Out Of His Heads – New sculpture by Richard Slatter at Chelsea Futurespace

February 17, 2011

On Tuesday 15th February our sister gallery, Chelsea Futurespace, is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a special private view of new sculpture by Richard Slatter.

You are invited to this special Private View Today: 6-8.30pm Chelsea Futurespace, Hepworth Court, Grosvenor Waterside, Gatliff Road (off Ebury Bridge Road), London, SW1W 8QP.The show is curated by artist and CHELSEA space Research Fellow Barbara Elting and she has designed and edited a new colour publication to accompany the show with texts by herself and artist Susan Forsyth plus a forward by John Nicholl and photographs by Mike Iveson.

In 2005 CHELSEA space Director Donald Smith was approached by Mark Davy of Futurecity Arts consultants to come up with a proposal for an exhibiting space within the Grosvenor Waterside development and Donald’s idea was for a showcase space for alumni and staff of Chelsea College of Art and Design to enable a partial history of Chelsea artists to emerge. Chelsea Futurespace became part of the cultural strategy for the site, owned by property developers St James Urban Living, and constituted part of the Section 106 Planning Application to Westminster Council (approved). Other parts of the cultural strategy included a permanent work by Richard Wilson, a water sculpture by Chelsea alumnus Ekkehard Altenberger, and buildings by MAKE architects with an etched metal facade by artist Clare Woods.

Richard Wilson’s Shack Stack at Grosvenor Waterside is his first permanent work in London and is a very interesting piece of art in the ‘public realm’; it is a monumental aluminium cast of a stack of three allotment sheds which appear to have dropped, meteor-like, into the plush architectural setting of the Grosvenor Waterside Development. The aluminium cast is highly detailed and very intimately shows the Do It Yourself ‘make-do’ culture of British gardening enthusiasts – a stark contrast to the architectural precision and power of the construction industry and the glossy facades of property development. The aluminium finish of Wilson’s piece makes it a kind of Trojan Horse, assimilating the slick finish of the surrounding buildings but alluding to another culture entirely.

The problem for property developers and local councils when creating new residential developments is how to create a place to which people will want to come and that serves the bigger community in the proximity of the development – a place for the many and not just the elite few who can afford to buy appartments. Cultural Placemaking is a skill and Futurecity and its Director, Mark Davy, are at the top of their game; CHELSEA space have had a very constructive partnership working with Futurecity and Chelsea Futurespace has proved a useful adjunct to our programme and activities. Chelsea Futurespace has allowed us to showcase artists and tell something of the story of an art school, and it has allowed us to test the possibilities of creating a credible exhibiting space within an unlikely situation. In return, particularly in the early days of the development, we have brought public audiences (people!) to the site and have helped to put a new address firmly on the map and in the public conciousness.

Happy 5th anniversary to Chelsea Futurespace! Thanks and congratulations to all the artists who have exhibited there and a special thanks to Futurecity and St James Urban Living who have sponsored this project.


Stephen Farthing’s Ultra Marine Painting

December 17, 2010

Stephen Farthing RA, artist, writer, and co-curator of  The Life Room at CHELSEA space has opened a magnificent exhibition entitled The Back Story at the Royal Academy of Arts as part of their ‘Artists’ Laboratory’ series. The brilliant centrepiece of the exhibition is a 10m (30ft) long painting of the Atlantic Ocean entitled Painting The Atlantic which coincidently was commissioned by CHELSEA space Director Donald Smith  for the inaugural exhibition at CHELSEA space’s sister gallery, Chelsea Futurespace.

On Tuesday 16th November, the CHELSEA space team headed down to the Royal Academy to hear Stephen Farthing talk about his work and his research. The ‘Artists Laboratory’ series, not unlike CHELSEA space,  ”sets out to uncover aspects of the thinking and working processes behind making works of art and architecture”, Farthing was on good form and very generously gave us insights into his painting and thinking processes. Although there are common threads running throughout his work, Farthing tends to work in “projects” taking on a theme, an idea, or a pictorial painting problem. He probes his chosen  subject making countless drawings, preparatory paintings, and finished artworks until he feels he has exhausted his line of enquiry and then moves on to a new “project”. He decribed this restless enquiry as a journey or long walk, never knowing what’s ahead and contrasted this with artists who repetitively rework a single idea, which he likened to living in a prison and being forced to constantly repaint the bars. In the exhibition he presents five “projects”.


