Artist led galleries are not unheard of in the art world. From independent collectives such as the Bruce High Quality Foundation to Brooklyn’s Pierogi Gallery, the art world has gained an influx of proactive artists creating a necessary name and space for artist exhibition.  Sometimes, the art world is not as friendly and welcoming to emerging artists which causes a break in creative equilibrium into the art stratosphere and stresses a need for alternative solutions.  Acknowledging this lack of accessibility within the art world, two childhood friends and UK based artists,  Jonny Burt and Joe Kennedy, created a gallery called Unit London in 2013 as a public platform for emerging international artists.

The Unit fosters all forms of creativity and organizes extraordinary exhibitions showcasing some of the best emerging and contemporary artists around.  Starting strictly from scratch without any formal gallery training or any contacts to work with, Burt and Kennedy found social media as their guide to building their clientele and promoting their artists.  Their first exhibition of Ryan Hewett’s work completely sold out three weeks before the exhibition even opened.  In just two years, Unit moved from a temporary pop-up space into a permanent home in the heart of London on Wardour Street in Soho.  Their new gallery has granted Burt and Kennedy a permanent place to lift their artists into the spotlight.

Mr Jago, Biosphere 2, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 110cm tondo, courtesy the artist and Unit London

Currently, Unit London is showcasing the work of renowned UK street artist, Mr. Jago.  On view until November 23rd, Mr. Jago’s abstract landscapes explore his analysis of the relations between humankind and the natural world.  This is Mr. Jago’s first exhibition showing his works in oil as well as his shift from figurative work into abstraction.  As a street artist, Jago pushes the boundaries of what constitutes as street art through his subject matter as well as his new usage of oil paint.  His explosive use of vivid colors and textures illustrate an underlying tension that is consistent throughout his work.  Jago’s work is open for interpretation by the viewer while reigning some of Jago’s own truths.  Mr. Jago’s new series of oil paintings and his specially commissioned murals of rendered abstract landscapes at The Unit’s gallery pop and illuminate the space with an multitude of colors.

Mr Jago, Mauna Loa, oil on canvas, 150 x 130 cm, courtesy the artist and Unit London.

“…this tension is what is beautiful about abstraction; the image that one person interprets as a depiction of humankind’s conquest of nature may appear to another as a depiction of nature’s triumph. My work is capable of being both, and illustrates my struggle between crushing pessimism and soaring optimism for what the future holds. It is the haze that hangs over the horizon; the luminescence of oil on water… Equally, it is a glorious sunset; the bloom of spring flowers on a barren landscape. It is up to the viewer whether the works evoke hope or despair.” – Mr. Jago

Mr Jago, Do Not Disengage (diptych), acrylic, spray paint and oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm (x2), courtesy the artist and Unit London.

Following Mr. Jago’s exhibition, Unit London is proud to present Paintguide, an exhibition that will present new works by 60 international artists as featured on the hugely successful Instagram account @Paintguide.  This show will explore Instagram’s growing role within the art market, the impact of social media in the democratization of art, and the power of social media as a new “gallery”platform for viewers to visit on the internet.  Unit London, who hold a particular affinity for Instagram as the prime social media platform which helped them gain followers and publicity, have sold many works to people through social media, many which are sold prior to seeing in person.

Jake Wood Evans, Study of an author, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

What’s really fascinating about Instagram is the way in which artists are using the platform to forge their own artistic careers. Traditionally, artists have been heavily dependent on gaining formal gallery representation to kick start their careers, but social media has enabled these artists to reach out to a huge international audience at the tap of a button.  Is there a purpose for a traditional gallery anymore?  While this exhibition will be held in the Unit’s gallery space, the works are already in a sort of gallery on Instagram.  The digital era has changed the way in which viewers engage with visual art; Paintguide encourages viewers to reflect on how they interact with artworks through new modern conventions.  Seeing each work is more individualized, personal and unique for viewers on Instagram than in many gallery settings.  Is this the best way to really see art though?  Peruse Paintguide’s Instagram then visit this exhibition when it opens.  Is there a difference if how the works are seen?  Perceived?  Appreciated?

Ryan Hewett, Heizer, oil and spray on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.

Burt and Kennedy have said:

“…we are thrilled to be hosting Paintguide at Unit London. As a physical realization of a social media feed, the exhibition illustrates the convergence of digital and analogue mediums within the art world. Paintguide has built an engaged community of artists, enthusiasts and collectors alike, and in an industry that has a reputation of being both secretive and exclusionary, uses social media as a means of increasing transparency and accessibility within the art world, which is a goal that we as a gallery share.”

Daniel Ochoa, C. Study, Oil on canvas, 14 x 11 in

Paintguide will be on view from November 27th until December 23rd, 2015.  Unit London is located at 147-149 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1F 8WD and are open daily from 11 am until 7 pm.

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