According To Mcgee Exhibition, ‘elementals’, 12th April To 14th May 2012

I met up with Ails after reading her interview in York’s latest and possibly sharpest ever guide to all things beautiful, ‘One&Other Magazine.’ In it Ails was answering questions about Polish photographer Piotr Kapica, the winner of the recent ‘Hidden’ exhibition at Ails’ gallery, According to McGee. I was interested in how a mother of 3 and gallerist would go about curating a show dedicated solely to art by female artists. I contacted her and sat her down over a Stonegate Yard glass of Merlot. What transfigured was a focused, ambitious and wise beyond her years woman.

“I put on the boss’ cap for this one – it’s been a while since I stepped up and took the reins. As a mother of three children under 4 I’ve had other things on my mind, my husband Greg (McGee, co-director and recent participant on Sky Atlantic’s ‘The Devil’s Dinner Party’), has taken on the lion’s share of responsibility. Now the kids are getting older we thought this was an opportunity for me to flex my curatorial muscles, as well as directing the theme behind the show. I thought it would be interesting to run a show made up of female artists and really look at the concept of ‘elementals’, not that I think women are restricted to thinking in just a fluid way, or that men can’t think in such a way. ‘Elementals’ gives the artists and myself a chance to perhaps use art to find what it is for us to be women in a time when, let’s face it, a lot of men in power have ballsed up so dramatically. I have to say, this is not a political show in any way. Rather I think it’s an expression of a more instinctive, open minded, all embracing love of art. It’s not a case of using the exhibition as therapy – it’s just that I have these experiences, as do the artists, and we can bring them to the table in a stylish, sexy and focused way. The work and the concepts behind them will stand up for themselves. It’s perhaps more commercial than some of our previous shows, but I’m just as much of a business woman and art dealer as I am a supporter of the North’s Contemporary Art scene. That has to be the way, and always has been the way for successful art scenes. The worst thing for someone in my position to do would be to indulge in what I and I alone love. I might love edgy, fierce sculpture, but will it sell? Broadly, no. Will that mean I go out of business? Ultimately, yes. The challenge for this show has been to source what we respect as much as what we think will sell. It’s harder than you think! With the full support of our manager Maria Rodgers we’re 100% prepared for the show and I’m looking forward to being behind the wheel of the good ship ‘According to McGee’.”

Which artists stand out as especially important in the Northern art scene?

“All of them have something to prove. They have that hunger that you can’t fake. Amrik Varkalis is a genius, and brings her tropical heritage to bear on the palette she chooses. Francine Cross has an instinct for colour and heat, while Rosie Bramley creates some of the most thrilling, icily exacting pieces you’ll see – there’s a real love of the challenge of painting nature at its most colossal. Claire West is a riot of fun and optimism, Jo Brown, internationally renowned and favourite here at McGee’s, is the most painterly craftswoman in the North. Ceramicist Emily Stubbs is a real find, and brings a wicked sense of wit and experimentalism to the show. A few of our old ‘New Visuality’ classics are out too. Gin Durham is great, and Karen Perry’s travel notebooks fit in very easily with the vibe. It’s a great show, we’re very proud of it.”

By Viv on May 4, 2012

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