Life After Chelsea: Mark Lungley – MA Fine Art with Senior Lecturer Brian Chalkley
Continuing our Life After Chelsea series, we caught up with Mark Lungley former MA Fine Art student and now director of the Lungley Gallery, to find out how his experiences at Chelsea and our workshop, studio and gallery environment shaped his practice and led to new opportunities.
Currently on show at the Lungley Gallery until 25th November is Missing, a solo show featuring the work of MA Fine Art Senior Lecturer Brian Dawn Chalkley.
We interviewed Mark and Brian about the show and what led to the collaboration.
“The journey from my MA to now all really began with a project.
“I started the project called Sideroom at Chelsea whilst studying on the MA Fine Art course. It consisted of two wooden partitions that I Graduate Diploma Fine Art student Ilana Blumberg nailed together. Between the two partitions an exhibition space was created.
“We then invited people to come to a different show each week and they ran from Thursday to Tuesday. In a surprising way it just kind of took off from there. We didn’t have a marketing budget so all of our advertisement was done through our social media accounts.
“We invited Chelsea students to put on shows but we also ended up receiving proposals from other art schools, for instance we had one from Richard Lockett at the Royal Academy who did a project for a week and we even had applications from art schools outside of the UK. Sean Mullan, an artist from Düsseldorf Academy saw what we were doing and was coincidentally running a similar project at the time, he put a proposal through and came over from Düsseldorf to install his show. The show was curated by Nadine Cordial, a student from the MA Curating and Collections course at Chelsea.
“The momentum just built from there and our community began to grow and we met people who we wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity to meet. We realised how important this organic way of meeting people was and how essential the Thursday evening private view was in growing our creative community.
“We had a new show every week and we were making our own work as well but I was beginning to realise that I enjoyed working with other artists and other peoples work far more than I did my own. From here my practice began to change and develop. My artwork became an intervention and it became a cycle and in the end everything came back to Sideroom.
“At the degree show Ilana and I decided to put on our own exhibition; a former Chelsea MA Fine Art alumni Daniel Devlin, director of the fictional gallery Sračok & Pöhlmann invited us to do an art fair for his gallery, we installed our show Sideroom at Sluice in Hackney and we invited some of the artists that had previously shown with us at Chelsea.
“We received really good feedback from this and it was the first time our show was opened up to a new audience.
“Sluice is art fair that is specifically run for artist’s project spaces and galleries. We did the show for four days and then a friend of mine Holly who was living above The Haggerston pub, on Kingsland Road said there was a coal space beneath the pub and if I would like to turn it into a gallery.
“I went to the space and noticed a bigger area just outside of the coal bunker and thought I could build a wall and have a bigger space, so a few students who were on my course came and helped me. I cleaned out the room and repainted it and opened it as a gallery.
“Brian and I just got along really well from the very first crit. I trusted him and Brian pushed me and encouraged me to take part in a Salon with Oreet Ashery. It was a story telling exercise, something I didn’t feel very comfortable doing as it involved performance and participation but it was actually great and it opened up a whole new way of thinking for me and I think Sideroom was a product of that salon. It also derived from the conversations we were having about studios at the time and the discussions about what a studio space is and Sideroom really encapsulated all of those ideas.
“I still remember the first thing Brian said on the first day of the MA course, he asked:
what expectations do we have of ourselves?
“I found that question quite overwhelming at first but gradually the more time I spent with Brian I found him very personable and approachable and he was always thinking outside of the institution. From this my thinking changed and Brian really empowered me to empower myself; as all of a sudden the responsibility was on me and the tutors were just there to support my ideas.
“Brian was a really big supporter of Sideroom from day one, he came and asked lots of questions and encouraged the development of the space.”
“I thought Sideroom was a phenomenal invention, it was just two boards put together with a couple of hinges that all of a sudden became a gallery.
“It was a very DaDa-esque moment. It was a very brave moment for Mark when he stopped making his studio work and then Sideroom just happened, it was still an object, still a sculpture but now it was a social sculpture that people could interact with.
“He transformed two simple boards into a social space and that act of transformation is so important; all of a sudden everyone wanted a show there.
“It was that and also Mark’s relationship with people that transformed the boards into a gallery. He let people feel comfortable whilst viewing and making art within them. It allowed people to show work they wouldn’t usually show.”
“We moved Sideroom to the canteen at Chelsea and we had Stephen Wilson reading parts of Brian’s book. It was a strange show with no structure and there was a lot happening. It was interesting because I always felt that Brain had recruited lots of people to come and make the show happen but without actually showing any work.
“There was someone performing card tricks, someone making peach Bellini’s to hand out and someone was dressed up as Brian’s alter ego Dawn.
“Suddenly everyone seemed to encapsulate Dawn or what Dawn could be. That links quite nicely into the fact that downstairs in the Lungley Gallery right now we have 452 portraits of Dawn on show.
“I always knew I was going to work with Brian again and I knew I was going to invite him to be part of the show this year. I told Brian this from the beginning of the year and he started working immediately. There’s something instinctive about choosing one portrait from the others, people maybe look for themselves, for something that they can relate to, physically or metaphorically.”
“I could trust Mark, I gave him 452 intimate portraits and I couldn’t have entrusted them to just anyone. Mark didn’t even see the work until it was ready to show.”
“Brian went on holiday and I went round to his studio and took every portrait off the wall, I left the studio bare.
“Brian invited anyone and everyone to come and be part of his project.”
“Mark and Holly, who proposed the opportunity for Lungley Gallery at The Haggerston pub, chose which images were going to be included in a book about the show published by Spiralbound. The work became a collaboration.
“I think it’s my best show really because I wasn’t there. I was missing. I left myself out of the show. It a great space to be in for me, it’s not full of authorship, I handed over control. I can talk about the show openly as I don’t feel like I did it.
“Maybe Dawn did it.”
“I didn’t expect to make money from the gallery in its first year, I’ve had to pay for the refurbishment of the gallery and to get the artist’s work to the gallery.
“I work as a painter and decorator usually Monday – Wednesday and then I’m here in the gallery the rest of the week.
“So you can do both, you can work and pursue your passion and hopefully eventually the gallery will become a full time job.
“Next on the roster is Michael Pybus, who lives and works in London and all I can say is that he is planning something very over the top.
“Soft Play is opening on 5th December.”
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