White Conduit Projects opened November 2014 in central London, Islington. It is an independent gallery for contemporary art exhibiting work by Japanese, UK and international artists. The gallery specializes in solo presentations showcasing works concerned with Japanese related subjects. In addition to these, it produces group shows that aim to raise questions around wider topics associated with art practice. We speak to the founder Yuki Miyake about her work and the role of the gallery.
Tell us about White Conduit Projects White Conduit Projects opened November 2014 in central London, Islington. It is an independent gallery for contemporary art exhibiting work by Japanese, UK and international artists. The gallery specializes in solo presentations showcasing works concerned with Japanese related subjects. In addition to these, it produces group shows that aim to raise questions around wider topics associated with art practice. It's founded by Yuki Miyake and Kyoko Wainai. To do with a family business, Kyoko couldn't carry on, now I'm a sole director.
Can you share with us a bit about ur background and why you were drawn to this field? I have a graphic design background. When I came to London to work for Neville Brody Studio, designers were so unique and had each strong individual styles. To name a few, Peter Saville, Vaughan Oliver and Fuel. Their work is almost like self-expression through commissioned work. Then I graduated Royal College of Art. The Fine Art course and photography department was upstairs, so I got to chat with fine art students in the corridors. After that I've set up a design studio called System Gafa which means graphic and fine art. I did some collaborational commercial works with artists. Then drawn into curating for a gallery program of a members club in Clerkenwell for 6 years. One more of my artistic influences was that my aunty was a fantastic painter, so art has been around me from my childhood.
What do you look for in artists that you collaborate with? I choose artists whose work is original and intriguing. They can be both established and upcoming. If I don't feel amazed by their work, I feel difficult to promote them. It can be political, conceptual or emotional, but the chosen work should have the power of moving people, not just for interior decoration. My gallery is young - I call it baby gallery - and not established enough, but I chose artists who like our space and make a strong commitment to create a good exhibition. Each exhibition has a different approach. Usually artists are very stubborn and very delicate, so much time will be spent on talking through ideas and subtle details. It's not a 9 to 5 job, it often exceeds working hours. Because of this, I choose artists who I can share a long time with pleasantly. Though these countless conversations, we build trust and this makes a fantastic and stable exhibition.
Tell us about some of your notable previous exhibitions? It's so difficult to choose some! We hosted the renowned Nick Waplington's show who had a first solo show as a photographer at the Tate Britain. I remembered that Nick went to Japan and visited Gunkan-jima in '90. Nick dug up and found the contact sheets and films. We made an exhibition from it and called Battleship Island 軍艦島. The place is now a tourist destination in Japan but it is a rare archival work as not many people visited this ex-coal mine island in the nineties as entering there was prohibited and was very ghastly. Tadashi Maruyama is a Japanese kimono designer as well as an artist. He designs beautiful pongee but he damages them and re-creates amazing artwork. We exhibited these 2 dimensional and rolled up kimono fabric sculpture works. The remarkable thing is that he does performances wrapping people and they become live sculpture. He couldn't stop wrapping people who visited the gallery. Shino Yanai, she did a walking performance and documented the photos and a video from the journey. 10 crews walked 16 hours crossing French and Spanish border in the Pyrenees following Walter Benjamin’s escaping roots from Nazi. The ending of the performance was super dynamic. She put fire on a boat on a beach then disappeared herself into the sea. She has Korean parents and grew up in Japan, the nationality and border issues are inevitable subjects for her life and art.
What are you currently presenting and what’s coming up in 2018? We've just finished a group show called 'Simmering', its showcasing 13 artists' works on culinary culture themes. Gayle Chong Kwan's photographic installation is based on issues of growing produce out of season, and the politics of food production and waste. Laura Smith's simple a squid painting was fantastic. Her skillful brushwork and delicate use of colour makes me think again that painting is undoubtedly a great genre. The most noteworthy thing in this show is that influential British artist Bruce McLean loaned us some of works. His large sized work gave a spontaneous look to the show. This year, we would like to develop the concept of ' connecting local to far east Japan' The video artist Takayuki Yamamoto who is running a workshop for local people. The local retired architect John Olley is working with Japanese woodcut inspired print for 60 years. We would like to develop the fine art infused with Japanese traditional craft. I'm curating two shows in Kyoto for this spring. The artist Karen Knorr is collaborating with a Japanese traditional artisan. Her photographs will be exhibited in Daitoku-ji. Obai-in temple and an Zuiun -an traditional merchant house as self-standing byobu screen installation. We did a research trip last November to visit artisans in Kyoto. Also, another photographer and researcher Wieble Leister is producing work using Japanese Noh theater mask. Wiebke is having a show at us in June in conjunction with her Noh inspired performance at Kings Place, in Kings Cross. We are planning a show by an sculptor who met Isamu Noguchi in Japan in '50. He was an apprentice into the line of descent of that country’s great ceramic tradition.
What’s the neighborhood like? We are just off a fruit and vegetable, Chapel Market. It's always buzzing with locals and tourists. For Sundays, organic farmers market joins in, it becomes trendier. Islington is very diverse in terms of class and race and a culturally matured city spot. Many restaurants and bars are lined up on the main street. There are cinemas and theatres as well. Next door to us is a famous antique-junk shop probably started in 60's. The eccentric owner says that she doesn't remember when she started. The other side is a lovely café and they do have exhibitions now and then in the basement. Hopefully these independent shops will survive.