We sat down with Swidesh-Chilean artist Anton Alvarez and Saff Williams, Curatorial Director at Brookfield Properties, to chat about The Remnants, a new exhibition by Alvarez at 100 Bishopsgate.
Alvarez has brought The Extruder, a three-tonne ceramic self-built press with him from Sweden for his residency at 100 Bishopsgate, in Brookfield Properties’ pop-up studio. For the month of February, Alvarez and his studio assistants, will create new sculptures, using recycled raw material, which will be on view in the reception of 100 Bishopsgate from March 2022 until March 2023.
Scroll down to read our interview with Anton and Saff…and make sure to pop by 100 Bishopsgate to catch the artist in action!
Your background is in interior architecture and furniture design. You also have an MFA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2012. What attracted you to specialise in the medium of sculpture?
Anton Alvarez: My sculptures about space and the architecture that somehow influence their creation. I work in different scales, which allow for a transition from objects to architecture. The smaller scale is something the audience can observe from the outside. The larger pieces, which can even be larger than human size, almost begin to observe the audience. If you’re standing in between them, you are in a room they’ve generated by themselves. That for me is the difference between the architecture and the object: the scale and how we as humans can interact with them.
You come from a multicultural background, mixed from Swedish and Chilean roots. How does your culture and upbringing influence your work?
Anton Alvarez: I don’t know how much of it is conscious. I remember when I was showing at Art Basel and I was introduced by the gallerist to a visitor who said that she immediately knew the work was by a South American artist because of its colours. I was working with threads back then, so it was another technique, but to this day I work with a strong, vibrant palette. I’m probably touching on historical grounds as far as my palette goes, but I believe more generally that the environment you’re in constantly feeds the mind. It’s hard to pinpoint to a certain moment. You can see transitions when you experience something strong and your work takes another direction. But it’s still a mixture of all the experiences throughout your life that comes through the process. I want to experience and then see what will come out naturally.
Your new exhibition opens on 28 February at 100 Bishopsgate and will bring six new works and ‘The Extruder’ to London. Could you tell us more about ‘The Extruder’ and the works on view there?
Anton Alvarez: The exhibition will grow organically in the space, which is something that would be typically scary for a commissioner, so I’m very happy to be working with Saff. You have to be brave enough to embrace the fact that we don’t know exactly what will happen. You have to trust the process and let it happen on-site, taking decisions along the way. I of course have a clear idea of what I will be doing, but it’s important to be open to things that may happen during the process, rather than try to push something in a particular direction. It’s better to follow the flow of where the works want to go. I will be creating six tall clay column-like sculptures with the help of my clay-squeezing machine which I’ve named the Extruder. For this particular commission, I chose to enlarge the size of the pieces as the space they’ll be exhibited in is enormous. So, I will trying the new version of the Extruder, which will allow for larger quantities of clay to be pushed out.
Saff, can you tell us about your role as Curatorial Director for Brookfield Properties in Europe?
Saff Wiliams: At Brookfield Properties, we bring our indoor and outdoor spaces to life through installations and exhibitions, with the aim of connecting people and creating memorable experiences, allowing for reflection on contemporary life in an urban environment.
We deliver our programming to engage the companies that occupy our spaces, the broader public, including other workers, residents and local communities, as well as visitors in the area. It’s a bit of a dream job, as I get to work across London and Berlin crafting our arts strategy to show incredible talent across unexpected spaces.
My role entails fostering and building long-term cultural partnerships as well as working directly with contemporary artists that challenge conventional thinking and offer us a fresh perspective on life.
Can you tell us why Brookfield Arts decided to exhibit Anton Alvarez at 100 Bishopsgate?
Saff Wiliams: I was blown away by Anton’s show Tight Squeeze at Huxley Parlour in London. There is a monumentalism to his sculptures that feels reminiscent of the majesty one feels when looking at Roman columns, as well as a handmade quality of clay coil forms.
His machinery is at the centre of his practice, operating in a symbiotic relationship with the sculptures they produce. His ceramics are created by his custom-made machine ‘The Extruder’, built by the artist himself, which forces clay through specially-made moulds under heavy pressure.
For this project, I wanted an installation at 100 Bishopsgate, one that both interrupted our large voluminous reception area and questioned the openness of our architecture by ‘putting the columns back into our space’. Anton’s work is the perfect complement to the new monumentalism of our spaces.
The pop-up artist workshop in Unit 5 of 100 Bishopsgate speaks to the process and performative nature of Anton’s work, giving our tenants and visitors to the City a rare opportunity to see the process of an artist at work, inspired by his immediate environment.
What’s your favourite part of the exhibition?
Saff Wiliams: I am proud of Brookfield Properties’ willingness to support the creation and installation of a functioning pop-up workshop into one of our city retail units, providing the artist the space and licence to create our bespoke sculptures for 100 Bishopsgate in a public setting.
The opening up of our retail space as a working studio is ground-breaking for the City of London. I hope it sets the tone for exciting and collaborative working relationships between developers and artists in the future.
As the pandemic eases, what is the role that Brookfield Arts plays in bringing visitors back to the City?
Saff Wiliams: We believe in the unique ability of art to transform those spaces from places we rush through to places we linger, places we gather, places we seek out and come together. That is why we have been investing in the arts for over 30 years. By placing art within these shared spaces, we create alternative galleries, giving workers and visitors a moment of joy and reflection and a reminder to pause – if only for a moment. This enables us to make our spaces more enjoyable for tenants and visitors. It also allows us to support artists – especially emerging artists – financially and give them a platform to showcase their work and build recognition across a wider audience.
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