INTERVIEW WITH DATEAGLE ART
Megan Preston Elliott & Kim Booker, May 2018
DATEAGLE ART, founded in 2017 by Vanessa Murrell and Martin Mayorga, is a contemporary art platform that supports emerging art practices in the UK. Their non-traditional philosophy, which has at its centre the identities of artists and their practices, is a refreshing approach in today's contemporary art scene. Multi-skilled and wildly passionate about art, it was a pleasure to meet this duo who are already becoming quite a force in the art world.
Vanessa and Martin at Home Alone, 2018. Photography by Carla Benzing.
© DATEAGLE ART
Megan Elliott: What is DATEAGLE ART and what do you do?
Vanessa Murrell: Online, it operates as a journal in which we publish behind-the-scenes documentation of artist’s studios, allow discourse through our interviews, and provide straightforward criticism from our contributors. The website also hosts podcasts and videos, allowing our audience to engage with emerging art through a variety of forms. We are also involved in commissioning monthly digital artworks to be presented in our on-going Spread the Virus online exhibition, curated in collaboration with Bob Bicknell-Knight from Isthisit?
Martin Mayorga: Offline, we have curated shows in non-traditional exhibition spaces and have run summer residencies through The Three Day Residency programme; artists are invited to work for three days and live-stream their process on our social media platforms, giving the public direct access to their practices. Overall, we are a collaborative online platform that is involved in temporary curatorial projects. Our aim is to take an honest and intimate approach to displaying and supporting today’s emerging artists.
Kim Booker: What made you decide to start DATEAGLE ART?
MM: Initially, DATEAGLE ART started off as a platform that reinforced the idea of “blogging” about art, in response to the lack of authentic platforms supporting artists, galleries, and collectives in the initial stages of their career.
VM: Both of us were “outsiders”, with no arts education, but we soon realised that many publications were dominated by writers who copy-and-pasted press releases or who were paid by galleries to write “critical” reviews. We also found ourselves surrounded by publications that were all using the same images for exhibitions, provided by the gallery. Also, we felt that many writers were forced to write about topics that they are not interested in, resulting in un-imaginative and uninspiring pieces. So, DATEAGLE ART responded to these issues by allowing our team of writers the freedom to write about topics that inspire them.
MM: We also responded to the monotony of images in art publications by deciding to take our own images when visiting exhibitions, rather than using press images. We aim to express our opinions in a direct and honest manner without elevating our language.
ME: How has the project evolved?
VM: The project has evolved immensely! In only a year, we’ve managed to meet and interview almost 40 exciting emerging artists. We’re currently visiting and interviewing one artist per week, it’s addictive! Since it started out as a blog managed by two people on a part-time basis, it has now evolved into a full-time project with a lovely team of writers including artists, art historians, outsiders, and curators, all of whom approach writing in very different ways. These writers include Fiona Grady, Rodrigo Carlon, Anna Souter, Victoria Gyuleva, and Charlie Siddick, amongst others.
MM: We aim to support and give visibility to artists that involve language within their practice by allowing their works to be hosted on our website. Currently, we are hosting the never-seen-before short stories and poems by two great artists, Simon Linington and Kerry O’Connor. Much more to come!
“we're currently visiting and interviewing one artist per week, it's addictive!”
Michael Samuels, Studio Visit. Photography by Delilah Olson.
© DATEAGLE ART
KB: How did your backgrounds working for leading galleries and auction houses influence your vision for DATEAGLE ART?
VM: As mentioned previously, when we started DATEAGLE ART, we were very much outsiders, so we wanted to gain some experience in the art world to give us a deeper understanding of the different art models and to build knowledge that could be applied to our platform. We worked at blue chip galleries, well-known auction houses and established institutions. However, we soon felt let down by a very traditional system, based on a lack of transparency. Many of these business models were incredibly secretive and exclusive, only allowing sales of works to collectors with a collection that had a reputation, instead of supporting young and new collectors. They also shared a very unwelcoming attitude towards the public. These experiences made us realise that much of the art world is inaccessible and based on a hierarchical system that we didn’t want to be part of.
MM: To counter this, DATEAGLE ART operates as a collaborative platform in which our writers and contributors have complete control of their content. We also aim to make art accessible through our use of language and imagery. We’ve decided to focus on supporting emerging art practices in all their mediums and forms, trying to avoid categorisation by implementing a more open discussion about art without centring on one method of art-making. What we try to do is to make art more accessible, more readable and more enjoyable.