When Stephen Farthing was approached by Donald Smith and Futurecity’s Mark Davy to make the inaugural exhibition at Chelsea Futurespace, he was working between his studio near the Thames at Millbank and his studio by the ocean on Long Island, New York and so he proposed a large painting depicting these two points and the vast expanse of water in between. The painting was started in New York and finished in London and had the working title Thames and Hudson. In the event he realised that both rivers flowed into the sea from west to east and gradually he dispensed with any idea of land mass or nautical architecture and instead concentrated on the water itself. This vast painting was never preconcieved in its entirety through a single sketch overview, instead his preparatory works were a series of small works on paper and canvas each containing a single gestural mark that could be used as a vocabulary of watery forms throughout the painting. He likened these marks to Arabic script.

The catalogue essay for Stephen Farthing’s 2006 Chelsea Futurespace exhibition was written by Lisa Le Feuvre who curated the landmark  Avalanche exhibition at CHELSEA space in 2005 and who was recently appointed Head of Sculpture Studies at The Henry Moore Institute.  Le Feuvre, coincidently, also wrote the introduction for our current exhibition, Shelagh Cluett: Sculpture 1977-1980. Farthing’s publication for his Royal Academy exhibition is a well designed and useful book and includes an essay by David Scott Kastan, Professor of English at Yale University, and an artists’ interview between Stephen Farthing and Stephen Chambers.

By Donald Smith, Chelsea Futurespace




Innovative art + engagement in Cambridge

November 17, 2010

Futurecity recently commissioned Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination (CCI) to work with residents in and around Trumpington nr. Cambridge.
The is the first stage of delivery in Futurecity’s major public art strategy for Countryside Properties’ new Great Kneighton development (formally known as Clay Farm and Glebe Farm) adjacent to Trumpington.

CCI engaged with over 200 people through ‘Art and Living’, a series of inspiring creative workshops. CCI artists used local natural materials to enable play, conversation and creativity to reveal local opinion and aspirations for both art and the developments. From this they have produced ‘Art and Living, an A-Z for Trumpington’, a publication of the ideas, images and stories, drawn from these workshops. It will be offered as an inspirational resource for all artists and design teams working on Clay Farm and Glebe Farm as well as a souvenir and record of the Art and Living project.


TEDx Talk: Rise of the Creative District

October 28, 2010

In October 2010 Futurecity’s Director, Mark Davy, was invited to to talk at London’s TEDx event focussing on marketing and advertising.

The day explored the complex choice architecture that exists today, posing questions such as: why do people make the choices that they do? And how do they choose? How do emotions and intellect combine? Or do they? How do people think? And most important of all, how best do you influence choice?

In the past businesses have largely ignored these questions, choosing instead to explore choice empirically and retrospectively – “here’s what we’ve made, what do you think?” It’s a trial and error approach, usually cost intensive and unpredictable. Which is the reason why so many business leaders fail to understand its potential and resort to running their operations on strictly logical, rational terms.

Mark’s talk explore how choices are made which lead to the built environment that we currently have, and introduced Futurecity’s principles for creative districts and Cultural Masterplanning, that we believe provide a solution for better placemaking.


Mark Titchner and Deptford X

September 10, 2010

Futurecity worked with Deptford X to commission a series of art hoardings for Lewisham’s fleet of refuse trucks. The work is by Turner prize nominee Mark Titchner.


