Andy Wicks runs London based gallery Castor Projects, which opened its first permanent space in January 2016. Castor Projects focuses on enabling ambitious and site responsive exhibitions with emerging and interdisciplinary artists. Having originally trained and practiced as an artist, Wicks spent a number of years as an installer and fabricator for London galleries before opening his own. He also sits on the board of Trustees at the Florence Trust, a long established Arts charity offering year long studio based residencies and mentoring from a Grade-1 listed neo-Gothic church in North London.
Your background is as an artist. Can you tell us a bit about your work?
My own art practice focused around the exploration of form, structure, balance and discord in the built environment. Initially through painting and then latterly I moved into making objects and forms of my own. These sculptural works shared similar concerns to the paintings whilst also exploring the mechanism of display of an art object. For example I made a series of wall based objects/or constructed paintings where the functional considerations of how they were installed and sat became a formal element of the objects themselves.
Walk us through your transition/evolution into gallery director and curator of Castor Projects.
Alongside making art I always worked on ideas for exhibitions and I curated a couple of things along the way. I remember always keeping an eye on auction sales prices and was genuinely intrigued by the market and art world gossip, rather than feeling separated or alienated from it, as I know a lot of my contemporaries are.
A friend asked me a number of years ago if I ever saw myself running a gallery to which I remember answering ‘Yes’ without hesitation. As an artist I was always good at marketing events and promoting the work of people I believed in, so perhaps they saw that potential before I did.
In the summer of 2014 I approached a gallery I worked for as a technician and asked if I could put a pop up exhibition on in their space whilst they shut during August. This resulted in ‘Trade’ a 5 person show in a beautiful space right in the centre of Fitzrovia (a busy central London gallery area). The exhibition featured myself and 4 other artists who I felt shared similar concerns. Not wanting to name myself as curator I invented Castor Projects as a possible roving gallery that I could use for such projects.
How did you go about setting up your own space?
My transition to owning a gallery came off the back of a lean 6 months where for the first time I had a break in my studio practice, mainly due to paid work commitments. During this time I really felt a loss in engagement with the art scene and missed the routine of creating and discussing work which I had so actively pursued up till that point. The gallery came off the back of an random introduction to a business lady who was planning on opening a café, at the time the discussions were more centered on offering advice on art in such a space, but I discovered there was a basement and I knew straight away it could be something more permanent and I already had the perfect name in Castor Projects.
Can you talk a bit more about your vision for Castor?
Perhaps it’s due to my early interest in the art market and paid work as an art technician but I always had a very clear idea of what I wanted the gallery to be… or rather, what I didn’t. For me this meant never showing my own work or running open submission competitions as a form of fund raising, but to build a strong program and proactively promote the artist and their work to an art going audience and collector base. Whilst the space maybe unconventional, I never saw Castor Projects as an artist run space.
I felt strongly that the look and branding of the gallery was important so with the assistance of my designer set about creating the identity to align Castor with the types of spaces I admired and wanted to be considered alongside.
Now that you're running the gallery, do you see yourself getting back into making your own work?
Right now I can’t say if I’ll return to making my own art, I never officially stopped. However I feel an excitement in running Castor, similar to the drive and ambition I felt for all those years as an artist so perhaps this is my new art practice, to promote and support others?
We'd love to get some of your boots on the ground insights into the art scene in London right now. For example, are you noticing any predominant stylistic/medium trends?
I always find this question tricky to answer. It’s as if we’re too close to really get perspective on particular trends at the time, in retrospect links appear more clearly. I often think by the time bigger galleries promote a show we’re looking at a past moment, the larger the gallery the more cogs in place before a show is realized.
For example, the recent Betty Woodman retrospective at the ICA was received with huge fanfare, her first UK solo exhibition. But ceramics have been seen as hot for a while now. Perhaps Woodman’s relevance and introduction to a wider public has been cemented by younger artists embracing the medium and emerging spaces supporting it in year’s prior?
Are there a few specific galleries that you consistently return to because of their artists or general program?
Much like New York, London has numerous gallery areas. I probably spend most of my time looking round Fitzrovia (Central) which has predominantly young – mid commercial galleries. Josh Lilley have a strong stable of young painters and sculptors in an interesting space that is much larger underground than its street level gallery suggests.
Not far away is Carroll/Fletcher who regularly host ambitious exhibitions, often with a strong audio/visual angle. They also possess a beautiful monolith like concrete stairwell, which gets me every time, that’s one feature for my dream gallery interior!
There are always interesting things happening in Bethnal Green, East London, with Herald Street, Maureen Paley and Laura Bartlett all viewable within a few steps of one another. As for my native South London, in Peckham not far from Castor Projects you’ll find Sunday Painters, Bosse and Baum and Rod Barton who all do very good things! If only there was more time to see everything….