ME: DATEAGLE ART nurtures a collaborative art world. Why do you think this is important?
MM: Yes, that’s very much what we’re trying to implement! We believe that a collaborative way of thinking has been happening for a while now in the fashion and music industries. Recently, it has started to take place in the art world, for instance, with projects such as CONDO. We are incredibly inspired by the way Vanessa Carlos runs this project collaboratively with international galleries, giving them a temporary space in London galleries to exhibit work. We work with several publications, online platforms, artists, collectives and emerging art galleries, turning our similar interests into exciting projects. Collaboration is the future.
“the artist's studio [is] the most private and intimate space you can find yourself in”
KB: We love your approach to studio visits, only taking analogue pictures – does this allow for a more personal engagement with the artists?
VM: We totally think so! The intimate perspective that we offer at DATEAGLE ART is also about trying to reveal what you can’t see on the artist’s Instagram feed or website. It’s about what is hanging on the artist’s walls, what materials they use, the way they organise their space. It is a way to share an archive of work that is often stored and hidden away from the public. Documenting studio visits is the ultimate insight to an artist’s practice, and it’s a great way to get to know the artist’s real concerns. We recently came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t interview any artist without visiting them first, as their practice changes drastically from an image that you see online, to the real work.
MM: We must recognise the work of an important member of our team, Carla Benzing, who has collaborated with us on photography from the very first studio visit! Her views shaped our decision to only use analogue photography at our visits, creating a personal identity very much linked to our ideals. We believe that setting ourselves limits can be very enriching, and taking analogue photography allows us to train our eye and focus on a specific number images, as we only use one film per studio visit. These limits make us very aware and selective of what we’re photographing. We are keen on the texture and intimacy of analogue photography as a way of giving visibility to the works-in-progress inside the artist’s studios, the most private and intimate space you can find yourself in. Seeing a work develop is the most exciting part for us, and we want to share this with our audience.
ME: What do you think artist interviews do? Do you think that they alter our perception of art and to an extent demystify the creative process?
VM: Yes, they do! When visiting exhibitions, you’re confronted by works that you might not understand. Against a pristine white wall background, art can be quite overwhelming. However, visiting artists on a frequent basis allows us to understand their process, use of materials and concerns. It allows us to hear the music they hear and be part of their stream of thought - sharing that with our audience is key. In our interviews, the artist is the authority; it’s a window to the world where they can share who they are and what they think, without boundaries or limits.
KB: Your Mix! project invites artists to submit their music playlists. Where did this idea come from?
MM: When we visit artists' studios, music is often playing in the background. It depends on their mood or the occasion, but we have found that many artists make work whilst listening to music. The Mix! was initiated as a response to having a deeper understanding of artists' practices. It is based on asking artists for a playlist of songs they usually listen to, in which they respond by sending us a picture of that playlist.
VM: It’s interesting to see how the artists choose to show us their playlist in the photograph that they send us. Some are simple; Dale Lewis wrote his on an envelope. Others are more elaborate. Dan Coombs photographed his playlist written on some pebbles. Once we have the image, we compose that playlist on our Soundcloud. It’s just another way to get an insight into an artist’s practice in a very immediate way, without being too literal.
Alice Irwin, Studio Visit. Photography by Carla Benzing.
© DATEAGLE ART
Dan Coombs, List of Songs. From Mix!
© DATEAGLE ART
Daisy Parris, List of Songs. From Mix!
© DATEAGLE ART
KB: Do you think that an artist’s playlist expands the dialogue surrounding their studio work?
VM: Most of the time it does! With Daisy Parris, we already knew a bit about how music influences her work, so we expected the garage and punk sound. Joy Miessi’s playlist very much confronted and questioned themes of gender, identity and class – very much explored in her practice. Through his paintings and animations, Chang Teng-Yuan raises questions on human existence. Similarly, his playlist reflected on themes of astronomy, escapism and biology.
MM: India Nielsen recently mentioned to us that she likes to listen to the same album or track on repeat, as it feels like getting into a mindless rhythm, like exercising or meditating – she presented only one artist on repeat in her Mix!, which will be revealed very soon! At the end of the day, you don’t know what to expect… we believe it’s such a great way of getting to know an artist without words or images.
ME: This year you put on your first pop-up exhibition at Gallery 46 called The Pink Panther Show. What was your curatorial approach for this show?
