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Say Hi to a London Gallery With a Strong Social Mission
Here we chat to Kaia Charles, the Cultural Projects Manager of the NOW Gallery & Artist Manjit Thapp...
Art Stuff 12 Aug 2021

NOW Gallery is a free public exhibition space for contemporary art, fashion, photography and design – located within the Greenwich Peninsula in South East London. NOW Gallery’s mission is to provide an arts space accessible to all which showcases creativity in all its complexity and diversity, it is an equal opportunities organisation committed to challenging inequality and societal biases. Jemima Burrill and Kaia Charles curate five exhibitions a year for NOW Gallery including 3 solo shows which focus on art, fashion and design. These commissions have so far included an exciting mix of emerging and established fashion talent including Charles Jeffrey, Molly Goddard and more recently Nicholas Daley. The design focussed exhibitors include Emmanuelle Moureaux, Studio Morison and Camille Walala.

Manjit Thapp My Head is a Jungle
23 Jul – 31 Oct 2021

The current show on view is Manjit Thapp – My Head is a Jungle, 23 July – 31 October.

Here we chat to Kaia Charles, the Cultural Projects Manager of the NOW Gallery/Greenwich Peninsula and Artist, Manjit Thapp to find out more about the gallery and the current exhibition.

Image by Charles Emerson.
Jemima Burrill – NOW Gallery Curator/Cultural Consultant Greenwich Peninsula
Kaia Charles – Cultural Projects Manager, NOW Gallery/Greenwich Peninsula
India Stanbra – Events and Exhibitions Coordinator
Francis McCullagh – Gallery Assistant

Kaia : Can you tell us more about the women who make up the team behind the NOW Gallery/Greenwich Peninsula?

We are close knit team and love working together to come up with exciting proposals for our unique space. The gallery is curated by Jemima Burrill and I. India Stanbra is our Exhibitions Co-ordinator. I love that we all have a vested interest in the arts beyond the walls of the space -I believe this informs what we do. Jemima and India are both interdisciplinary artists and I have expertise in photography and contemporary art of African diaspora. India is interested in the ‘entangled ecologies’ within the everyday and you can check out Jemima’s irrepressible alto ego @MegaphoneWoman on Instagram. Working with an all-female team ensures that we work with female artists without it being an exception.  We are intently aware of finding artists who will be able to fill our unusually space in an out of the box way. This means that as a predominately female team, we are interested in creating exhibitions with a collection of artists, fashion designer and designers who are early to mid-career often female who have a strong vision about working in an alternative 3D way.

Manjit / Kaia : Tell us a little more about the current exhibition ‘Manjit Thapp – My Head is a Jungle’ and how it came about?

Manjit – I love that NOW Gallery has a space that allows you to be completely creative, and because I mostly work in 2D I was excited about the opportunity to bring my 2D world to life. In my work I’ve often used jungle iconography and so it felt fitting to have that be the main theme. Through the show I explore the similarities between the jungle and our minds, from our hidden fears to our wild growth.

Kaia – I curate the Young Artist commission strand for the gallery giving young artists and illustrators an opportunity to reimagine the space through an immersive solo commission scaling up from 2D to 3D formats. We were blown away by Manjit’s proposal and loved the idea of creating a journey through her innermost feelings.

Manjit Thapp My Head is a Jungle
23 Jul – 31 Oct 2021

Manjit / Kaia: The layout of the show is really unique – something that NOW Gallery is well known for. Can you explain your process when curating the show?

Manjit – I wanted the layout of the show to be a maze, complete with dead ends and areas of light and shadow, so that walking through felt like working your way through your own feelings. Interesting Projects were great in designing and developing my early ideas of the maze in a way that felt very true to my work.

Kaia – The development of these commissions is an evolving conversation between Artist, Curator and Exhibition designer. We work with designers interesting projects who interpret the concept to create an intricate sculptural framework for the work to be displayed within. Manjit had a very clear vision on narrative and selection of works. It was a joy to see how she explored her practice through new materials.

NOW Gallery Curator Kaia Charles in Conversation with Illustrator Manjit Thapp

Manjit / Kaia: How have you and the NOW Gallery had to adjust during 2020 and 2021?

Manjit – The delays due to the lockdown gave me more time to work on the show. It was great to have more time to spend with the narrative and strengthen the story that weaves through each art piece in the maze. 

Kaia – Manjit was actually awarded the 2020 commission, but we were delayed due to lockdown restrictions. The lockdown period afforded us additional time to create new dimensions to the display. Like every institution, we have had time to reassess and plan for the future, even with the uncertainty we are all dealing with. We have had time to think about important issues, which we might not have otherwise addressed. How can we make our exhibitions sustainable? How do we recycle work effectively? How to discuss this when the show is in its infancy.  We are working on this.

Kaia: NOW Gallery/Greenwich Peninsula has a strong emphasis on championing emerging designers and new schools of thought. What advice can you give to emerging artists?

My advice to emerging designers is to trust their intuition and embrace as well as dedicate time into developing their signature style. We would always advise new designers to see what is going on out there. Find designers on Instagram and follow their trajectory. Go to shows. Art shows in small commercial galleries can be a great way to see the thought process of up-and-coming talent. Remain connected, learn from others and stay true to your own style. @moragmyercough @sebastianbergne @rawedges @camillewalala @studiomorison @fredbutler @yinkaillori  @emmanuelle – we have worked with all these brilliant people and we keep immersed in their practice – being a part of what they are doing keeps us inspired.

Lydia Chan – Your ship has landed

Kaia: Are there any exciting future plans you are working on with NOW Gallery/Greenwich Peninsula?

Really looking forward to our next Design Commission which is curated by Jemima, which will feature set designer Lydia Chan 19 Nov 2021 – 13 February 2022. It will feature riotous colour and incorporate AI technology. We are also looking forward to the launch of the Design District at Greenwich Peninsula and will be working on a few exciting collaborative projects- so lots on the horizon!

It has been a tough time for everyone but having just experienced the launch of Manjt’s exihibition, with 300 people dancing euphorically in the sunshine, there feels like a sense of optimism. As if life feels as if we are able to do some kind of normal again. We are constantly aware of the importance of social distancing in the gallery, and just felt fortunate to have outside space to really celebrate Manjit’s wonderful exhibition.  

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