Sunday, 12 June 2011

My articles in FOX magazine...

Rankin Loves Kentish Town

In a bright reception beautiful faces look down from frames on the walls whilst next-door a studio is buzzing with assistants. In the flat upstairs Rankin's two dogs wait for their walk.

Since 2009 the impressive facade of Rankin's gallery, studio and home has stood on an unassuming patch of Grafton Road. "I always wanted to have a gallery and studio space of my own, I'd been dreaming of it for a long time," says Rankin.

The gallery gives the public the first chance to see Rankin's work exhibited in a solo space. "When this building became available I jumped at the chance to make it my own," he says.

Rankin was heavily involved in the design of the building itself. Inspired by a 35mm film, it is a sleek silhouette stamped against the cluttered backdrop of Kentish Town.

"It's very modern, quite stark, and all monochrome," says Rankin as he describes the flat he lives in on the top floor, " it has incredible 360 degree views around London. I never tire of the view."

The gallery may be situated on a still and leafy street just a stone's through away from the bleats and oinks of the City Farm, but it couldn't feel like more of a contrast.

You are not likely to find any animals in the all white interior of this building. Apart from Rankin's dogs, of course. When I meet with Kerry Schofield, head of house at Rankin Photography, she is on her way towards the door. As well as overseeing the gallery's upkeep, helping in the studio and organising events, it seems 'dog walking' is an important job requirement.

"It's great to have everthing in one building," says Schofield, "although we have nearly doubled as a team since 2009 being here feels homely. It's like a family."

Despite the family feel, working for one of Britain's most famous fashion photographers isn't without its surreal moments.

"The only time I have ever felt properly star-struck is when Jude Law was here," says Schofield. "He had a lovely bum," she adds with a smile.

With Jude Law (and his bum) coming through the doors and a project with Damien Hirst in the pipeline, Rankin's gallery on Grafton Road seems like the place to be. For now at least though, it is time to leave. I have kept Rankin's dogs waiting quite long enough.

110-114 Grafton Road, open 11:00am to 6:00pm Monday to FridayUrban Decay

Andrew Pegram has lived in North London all his life. Little surprise, therefore, that the title 'urban artist' fits him like a well-crafted suit. "If I go to the countryside I see beautiful things but I don't feel like an artist," he says, "I want to rush back to the city to what I know and love."

With a background in interiors Pegram made the leap to the street in 2005 when he became unhappy working in the family cabinet business. Supported by his wife he embarked on a career change that saw him setting off, camera in hand, to photograph buildings around London.

A self-described 'print-maker, photographer and collector,' Pegram's work draws constant inspiration from his urban environment.

Many of the buildings he captures become colourful prints, whilst others found their way into his book 'Devine Decline,' a collection of images showing London buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

Not the most likely subject for a photographic book, perhaps?

"A lot of my art has to do with finding beauty in what other people don't find beautiful," says Pegram, "in the book I'm showing things that people are predisposed to think are ugly and sad and trying to show that they have an inner beauty."

Yet there is a political message to Pegram's work too. "Although I find the decline divine, it should never have happened," says Pegram, "the main point I'm trying to make is that these are beautiful buildings that should never have been allowed to fall into disrepair."

Peeling paint and empty shop fronts are not uncommon here in Kentish Town. In fact such buildings could be said to be threads in the rich tapestry that is the community. So we have it: the paradoxical beauty of urban decay.

See for details of Andrew Pegram's book
Watch this Space

If a building could speak, I wonder what stories it would tell?

Number 3 Leighton Place would certainly have a lot to say. It was originally a piano factory and throughout its history it has also been a musical school for the blind.

Ten years ago Greek artist Stathis Lagoudakis converted the dilapidated building into a studio and modern flat. The one-time factory became an artist's sanctuary carved into a quiet corner of Kentish Town.

The greatest transformation, however, takes place at the weekend. From Monday to Thursday the ground floor operates as a gym. Come Friday, dumbells, yoga mats and motivational tunes are packed into the cupboard and the room becomes Leighton Space, an exciting exhibition space for cutting edge artists.

"It is not a gallery per se," says Lagoudakis, who opened the arts space in November last year, "it is a space where artists can come and do whatever they like. Apart from destroy it!"

Whether it be a group of university students looking for a space to photograph their work, or a local artist seeking a platform, there is a thread that runs throughout the work exhibited in Leighton Space.

"I look for artists who don't want to do something simply as a commercial enterprise. I want something exciting and different."

The split personality of Leighton Space affords Lagoudakis this liberty. The money made through the gym pays the rent, leaving Lagoudakis free to indulge. "I look for new ideas, for things that aren't just about packaging and selling. Renting spaces puts too much pressure on artists, they need to be able to show their work and experiment."

So why Kentish Town?

"I used to live in Hoxton before it started being Hoxton. The more places like Dalston and Hoxton grow, the more they become pretentious," says Lagoudakis, "this place has a real feel about it. There is an audience here and an energy, the energy you get from having lots of artists and galleries in one area."

It is an energy that Lagoudakis has seen before. "I studied in Chicago and saw how the city changed," he says, "I watched how development followed artists and the places they chose to set themselves up. It's almost like artists are used to develop an area."

The metamorphosis of Number 3 Leighton Place is not just the transformation of a building, but the development of a burgeoning arts scene in Kentish Town. Watch this space? Watch Leighton Space.

3 Leighton Space, available to hire from Fridays 10:30am to Sundays 9:00pm,

1 comment:

  1. Good magazine Libs. And great comment from the printers and driver.
    After all that's your target. Well done S