MM: It was an exciting project! The curatorial approach was based on a non-curatorial approach. The project started as an “open call” from artist Evangeline Ling, who published an open call for an exhibition of “crappy painting ideas” relating to the Pink Panther on her Instagram story. We immediately sent her a message to let her know about our interest in her initial idea and she came to our studio the next day with a list of artists that had responded to her proposal, asking for advice on how to make it happen!
Tanya Ling, Studio Visit. Photography by Carla Benzing.
© DATEAGLE ART
VM: We selected artists from those that had responded to her Instagram story. The diversity of artists was a curatorial challenge; they all came from different backgrounds, made completely different works, and had absolutely no initial connections. Some of the artists responded to the crime involved with the Pink Panther, others to anthropomorphic aspects, whilst other artists responded to the cartoon or the characters involved, to the real life-gang, or to themes of value. Moreover, the 16 artists involved in the show made new works for the occasion – unaware of the other artists involved in the show until the opening night. It was also a show that endorsed the artists involved as individual characters themselves, aside from their practice.
Some of the artists had a wealth of exhibition experience, but for some it was their first exhibition. This was an important factor and a statement against current elitism within the arts. It was a very ambitious project and we visited most of the artists several times, making it a long process for us. We had the pleasure to work with Gallery 46 for this exhibition, a newly renovated Georgian house set over 3 floors and 8 rooms. It was a kaleidoscopic space that was completely turned pink by the audience during the opening night!
ME: What do you find most exciting about working with emerging artists?
VM: Studio visits are our favourite part as they are so insightful. Other interesting aspects are networking and observing the progress and evolution of artists that we meet. It’s also about making friends and eating ice cream together!
Bea Bonafi, Studio Visit
Photography by Carla Benzing. © DATEAGLE ART
Neill Fuller, Studio Visit
Photography by Delilah Olson
© DATEAGLE ART
KB: Do you have any advice for artists about how to navigate the art world post art school?
MM: We always say that Instagram is an important tool. We would advise artists to use the app as a daily journal to document their practice, and use their website more as a portfolio to showcase their final works, CV and contact details. We’d also recommend every artist to try out residencies, it’s essential! We’re aware of the Elephant Residencies in London, although there are great residencies worldwide such as Espositivo’s Residency in Madrid, Artpiq’s Residency in Dusseldorf or even the Z.U.T Residency, a nomadic annual residency. Another important aspect is networking! Going to private views, events, visiting other artists, etc. Having other artists as mentors helps to widen networks and gives support and encouragement- especially when left in the real world after degree shows! Participating in discussions surrounding their practice is also crucial, as it helps develop a solid, critical voice; it’s great to learn more about your practice by speaking openly about it.
VM: Most importantly, we’d encourage every artist to be honest with their practice and not to guide themselves on sales or trends. We’d advise artists not to jump into representation in the initial stages of their careers. Wait for the right time and the right gallery, if that’s what you want, as this relationship is very much based on trust. Furthermore, never accept a percentage that is not favourable to the artist in terms of sales. Many galleries are not realistic with their percentages and only allow the artist a 30% or 40% cut of the sales – you’ve got to stand up for your percentage.
We’ve also spoken with many artists who’ve mentioned to us that they don’t feel comfortable with the elevation of prices many galleries implement when exhibiting in their space- sometimes this doesn’t allow the artist to go back to their initial prices afterwards and they can then hit a roadblock with sales. So, we’d advise artists to make sure they are comfortable with their prices and not to rush to “over-value” their work too soon.
Vanessa and Martin at Home Alone, 2018. Photography by Carla Benzing.
© DATEAGLE ART
ME: You have just launched a new website. What are you working on now?
VM: It’s a busy time for us! Our new website, dateagle.art combines various interactive elements- making it very user friendly! We’ve commissioned artist Daisy Parris to create our new logo, and we’ve implemented her design in various website features. Apart from that, we’re going to launch The Sticker Club soon, in which we will commission artists to make limited edition stickers, which we will sell and distribute to the public. With the sales of those stickers, we will commission the next artist involved, so basically the sales of the previous artist will enable the commission of the next one, and so on. On another note, we’re curating two exhibitions. One will take place in September, a group show that explores materiality in the works of emerging to mid-career artists, and we’re also curating a show in October, in collaboration with Blank 100, a wonderful space in Dalston.
MM: We’ve also recently launched a podcast in collaboration with Sid Motion Gallery and a video commission with artist Tanya Ling in collaboration with Fashion Illustration Gallery. These collaborative projects have sparked our production curiosity, resulting in our decision to launch a creative agency which will work as an extension of DATEAGLE ART, offering visual production, press and PR services to emerging art galleries.