Wayfinding through cultural intervention

August 11, 2010

Wayfinding is thin on the ground inside the glass and steel vistas of the Westfield centre in west London. This is not a criticism; in fact the glistening CG world encountered upon stumbling in from the mean west London Victorian streets uses it’s own architectural detailing and a plethora of temporary creative activity in its main squares to define it’s ‘streets’. And it does have streets, and squares, all under a sinuous curved glass lid. Costing £1.4 billion, it is the largest ‘urban area’ (as opposed to out-of-town) indoor shopping destination in Europe, the equivalent in space to 30 football pitches. One of the first indications of Westfield’s scale once inside is the presence of a shopping centre – ‘the Village’, which contains high-end clothing brands. ‘Westfield shopping centre: so massive, it’s got a shopping centre in it’.


Richard Wilson’s new sculpture greets the arrival of Spring

April 9, 2010

Richard Wilson’s latest monumental sculpture ‘Shack Stack’, was installed in the Civic Square at Grosvenor Waterside this week, under a hazy blue sky, which welcomed spring to London and marked the beginning of outdoor living for 2010. As one of many Londoners currently peeling off the layers of winter hibernation and turning my face up to that first hint of gentle warmth in the sun’s rays, I can’t help but feel bubbling excitement as I watch the open spaces of our city come alive again, re-populated by the pale, blinking dwellers of the capital.

As first the dogs and then the children, followed more uncertainly by the adults, emerge from darkened buildings and take those first tentative steps onto freshly sown grass, or gingerly perch on the benches and walls of London’s many squares, one re-examines with new eyes, the sculptures, monuments and furniture that permanently inhabit and are framed by these spaces.

Seeing Richard’s artwork now seated at the centre of the civic square at Grosvenor Waterside, creates new visas and highlights new perspectives on the surrounding architecture, adding another layer to the fabric of the urban landscape. Instead of a paved space to traverse blindly and with speed, ones footsteps are suspended by the three cast aluminium elements, which make up ‘Shack Stack’. They balance with gravity defying precariousness, one on top of the other, like children’s building blocks tumbled from a great height. These abstracted structures, which are far rougher and less regimented than the shining facades and polished surfaces of the new buildings recently built here, provide a gentle juxtaposition. The shed like constructions reference the textures and shapes commonly found on Britain’s allotments, the dilapidated shed, the temporary shelter from the elements for a dedicated gardener. Yet, having been abandoned and piled carelessly here, they give us a new space to explore in the continuously advancing construction of the city.

When I look through the square, I now see a series of silhouettes, where before I just saw buildings. Now I notice the differing heights of the roofs, made so both by perspective and construction. Now I see the way the sunlight shafts between the sharp edifices, from the railway through to the road, and how the shadows from Richard Wilson’s sculpture, and from the nearby trees and buildings, cross the paving during the day.

The giant has now left the playground where his building blocks have fallen and what we, the city dwellers are left with, is a new space of encounter to unravel.


Peter Newman’s Skystation film completed

March 19, 2010

Take a look at Peter Newman’s recently completed time-lapse film, shot on London’s Southbank whilst his sculpture Skystation was on show. Skystation is a circular outdoor sculpture, which also acts as a piece of seating, and during the summer months of 2009, on the terrace outside the Hayward Gallery, it proved a hugely popular attraction.

Peter Newman became fascinated in the way that the work engaged with people across all spectrums and he began to film their movements and the patterns of use around the sculpture. He spent many days filming these private moments as Londoners and tourists walked around, lay on or observed the artwork.  This wonderfully atmospheric short film portraying London’s bustling Southbank from dawn till dusk on a hot summer day is the result of this process of observation and reflection.

Skystation, as a sculptural seating project, was always designed to encourage contemplation. An object to be both observed and used, the very nature of the work provides a unique opportunity to see people interact in the public sphere. The shape of the Skystation encourages interaction with both the piece itself and with other people in a way traditional street furniture fails to achieve, and Newman’s film captures this interaction beautifully.

Newman subtly shows us the fleeting moments in the lives of strangers, friends and family in the City. He shows the early risers walking past on their way to work, the stressed city worker lying down to grasp a moment’s piece as he eats his sandwich. We see families on holiday sitting down for a break from their day of sightseeing, relaxing for a time whilst perhaps discussing where to go next or what to have for lunch. Meanwhile young children are jumping and crawling over the Skystation, responding to its playful shape. We see careless lovers in embrace, barely noticing the crowds rushing past; oblivious to the others lying next to them. In these private moments captured by Newman, more than anything, we see ourselves.

