my blog and carried on writing about art for various magazines and galleries. Just in the last two years I’ve started curating as well.

Where does your writing appear? 

This year it's appeared in print in Art Monthly (most frequently), Frieze, Art Review, STATE and Border Crossings (the excellent Winnipeg-based magazine), plus book reviews for The Art Newspaper. Online I've written for Photomonitor, artcritical (my US outlet), Artlyst and Fast Art Daily. Plus various catalogues. See recommended London shows at paulsartworld.blogspot.com plus weekly column at www.fadwebsite.com.

How did your passion for art start?

Like many children I loved drawing and that led me to into the history of art. I grew up in Hastings, so shows weren’t on my doorstep, but I remember Botticelli at the National Gallery being my first ‘art crush’. The big Picasso retrospective at the Hayward in 1981 was the first more contemporary show to knock my socks off.

You work full time for finance, but art is your passion. Did you ever think of dedicating yourself to art only?

I'd say I'm also passionate about improving the value for money in the public sector!  That aside, though, there isn’t much money to be made writing about art: on average I probably get £100 per review. So no, I couldn’t live on that! On the other hand, I am due to retire in the next couple of years…...

How do you choose the topics of your articles?

My blog choices are simple enough: I visit about 70-80 shows a month in London and choose the dozen or so I think are most interesting for quality, variety, and revealing the unexpected. Plus I need to feel I have something to say in 120-odd words: I never copy the press release (as lots of on-line writers seem to!). AS for longer reviews, sometimes magazines ask me to cover a particular show, but more often you have to pitch a proposal. My weekly column Paul’s Art Stuff on a Train at Fast Art News offers me an outlet for quirky thoughts about whatever I fancy, and the first hundred of those have been really enjoyable to write. I live in Southampton but work in London and, as the column title suggests, quite a lot gets written during the four hours I’m traveling most days…

Are you particularly sensitive to contemporary art?

There's an obvious appeal to writing about what’s new, but neither my blog nor my visits are restricted to the contemporary. My favourite show in London at the moment is probably Eric Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

You started your own blog ‘Paul’s Art World’ in 2009, can you tell us how you see the evolution of the blog? 

I’m not sure it does evolve much! The evolution is in everything else I do, the blog just comes naturally out of my activity – I’d be making notes about the art I've seen anyway.  And now, when I’m curating a show, it’s handy to have my own searchable views on tap for the thousand or show shows I’ve liked.  

Any cultural events in 2015 that you are excited about?

I go to Basel every June, and to Venice every two years for the Biennale, which is this year.  They’re always stimulating trips. I’m also looking forward to the Agnes Martin show at the Tate, Carsten Holler at the Hayward, the Speaking Parts celebration of artists who use text and language (Raven Row 15-24 May)  and the inaugural edition (8–14 June) of Block Universe, a new annual festival for performance art in London.  Beyond visual art, I'm going with my wife to the Hay Literary Festival shortly, there’s the last series of Mad Men, new books due from poet friends such as Claire Crowther and Tamar Yoseloff, and The Proms with my Mum, who's been attending for 65 years and is at least as passionate about music as I am about art!

If you had Tate Modern for a summer, what would you programme?

I'd like to highlight artists insufficiently appreciated in London. I’d invite Anri Sala to fill the Turbine Hall, hold an exhibition of contemporary Canadian art and a full retrospective of Bernard Frize's paintings (in fact, several French artists would justify such a show in London: Bertrand Lavier, Gérard Deschamps and Annette Messager, for example).  Special displays would be dedicated to the films of Shana Moulton, the sculpture of Kim Lim, the Japanese Gutai group, and African photography.

What’s the best gallery in London? 

The most consistently impressive public programme is probably at Camden Arts Centre. Parasol Unit, Anita Zabludowicz, David Roberts and Raven Row are excellent private non-profit spaces. Londoners are lucky that what I’d guess are the world’s top five international commercial galleries have big spaces here – Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Marian Goodman, David Zwirner and Pace. They have impressive programmes, as do Sadie Coles, Victoria Miro and White Cube from a British base.  But I also like the sheer variety of different spaces:  my centrally-located favourites include Carroll / Fletcher, Jack Bell and Josh Lilley. Further east are Maureen Paley and four others on the Herald Street block, Carlos / Ishikawa, Vilma Gold and Seventeen; to the south are, for example: Vitrine, Copperfield, the run of galleries by Deptford railway station, the Sunday Painter in Peckham.  I also rate some of the shows in galleries which aren’t perhaps seen as so fashionable, for example Gimpel Fils, Flowers, Robilant + Voena and Purdy Hicks.

If you could ask one question to one artist what would it be?

I’d like to bring Leonardo da Vinci back from the dead, give him a year to absorb the modern world, then ask him: what do you think of that? In general and more practically, I‘m always keen to understand the thinking behind artists’ works: I like to assess first whether they succeed in their own terms before asking whether those aims are worthwhile. 

