Depot Art Studios essentially started as a conversation just after graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) when Rowan Eastwood, Jack Ginno, myself and two others spoke about the idea of sharing a studio space together, Sam Potter would join later. Thinking back, it’s actually quite refreshing that we only ever thought about starting our own thing from scratch as opposed to joining an already established studio group somewhere.
After graduating I moved back home to West Sussex, returning to Leeds for a brief period to undergo my residency at BasementArtsProject during the summer of 2014. Everyone else moved to the northwest where they were all based prior to university. I got a phone call one evening telling me a space had been found and I was being asked if I still wanted in, which of course I did. A little while later and after many nights on friend’s sofas I had moved to Manchester. The space that had been found was a run down unit on an industrial estate in Ardwick not too far from the city centre. We spent a lot of time doing what we could to transform this space into what would be a relatively comfortable place to work in.
After a while it started to become impractical for two of the members that had been part of the initial conversation to continue as they were now based in Stockport. This made it difficult for them to get to the studio in their free time and led to them having to leave. This provided us with the issue of having to find a replacement, although it was almost immediately through good fortune and timing that a replacement was found in Sam Potter. We all knew Sam from our time on the BA Fine Art course at Leeds Beckett, with him being in the year above and also being a housemate of mine for a period during my time in Leeds.
It was really this moment that we became Depot Art Studios, We are now just over two years down the line from this moment and the rest is history to be made.
My practice is mainly painting based and features a number of found compositions and references to underground subcultures as well as other interests too.
I tend to start with a number of studies, photographs and sketches, but I often have a number, a name or a turn on phrase in mind when I approach the canvas too. I work mainly, but not exclusively, in oil paint. I often use a combination of different paints, acrylics, enamel and spray paint as well as other mediums such as charcoal and pastel. I’ve also started to use physical items such as enamel pin badges and security tags that I pin through the canvas. The titles of my work often make some form of reference to the initial influence for the composition or a detail in the work. ‘On the Buses’ is a reference to the 1960’s TV programme that also references the found object status of the bus window used in the composition. ‘That Telephone Thing’ is a series of paintings based on the back of telephone boxes and is named after a Chas and Dave song. Perhaps a little more subtle is ‘Wholesale Supplier’ a reference to the ‘occupation’ of Private Joe Walker, the spiv character from Dads Army, who dealt in black market goods; the painting itself has a bootlegged Lacoste badge and security tag fixed to it.
Depot’s co-founders and artists are Rowan Eastwood, Jack Ginno, Sam Potter and myself. We all work in different ways creating our own work individually but we do often share similar approaches towards the way we work, and will frequently use similar materials to each other as well. A couple of times I’ve heard people refer to us as sharing a similar style which I can understand slightly for the aforementioned reasons, but it has never sat too comfortably with me; I’ve always felt and often find myself replying to this statement that we predominantly work as individuals and that although the work created in Depot might share similar aesthetics it would be impossible to look at it and not know who’s work is who’s.
Eastwood often utilizes site specific installations; she works in a number of different mediums with various materials, instinctively responding to the site that she’ll be exhibiting in. She aims to engage with the audience by using familiar objects to create a playful and immersive experience looking to ‘alter perspective, and to stir impulsive emotions leaving the audience satisfied.’
Ginno uses found surfaces and objects that are blemished with marks and traces in an attempt to interrogate the idea of ‘the artist’s hand’. Upon entering a gallery setting their painterly properties are promoted and explored. The origins of marks on these samples are somewhat unclear and when juxtaposed with calculated marks a dialogue concerning authorship becomes apparent. His contribution within these artworks seeks to be as indistinct as possible and often deliberately deceitful, urging the viewer to find an equal balance in appreciation for all aspects, whether produced by the artist or not.
Potter refers to his work as post painting. He aims to depict the brutality of life as he sees it by using imagery that often refers to war, science and politics as well as other subject matters; this way he references real life as apposed to imagination.
His works are created using paint, mainly oil and spray paint but never limited to these; his space in Depot is home to a large stack of different coloured emulsion. The colours he uses never seem to control the outcome of the painting too much but during the process there does seem to be an element of Sam controlling the colours. The result is a combination where the image and abstraction meet.
There are obvious trends amongst the artists in Depot whether its influence, materials or approach and it’s always nice to know you can turn to your right or left in the studio and have someone you trust and who knows your practice there to be able to offer up advice or reassurance but I think the main reason it works so well is we’re a tight unit of friends as much as we are artistic peers.
In 2016 after a gig in Manchester, Jack and myself bumped into Bruce and we discussed the idea of a crossover show with Basement Arts Project and Depot Art Studios. In 2017 we started to approach this idea and it expanded to the idea of five Leeds based artist (1 of which is actually a duo) picked by Bruce and coming over to Manchester to take part in a show curated by Depot in our own space. In return we at Depot would pick five Manchester based artists to head over to the space at Basement Arts Project to be part of a show curated by Bruce.
One of our main objectives for this project is to allow the artist’s work to reach a wider audience than what it is possibly use to, but it will also be an attempt to try and encourage audiences to get out of their own city and to travel to other cities and show support for artist led spaces elsewhere. This could hopefully develop into something bigger in an attempt to unite major northern cities.
This idea had its beginnings in a project scheduled to take place in November 2017 entitled Keep the Home Fires Burning. Due to an unsuccessful funding application this was scaled down to a five-artist collaboration for Sluice Biennial in Hackney, London in October. Despite the initial setback we have not been put off the idea of seeing this project through to the end regardless. We are also looking at the possibility of another joint venture to Sluice in 2018.
Alistair Woods | February 2018