Postcard from...

Caravan Gallery

The Caravan Gallery: Jan Williams & Chris Teasdale

The Caravan Gallery is, quite literally, a gallery in a caravan run by an artist duo interested in documenting ‘the reality and surreality of the way we live today’, primarily through photography. In addition to exhibiting photos from their own ever-growing archive, Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale create participatory Pride of Place Projects in temporary spaces where anyone and everyone is welcome to contribute to evolving place-specific exhibitions.

Ahead of their appearance at the VASW What is Art surgery, we spoke to them about the past, present and future of our favourite little yellow caravan.

The Pride of Place Project Tour comes to Southampton.

Throughout November 2016, Southampton is hosting the sixth leg of an ambitious national tour designed to break down barriers between art institutions and the public. Funded by an ACE Strategic Touring grant, Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale of The Caravan Gallery have been working in partnership with art galleries, museums and regional organisations to attract diverse audiences so that more people can enjoy the life enhancing benefits of art and culture.

The project consists of three interconnected strands that aim to reach people and places that are often overlooked and unconnected to each other. This model is replicated in each town or city, enabling people to experience art in a variety of settings and see their own surroundings differently.

The tour began in 2014 at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA), Sunderland, then continued to Impressions Gallery, Bradford; Ffotogallery / Diffusion Festival, Cardiff; Museum of Lancashire, Preston; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA).

 

The Southampton leg, part of the British Art Show 8 Southampton Fringe, consists of:

1/ extra{ordinary – Photographs of Britain by The Caravan Gallery

A formal gallery exhibition at Solent Showcase Gallery of over one hundred framed colour photographs from the last fifteen years. Astutely observed, thought provoking and sometimes hilarious, these images focus on the extraordinary details of ordinary everyday life and constitute a unique record of social change since the new millennium. extra{ordinary} offers an insight into the reality and surreality of everyday life in 21st century Britain, seeking out and celebrating the unusual, the typical, the absurd and the overlooked. Themes include maverick shops and businesses, customised homes and gardens, semi regenerated cityscapes and unorthodox sunbathing locations. The exhibition is accompanied by a full colour hardback catalogue.

2/ Southampton Pride of Place Project

A month long participatory project in a former Cash Generator shop at 108 East St, the Southampton Pride of Place Project is a temporary museum, exhibition and alternative visitor information centre co-created with visitors. Like previous POPPs, it started with an open submission photo competition that asked ‘What does Southampton mean to you?’ and photographs by The Caravan Gallery. At the launch celebration people began making their mark on The People’s Map of Southampton, indicating where they had their first snog, where the best pea fritters come from and even where they had experienced paranormal activity. The display grows daily as visitors share their thoughts and opinions about Southampton by completing a (non-boring) survey, writing stories, memories and fascinating facts, supplying words and phrases for a Local Lexicon and through ideas of their own. Loaned and donated items include photos of family outings and flying planes, Titanic memorabilia, Southampton FC scarves and a handwritten note by Matt Le Tissier!

Southampton artists - professional, amateur and aspiring - have contributed drawings, paintings, sculpture, photos and films with a local connection; wordsmiths and musicians have presented songs, poems and stories. The project will end with a closing celebration followed by a commemorative publication at a later date.

3/ Southampton Caravan Gallery Tour

The Caravan Gallery itself spent a day in six locations in and around the city in the early stages of the project. The exhibition inside contained photographs of Britain and Southampton by The Caravan Gallery, encouraging people to visit extra{ordinary} and participate in the Southampton Pride of Place Project.

Locations, chosen to attract both ‘the general public’ and art fans, were: Monty’s Community Hub on a housing estate in Sholing; a street market in Shirley; Peace Motion festival at Kingsland Square market, St Marys; a parade of shops in Woolston (the other side of the River Itchen so strategically important); ArtCarPark in Guildhall Square, and Highfield campus in association with the University of Southampton, John Hansard Gallery and British Art Show 8.

http://thecaravangallery.photography/work/solent-showcase-southampton

Q & A

When and why did you set up The Caravan Gallery - and why a caravan?

We won a commission from Art Space Portsmouth – where we still have a studio - and Portsmouth City Council to create a public art intervention for a festival celebrating the new millennium. Jan was making drawings, photos and collaged postcards about British leisure, landscape and lifestyle, so a Carry On-style caravan seemed the perfect stealth vehicle for taking art to the people. A tiny mustard bubble-shaped caravan from Hayling Island, once disembowelled and boarded out, became our unique roving gallery and social club on wheels.

The Caravan Gallery was launched at Southsea seafront on August Bank Holiday weekend 2000 and was such a hit with visitors that we knew we had to continue. We’re still going strong, admittedly in a reincarnated caravan, so in 2016 it’s turned out to be a very long weekend!

What happened next?

We approached galleries, museums and festivals, made funding proposals and forged our own path until we started receiving invitations and commissions. We’ve travelled thousands of miles and exhibited in hundreds of locations in the UK and abroad. Our Is Britain Great? exhibition at Portsmouth’s Aspex Gallery – and The Caravan Gallery itself – toured to Paul Smith Space, Tokyo, but we still mix things up by appearing in supermarket car parks.

Typically we’re commissioned to produce exhibitions and participatory projects about places and themes so like to immerse ourselves fully wherever we are.

What advice would you give artists and galleries?

Create your own opportunities; never make assumptions about people and places; question everything; break out of your bubbles and look around you. Ordinary everyday life is extraordinary.

What’s next?

We still have gaps to fill in our study of identity and regional distinctiveness, particularly in the south west. Having created a temporary museum in Lithuania this year we’re keen to pursue further international projects and collaborations. We also need to organise a grand retrospective!

CV

http://thecaravangallery.photography/about/cv

www.thecaravangallery.photography

What's On

Ilse Black at Aspex Guildhall

Aspex

Saturday 01 October 2016 – Sunday 01 October 2017

Big Heart 2017

Various Locations

Monday 01 May 2017 – Thursday 30 November 2017

Sea Music Celebration Exhibition

Poole Museum, High Street, Poole, BH15 1BW

Saturday 13 May 2017 – Sunday 15 October 2017

Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

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