What are your projects for 2015?

Others may come up, but I’m currently expecting to curate four big group shows this year: in London The Presence of Absence ran from January to March at the Berloni Gallery and Weight for the Showing is on until June 13 at Maddox Arts. I’m co-curating with Bella Easton in Berlin in late September, showing the work of ten artists together with the ‘collateral’ product which comes with making it; and I’m putting together a show on Ikea in art in Warrington – site of Britain’s first and still busiest Ikea store – as part of the Northern Festival of Contemporary Art in October. Then there's the book I’m writing on how best to integrate health and social care.....

As a blogger, what do you think of the relation between art and the digital world?  What do you think about the innovative concept of Artsper?

The digital immensely improves information and eases access to the real world of art, but so far I don’t think much art made specifically for the realm is particularly compelling, nor do I think the digital experience of other art  adequately  replaces going to see it ‘in the flesh’. Should those positions change, we’ll see some massive impacts.  Artsper is well-organised, provides excellent information, and is easy to navigate. That makes it useful although – so far – only a minority of the work featured is to my particular taste. That minority includes the following...


Tom Wesselmann: Fast Sketch Fruit and Goldfish, 1989 - offered by Markowicz Fine Art, Miami

Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) was very direct about correlating the joy he found in life – sex, very often, or food - with the aesthetic of his art. That suits the primacy of drawing in his painting, which he takes a step further in the stream of work which aimed ‘to preserve the process and immediacy of my drawings from life, complete with the false lines and errors, and realise them in steel’. You can sense that still in this translation back to paper.

Anna Bjerger: Fight, 2014 - offered by David Risley, Copenhagen

Not a few painters collect diverse photographic images which they re-present, but Bjerger’s luminous oils on aluminium transform her sources in a hauntingly winning way, flickering back and forth between the recorded moment and the painterly elevation of its significance. Besides, what’s not to like about karate in the snow?


Tom Dale: The Mighty Crowns, 2014 - offered by The Multiple Store, London

This bronze edition of fireworks is typical of Tom Dale’s quirky conceptual approaches, often linked to failure, which take immensely varied forms. Obviously these won’t leave the ground  but Dale sees them as ‘attempts to reach the infinite as rituals that try to fix meaning, just as the grand memorials and monuments in bronze try, but ultimately fail, to fix memories in time’.

Sarah Maple: Self-portrait with melons, 2013 - offered by Emerge Gallery, Paris
Sarah Maple, having grown up in genteel south coast Eastbourne with an Iranian mother and a Kentish father, makes wittily provocative sallies against misogyny, Islamic stereotyping and the art world. Here, she twists those into a playful tribute to a differently assertive woman artist - Sarah Lucas, who has famously smoked in self-portraits, made work from cigarettes, and put melons on a table to caricature the caricaturing of the female. 

Allan McCollum: The Book of Shapes, 2010   - offered by mfc-michèle Didier, Brussels

This book is the most economical way – in cash and concept – to grasp US artist Alan McCollum’s grand scheme for creating a vast number of potential artworks without repeating himself. The Shapes Project is system for the computerised production of 31 billion different possible shapes – that’s one for everyone who’s expected to be alive in 2050, the theoretical completion date for the project from its initiation in 2005. 

Bram Bogart: Dwarsboom, 1991 - offered by Abstractart Gallery, Brussels

The wall-like paint and concrete of the expressionistically minimalist paintings of the Dutch-Belgian Bram Bogart (1921-2012) can weigh up to 300kg, such is the accumulation of material. They’ve been described as sensuous rock faces, though it also makes sense that he started out by painting houses. 'Cross-boom' might be the translation for that lip-streak of red.

Jacques Villeglé: Les murs ont la parole, 2008   - offered by Alain Buyse, Lille
The French veteran (born 1926) is known for his torn poster works. There are print versions, but that makes little sense - whereas the graphic socio-political alphabets on which he’s concentrated since the 70’s on are a natural fit. They’re also drawn from graffiti, so 'the walls do the talking': and A is anarchistically encircled, E becomes Chakhotin’s three arrows, counter-attacking the swastika of the F, etc.’ 

Petros Chrisostomou: Duplicate, 2010 - offered by LN Edition, France

I came across the work of New York based London-born Cypriot Petros Chrisostomou when he was studying at the Royal Academy in London. He puts everyday items into miniature, architecturally-informed, interiors so that photographs transform them into surreally outsized sculptural objects. The effect is a bit like sitting on a still train as the train alongside you moves out of the station – here with the added frisson of shoes as lovers.

 Katrin Bremermann: Untitled, 2014 - offered by Galerie Vidal-Saint Phalle, Paris

You can currently see Bremen-born Paris-based Katrin Bremermann’s elegantly unruly explorations of the language of painting at Raumx in London. Her abstractions operate on the scuffed edge of the minimal between painting as object, support and image; and between colour as surface effect and sculptural element – and also work well, as here, on paper.

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.