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Marilyn Middlemiss and Louise Fox of the Salt Gallery


Can I start by asking a you a bit about yourselves? I think I'm right in saying that you've been in Cornwall for somewhat more than five years. What were you doing before you moved down and what brought you here?         We have been practising for more than 15 and 20 years respectively. We met at the Digswell Art Trust in Stevenage, Herts. It was great organisation, giving us a 5-year fellowship with studios and support. Later moving to East London, Marilyn was in various ACME and SPACE studios and showed extensively in London, with work in corporate and public collections. Louise set up a small business with the help of The Princess Trust, moving into fine art publishing and contracts with large retailers like IKEA and Heals.

We both had Acme studios in Porthleven when we moved down in 1999.

Did you have a reason for setting up the Salt Gallery in Hayle, and what are the good and bad things about the town as an art venue?                                                                                                                                  Following Marilyn getting her MA CVA from UCF and several visits to Berlin we decided we would like to open a space with an unusual eclectic mix of ceramics, film, painting and installation work. Hayle was the only place we could afford to buy a building in which we could work, have the gallery and live. We also like the reality of the Hayle community: it is not a ghost town of holiday homes. It is spacious and very beautiful, the dunes are amazing and the beaches.

Do you have a vision or a philosophy for the gallery? How do you think it fits into the art-scene down here as a whole?  In my view the Salt Gallery adds something very unique to the mix                                                                                     
We show artists who are serious, well trained and who make authentic work. We tend to go towards young and unknown as we enjoy working with people new to the art scene. We show artists from the UK; not just Cornish based artists.  We enjoy promoting the people we like the work of.
What else have you got to say about the Cornish art scene, both in its totality, and as it has been presented to the outside world eg through 'Art Now Cornwall' and books like Peter Davies recent 'Art Colony in Transition'?
We thought the Art Now exhibition was an interesting selection, eclectic and varied. We also enjoyed the debate which ensued. Peter Davies book 'Art Colony in Transition" we found a bit dated and obscure. We had not seen the work of a lot of the people mentioned and we do keep an eye of what is about. The book felt like another review of the past not really a transition.

There is a statement on the Salt Gallery website (below) - which I think you wrote Marilyn and which may be a personal view - but it deserves to be highlighted, because it rings true for many down here.
'Any active artist who has moved to Cornwall or is born here becomes part of a ‘Post St Ives’ era on the Cornish art scene. This romantic label and position is a very comfortable rut to sit in, especially if your work is selling like hot cakes.
I would like to suggest that it is time for this to change. Whether this can happen spontaneously or whether we need some harsh criticism or a gentle push I am unsure. The fact is; when art history is repeated as often as it is in Cornwall in the 21st century, parody no longer has its satirical bite.
We need a critic who is willing to speak out about the kind of work shown in Cornwall at the present time.
The canon will not rise or develop until we are making work true to ourselves and of our time.
The ‘sentimentality’ of Cornish work has to be banished if we are to ever be taken seriously not just as local but global entities. William Scott, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron et al came down here with the intention of creating individual work, not a monarchy of art where the mantle of good art is passed down via generations as the Duchy is for the Windsors’'.

Thinking about the shows that you have put on: you often show artists from outside Cornwall. How has that come about in most cases? The best known name, is of course, Tracey Emin. Can you say a bit about how that happened?
The work we show really depends on who applies and how good the idea is. We have had new graduates who have done wonderful shows based on their application ie Nora Adwan's "Baking Day". Ideas are really important to us, both Chantal Brooks and Janet McEwan came to us with great ones - and the shows proved excellent. Generally, we have chosen work which will speak to our audience.                                                                                               Tracey Emin was approached as her film "Top Spot" applied to young people in any seaside town where the population fluctuates and the visitors change the life of the place. We have had a dialogue with White Cube for some time.

Do you want to talk about the Front Room? This space has had funding from the Arts Council for the last few years. Is the funding linked to an obligation to show a particular type of work there? Can you describe some of the shows that have taken place?                                                                                                                   Most of the shows in the front room have not been funded, the first show of Ron Haselden was funded, then a series of five shows entitled "Five women in the Front room" was also funded. We have a new project in the planning called "Migration". 

What does the future hold for the gallery? What shows are planned over the next year or so?
Our next show will be called "Mix-it up" and we have invited a number of artists nationally to make a 12" square box with an example of their work for sale. This should produce some surprising results...

The first show in the Front room for 2008 is Clara Clark, winner of the Mark Tanner sculpture Award. Having seen Clara's amazing portfolio for one so young, we are very excited about her show.

We have Alex Pearl for the second show. Alex has funding and is touring his "Little Death" videos and automaton. We first showed Alex two years ago in the Young Film-makers show. The "Migration" project in the front room is the next big plan which we would like to explore extensively over a period of time.

The future of the Salt Gallery is to show and promote individual and quality painters, printmakers and makers. Because we are both working artists we choose art from an unusual perspective. We do have a knowledge and understanding of what quality is. Selling is important but we do not sell art that is made to sell, we like to see the passion and commitment of the artist in the work.


Images top to bottom: Ron Haselden, Nora Adwan, Clara Clark, Chantal Brooks