Arts Lab launch 

Reviewed by Judy Parkinson

Imagine a laboratory and you might conjure up white-coated boffins evaporating something chemical over Bunsen burners or squinting into microscopes peering at millions of small particles. The newly opened Arts Lab in Kings Road could not look more different, but rest assured there will be plenty of experimentation, observation and alchemy. 

PICTURE: Ben Hamilton

The launch event on Sunday 7th April attracted a large and colourful crowd – not a white coat to be seen, apart from the one sported by a Labrador Retriever who always dresses like that. All art forms are woven into the DNA of Arts Lab, and with a taste of things to come there are spoken word and butoh dance performances at the opening. The gallery launches with a group show called Water Waves Dreams and includes work by both new and familiar names to St Leonards. Two talented artists still in their teens, Tom Healey and Haydn Ackerley, join the more experienced contributors such as Nick Snelling and Kirsten Reynolds, while the work of international local artists, Patrick Altes and Matthew Radford, has not been exhibited around here before. There are 15 artists represented in this current show, plus short films (to be viewed in the Secret Cinema – while sitting on the stairs), by award winning film maker Nichola Bruce. There’s a Secret Garden too – opening in the summer.

Susan de Muth and Tymon Dogg are the driving forces behind today’s opening event. They refer back to 1967 when doyen of the underground / counter-culture scene, Jim Haynes, set up Arts Lab, an alternative arts centre in London’s Drury Lane which evolved to become the ICA. “We decided to set up Arts Lab as a showcase for innovative art in all disciplines,” says Susan, “from contemporary painting and performance art, to spoken word, and singer-songwriter events. Our interests are wide and our shows and events will reflect that.”

PICTURE: Ben Hamilton

Susan’s background is in journalism, literary translation and, latterly, Thin Man Press, the small independent publishers of Heathcote Williams and Pete Doherty among others. “I had a small gallery in London for several years called The Acute Angle Gallery,” she recalls, “where I had similar intentions, but not enough space to fulfil the performance aspect.”

Tymon is a multi-instrumentalist musician and singer-songwriter, who contributed to two Clash albums. He was a member of Joe Strummer’s band, The Mescaleros until Joe’s untimely death in 2002. Tymon has released several solo albums over the years, most recently ‘Made of Light’ in 2016.

The gallery plans to hold a monthly spoken word event along with a regular singer-songwriter gig. There will be four major exhibitions a year, one for each season. Summer will see Malcolm Glover’s work featuring his travels to India, including a stunning video about workers in a glass blowing factory. Autumn brings a one-man show by Patrick Altes, whose striking painting, Symbol of our Dreams features in the current group show. Liz Finch will show in Spring 2020 – in parallel with the release of a documentary film about her, The Romance of Bricks (directed by Nichola Bruce), as well as a major show in a West End gallery to coincide with the publication of her artist’s book, Twenty Entities

“We will bring artists from the rest of the UK and Europe too … although we are tremendously lucky that our town is home to so many brilliant international artists”. 

Arts Lab intends to cross boundaries and break down conventions. Watch this space. 

• This week the gallery is opening every day from 12.00pm – 3.00pm (including Sunday). Thereafter it will be 4 days a week so please check the website for opening times.

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