Ahead of their first Hampstead fair, we caught up with the artist - photographer duo behind the Cornwall based gallery, North Coast Asylum. Read on to hear about the stunning ocean-inspired works they’ll be taking to the Heath and why, when it comes to discovering emerging talent, you should always go with your gut!
Can you tell us a bit about why you founded North Coast Asylum?
North Coast Asylum was born from our desire to create a non-London based sanctuary aimed at promoting contemporary Cornish based artists and photographers. We both have had experiences dealing with galleries in the past and wanted to create more of a collaborative relationship between the artists and us. As a result, we work with a very low commission rate and do our best to support and promote the brilliant talent we have on board.
After years of working in the London art world at Christie’s Auction House, why did you choose to set up your creative sanctuary in Cornwall?
We wanted to establish an approachable and supportive platform for young artists and buyers to connect, which was something we felt was missing. Cornwall houses a wealth of creative talent and we believed strongly that if we could give some of the emerging talent the appropriate platform, they’d flourish. So far, they’ve completely outshone our expectations! Also, Cornwall is a place of endless inspiration, so it was a no brainer for us two creatives.
What kind of works are you particularly drawn to and how would you describe the pieces we’ll find on your stand?
We're extremely excited about what we’ve curated for the fair and how it sits together. Aesthetically, each of our artists/photographers are bringing something quite different and each piece stands out in its own right. That being said, considering we’re based 100 yards from the ocean, you’ll see that this plays a strong part in all works. You'll see subtle tones of greys, blacks and icy blues alongside bright pop colours reminiscent of Waikiki in the 70's, all inspired by the ocean and the landscape around it.
Which of your artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Put simply, all of them! But from what we’ve seen so far, Nina's (Brooke) latest works inspired from her recent travels to Hawaii are jaw-dropping. She creates vibrant, birds eye seascapes with acrylics. These works have been in huge demand.
In addition, Mimi's (Robson) new mono prints are stunning. She creates collections of work that balance masterful discipline and spontaneity which explore the idea of Haptic Perceptions. Moments that make it possible to comprehend vast spaces. They are breathtaking, and work that you can find yourself getting lost in.
As you’re both practising artists yourselves, could you tell us a bit about your own style and the inspiration behind your works?
Jo: I create representational landscape and portraiture art, through using my hands and fingers to apply charcoal to paper. This adds a unique and emotional quality to the works. Often these works can be mistaken to fit into the genre of realism, however I create my works through a multitude of scribbly lines. So, the closer to the artwork you move, the more abstract it becomes. I like the idea of playing with shapes to create something that appears representational on a large scale.
Ben: As a photographer, inspiration for me comes in a very physical form. I have certain places and seasons that seem to offer endless inspiration. More often than not however, these places revolve around being in and around water (in whatever form). I love the different effect light can bring on water as it reflects and refracts whilst also changing from day to day.
What advice would you give to collectors looking to pick up a piece by the next big thing?
Always trust your gut - the chances are it will be right. Go with something you have a strong emotional reaction to, that piece that you'll be thinking about for months if you don't buy. If you have this reaction to a work or even an entire collection, its highly likely that many other people will too.
Header image: Ben and Jo in the gallery.
Artwork images from top to bottom: Joanna Painter, Palm, charcoal on paper, original, 150 x 110cm, £2,900, North Coast Asylum.
Nina Brook, Hawaiian Parasol, acrylic on canvas, original, 90 x 90cm, £3,000, North Coast Asylum.
Mimi Robson, There is only dancing and flowing, mono print with chine cole, original, 61 x 40cm, £1,200, North Coast Asylum.
Toby Butler, S2-1, photographic prints, edition of 15, 594 x 396cm, £300, North Coast Asylum.