How much are artists formed by the country they live in? This month nearly fifty artists will be displaying work at the Karin Janssen Project Space in an attempt to find out.
Entitled Chinese Whispers, the exhibition is the culmination of a four month-long project with Galerie Nasty Alice in Eindhoven in which 25 Dutch and 24 British artists made a work of art directly inspired by another artist involved in the project without knowing what the rest of the series looked like.
Dutch artist Karin Janssen, who has lived in London for the past five years, came up with the idea to see how how being Dutch differed from being an English artist.
“I made the first drawing and sent it on to the next artist (Kate Lyddon) and she reacted to it by making a new work. Then she sent only her own work on to the next artist and so on. So there’s a whole series of works that communicate with each other.”
The result, says Janssen, is a series of A4 drawings, paintings and photographs – all autonomous yet interrelated works. Gallery owner Janssen and her Dutch counterpart in Eindhoven Sebastiaan Dijk, have bookended the series and Janssen explains that when choosing artists to take part they steered the project in accordance with their own artistic preferences.
“We’ve chosen artists who are all working relatively figurative, with something related to either human body or human emotions.”
Nevertheless, the results have yielded a number of surprises, not least two artists who had no contact creating freakishly similar compositions. But how in general do the Dutch and British artists compare?
“In my opinion the British artists stayed much closer to what they have to do, but some of the Dutch took it a bit more free and were less literal,” Janssen says.
The exhibition is likely to be the last big show at the Well Street space as Karin Janssen plans to relocate in the New Year to China and open a new Project Space in Shanghai.
Although the difference between contemporary Chinese and Western art is far greater than that on display here, this is not something about to faze Janssen. “I’ve found that where ever you go you can always find artists that you click with and have a similar language to,” she says.
Chinese Whispers 6–23 November Karin Janssen Project Space, 213 Well Street, E9 6QU www.chinese-whispers-project.com