The most established of the group, non-profit gallery CGP was founded in 1984 by the Bermondsey Artists’ Group, a collective of artists including founding director Ron Honocq, who retired last year. Now under the stewardship of director Judith Carlton, CGP straddles two venues within picturesque Southwark Park—a white cube gallery space and Dilston Grove, a Grade II listed concrete church that Richard Wentworth once used as a studio. The gallery balances showcases of internationally renowned artists with a commitment to showing the work of unrepresented artists in the gallery’s Annual Open exhibition, which has been held each year since the gallery opened, offering artists across the country the chance to exhibit their work.
Laura Purseglove: What inspired the opening of the gallery?
JC: The gallery was formed by a group of artists who moved into the area in the early 1980s. They turned the derelict Southwark Park Lido Cafe building into an experimental space where ideas and new bodies of work could be tested and premiered. This is where our name originated: Cafe Gallery Projects, London, in homage to our humble beginnings in a derelict tea kiosk.
Our first exhibition was an unselected open exhibition staged in response to the difficulties felt by the group regarding participation in the renowned Whitechapel Open. The CGP Annual Open remains a key part of our program, which encourages artists of all kinds from across the country to show their work side by side regardless of status or training.
LP: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?
JC: I am not an artist myself; I took over from founder and artist Ron Henocq last year. Our exhibition last year of Ron Henocq’s work since the early ’70s to now was impressive; how he managed (and in part physically rebuilt twice over) two art galleries as well as continued a prolific artistic career for 32 years still throws me! It makes me feel very lazy... Most of our gallery team are artists however, each bringing knowledge and experience from artistic backgrounds, which is an important part of our makeup, an integral synergy with our large artist membership and artist-led constitution.
LP: Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition program?
JC: Our program remains as open and inclusive as it has been the last 32 years, showing work by artists at all stages of their career from across the borough, the U.K., and internationally.
I am passionate about all genres, though I do have a particular interest in installation and performance. I want to challenge how we the audience experience and digest work and ideas, and how to support artists, at whatever age or stage in their trajectory, to test new, bold ideas, and to help to make career-defining work, which leads them onto a whole new path.
LP: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?
JC: Listening to and supporting artists at all stages, doing whatever possible to make their vision come to life. Risk-taking. Pushing limits of expectation of both artist and audience. Removing the barriers to culture; ensuring that everything is open to all, always. A happy, passionate, and creative gallery team.
LP: What’s next for CGP?
JC: We have planned almost three years of our new program featuring the launch of a new “spotlight” exhibition model whereby we commission an artist to make a career-defining new body of work for our Dilston Grove gallery, coupled with a survey of work to date over at The Gallery. Our first in this new series is
in summer 2017, then John Walter in 2018.
Over time we plan to work in response to our unique park setting more regularly, starting in spring 2017 with a series of outdoor commissions by the wonderful Scottish artist Alec Finlay, which will span our gallery garden, the park, and spread out into the borough itself. We will also launch a new annual flag commission with