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MFA students respond to lack of affordable space in London with ‘Life in a Shoebox’


Written by
Sophie Kassay
Published date
24 April 2017

Wimbledon MFA Fine Art students will exhibit small-scale versions of their work in Life in a Shoebox, an exhibition opening this week at the Back Room Gallery in Peckham’s Bussey Building which runs from 26-29 April 2017.

The 31 MFA students exhibiting are responding to urban living, London’s housing shortage and the idea of ‘life lived in a small space’. With space in the nation’s capital at such a premium, the idea of making this the theme of their exhibition was to reflect the circumstances of many young Londoners, as well as the exhibiting artists.

“The MFA Fine Art cohort were searching for different spaces to exhibit in around London and we were trying to find somewhere at an affordable price. The only sorts of gallery spaces we could find within our budget were really small ones, so we decided to base the theme of this exhibition around the fact that we could only afford to show in small gallery spaces,” explains Marie Gerard, MFA Fine Art student, exhibiting artist and Project Manager for the Life in a Shoebox exhibition.

Work by MFA Fine Art student Adele Cload

The students will each exhibit their work inside of identically sized ‘shoeboxes’, designed by fellow MFA student and trained architect Paul Anton.

“We were thinking that it would be an interesting idea to restrict the size in which people could create their work. We thought about how it is unfair that artists always have to not only work but also live in very small spaces in London and that this is a direct result of gentrification. Each of the ‘shoeboxes’ we are showing our work in is a sort of metaphor for the tiny apartments and the rooms that we live in in London,” says Marie.

“It should be interesting because each of the artists has their own unique background and we all have different ways in which we show our artwork. Each box will offer a small window into the artist’s practice.”

The high rental prices and lack of space in London are forcing some creatives out of town and as a result, smaller creative hubs are popping up around the country.

Shoebox by MFA Fine Art student Jenny Timmer

Shoebox by MFA Fine Art student Jenny Timmer

“I think London is amazing because, obviously, it is a massive creative hub. It’s so great to be here and enjoy all the amazing resources we have. But I do think that realistically, to be an artist it is hard in London,” explains Marie.

“You have a lot of different, regional creative hubs already – one that comes to mind is Hastings. It’s not that far from London and there are a lot of artists moving there, so I think that will happen more and more with other cities in the UK.”

Life in a Shoebox is taking place from 26 to 29 April 2017 at the Back Room Gallery, Holdron’s Arcade (part of the Bussey Building), 135A Rye Lane, London SE15 4SI.

Private view: Thursday April 27 6pm – 9pm.

Learn more about studying MFA Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Arts.