Newman’s film illustrates how small we can sometimes appear in the crowds of the large city; crowds that take over the urban landscape. This film take time to portray the individual, rather than the larger organism of the crowd and takes a moment out, to observe the detail in the masses.

One is left with the feeling of how precious moments pass quickly and that the pace of life is so fast that one should, when given the opportunity, take a minute in a busy day to lie down, observe the clouds as they pass overhead and not be one of the crowd, if only for a moment.


Running your own place

March 12, 2010

The youth marketing consultancy, Ruby Pseudo, conducted a useful piece of research for Channel 4 into the attitudes of young people to their localities and how safe they feel in them. The research wasn’t about “gang culture”, but was a snapshot of ordinary teenagers’ attitudes across rural, urban and suburban Britain. Some of the conclusions were striking. If you live in any city and travel on public transport, you’ll know that young people have a sixth-sense for exactly where to sit on a bus to maximise their safety and minimise their visibility, but who could have anticipated that rural kids often feel intimidated by the local duckpond? The research also spoke of an “optimal” number of young people together (especially teenage boys): too few and they were vulnerable; too many and bravado set it – they became a gang.

The digital agency, Holler, approached me with this research and asked if I could work with them to respond to Channel 4’s brief to create content around the issue of youth, mobility, safety and locality.

The work I do with Futurecity is all about improving how a place feels to the people living and working in it. We find solutions to improving the quality of life with better designed environments, exploring creative, cultural means of making a place “A Place”. So Holler’s challenge to respond to this brief felt like natural territory.

Futurecity has always framed culture in its broadest sense. Culture’s not just visual and performing arts, but all the stuff that people do to make their lives better. So sport is an integral part of this frame and has informed Futurecity’s work as a solution to cultural masterplanning and place-making. For instance, last year I worked with Futurecity to propose the sport of running as a motif for a new development in a brownfield site. But I must also confess: I have an interest.

I’m a keen runner, about to undertake my fourth marathon and in 2008 I was a founder member of Charlie Dark’s Run Dem Crew: a running and mentoring project that meets at Nike Sportswear’s East London shop, 1948, every Tuesday evening. The crew comprises a mix of teenage runners and thirty-something creatives. We run, talk and share ideas.

Run Dem Crew in the 1948 Store

I felt that Run Dem Crew was a great basis for a project that could address the issues that Ruby Pseudo had highlighted, whilst producing some really exciting content for Channel 4.

We took the idea to Channel 4, and they’ve gone for it. Whilst still ironing out the final details, our vision is to create a group of young people who feel safer in their neighbourhoods and beyond, with the confidence to try and achieve things they didn’t think possible, through running. We start with a series of taster sessions in July before rolling out six Run Dem Crews across the UK in September.

As far as the built element goes, I’ve considered using local youth clubs, sports halls or village halls, and hosting a “Pimp My Space” weekend, where alongside professional designers the young participants redecorate a local meeting spot to become their Run Dem Crew home, but I’ve kind of gone off this idea.

Working with Futurecity has taught me to try to find the right solution for a given challenge and not just reapply some cookie-cutter template to a new situation. As the challenge is to make young people more comfortable in their locality reducing “no go” areas and opening up possibility, I’m exploring a “pop-up running club” as an alternative to a fixed space – where the branded crates that we use at Run Dem Crew in the 1948 store (they double up as lockers and benches) become the symbol of the running club – and are able to pack up and go wherever we want to run. Up a mountain, in Trafalgar Square – even by the duckpond!

So that’s the plan. It’s exciting and ambitious, and if it works, it’ll change lives for the better by using cultural and creative interventions to find solutions to life’s challenges. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re getting on.

Andrew Missingham, Futurecity Associate



February 19, 2010
Installation at St John St

Installation at St John St - Clerkenwell