in Frieze London | 13 SEP 22
In Collaboration with Aero
In Collaboration with Aero

In the Studio with Gabriele Beveridge

We speak to the London-based artist about melting glass, freezing time and biological engineering, ahead of a special event for Frieze 91 members

in Frieze London | 13 SEP 22

With a studio based in Central London, just under the BT Tower, Gabriele Beveridge uses her space to bring various modes and mediums of art together. Frieze speaks to Gabriele about order, memory, beauty and technology, as well as her artistic inspirations and what she will be showing at Frieze London.

Gabriele Beveridge, Fountain, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen
Gabriele Beveridge, Fountain, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen

We’re looking forward to seeing your work at Frieze London, in a group show with Seventeen Gallery. Can you tell us about the specific pieces that we’ll see at the fair, and can we see any of them here in your studio?
I’m bringing new, wall-based glassworks to Frieze London. Some of these works are still in the glass studio I work in, just outside London. I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of a furnace recently, watching my ideas being tempered into glass. It’s a risky process. Delicate. But if you keep experimenting, the material can sometimes morph and evolve into something that has its own life, its own tendencies, its own metabolism. Some of my recent works look like glass organisms invading each other. 

What kind of materials do you use? Why do you like working with them?
I work with a lot of different materials, from found images to shop fittings, synthetic hair extensions to photograms I make in the dark room. In the dark room, working with the light and chemicals, you can create a controlled moment: a single point of conception. But my work is not always so controlled. The one material I’ve used a lot of over the last ten years is glass. I was initially interested in glass because it flows; it’s a liquid at one point and then physically this fluidity becomes frozen, almost communicating a duped sense of time, not unlike images one develops in the dark room. You can see works of that nature here in my studio, such as this work I made by melting glass over shop fittings, creating forms like suspended bodily shapes. 

Gabriele Beveridge, Orbit, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen
Gabriele Beveridge, Orbit, 2022, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen

How do you find these materials?
Most materials, such as shop fittings, I source intentionally; but sometimes I stumble across things. For instance, the images I find are often posters of faces from the windows of hair and beauty salons, where they’ve been faded by the sun for years. If I see one I like, I’ll go in and ask if I can have it. 

Is there a special significance in the places where you find these materials? Where do you find inspiration, beyond the art world? 
I take inspiration from the city and life around me. I did a lot of wandering over the pandemic, past the windows of abandoned shops, along empty beaches, through Pompeii, over a frozen sea in Finland. It all bleeds in. I took photos of the detritus: discarded gloves, wigs, masks. And I noticed material seeping through: chemical patterns on concrete, rain patterns on glass. You look for things that trigger a memory: of something you read or something you saw. I’ve been reading the poet Thomas Kinsella a lot recently. He spent years paying careful attention to the process of aging: recognising the changes and the detritus – the thinning lips, the dark exhausted eyes, tortoise eyelids. He would fix them in his memory and then later work them into poems that recorded a brief moment of order in all the chaos. I feel that this sort of resonated with what I do.

How is your work about society’s relationship with our bodies?
I think we experience and understand life through our bodies, not just our brains. That idea has always fascinated me.
The materials that I work with evolve in front of me, each one transforms into something that makes sense in its own right, but people often have a gut or bodily reaction to my work. I’ve been working with these hair extension pieces and I’ve been told they look like something that could be inside the body or protruding from the body. I mean they could just as easily be something you might find in a dark corner of the cosmos, but that’s the reaction people have had so far.

Gabriele Beveridge, Coupling, [Year], Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen
Gabriele Beveridge, Coupling, 2022, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen

Your work seems to play upon ideas of commercial beauty, would you say that’s accurate? 
I always think technology shapes our ideas of beauty, just as much as advertising. Technology comes first and it is radically changing our bodies. For a start, we are engineering our biology: we have created instruments that allow us to manipulate our skin, our genes, and even replace whole parts of our bodies. What’s happening is that we are looking at life at a much higher resolution now, and ideas of beauty will follow from that. Beauty becomes something that can be reworked, filtered, replaced, or improved. However I don’t necessarily think that my art is a direct critique of beauty ideals. There has been a lot of conversation on this matter with regard to my work, which is to be expected, but I believe my work goes a lot deeper than that. It is about beauty but it is also about many other things.

Has your art changed over time?
Yes, the materials have changed and so have I. It’s like Paul Klee said, you adapt yourself to the material. In his case it was paint. Adapting himself to the contents of the paintbox, he said, was more important than nature and its study. I think the materials I use have changed a lot over time. I used to discover – as opposed to build – a lot of my materials. 

And who are your artistic influences? Are there any artists that made you want to be an artist or made you see the world differently?
Not so directly but when I was younger, I was fascinated by artists working with collage and experimental approaches to image making, for instance, Sigmar Polke’s photographic work. I studied photography but I never really took any photographs, I was always interested in finding existing images and materials and turning them into something new by experimenting with them. This simple idea that you can make your own rules; take one thing, a second thing and then turn it into a third thing. I love a lot of the Surrealists too, such as Ithell Colquhoun’s alchemical landscapes. Agnes Martin also help me to see that you can convey emotions over geological distances.

Gabriele Beveridge, Slip Fault, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen
Gabriele Beveridge, Slip Fault, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen

What advice would you give to emerging collectors looking at art? What are the best ways to discover new artists?
My gallery would have more advice on that front. But I would say, collect what you love, what moves you or fascinates you in some way – be that a pebble from the beach or an artwork in the gallery. 

You live and work in London, and find a lot of your material here. However would you say that travel and experience is also important to your work? Has a trip or new place ever had a significant influence over your work?
I think a recent trip to Pompeii made a big impression. It was the end of lockdown so there was almost nobody there except us, so we walked all day, moving in and out of the shadows, stopping to look at all those stone faces frozen in time and bleached by the sun.

You’ve exhibited in many different countries across the world, is there anywhere still on the list to tick off?
Hong Kong. My birthplace and home while I was growing up.

Frieze 91 members are invited to a studio tour with Gabriele Beveridge followed by drinks and dinner in partnership with Aero. The tour will take place on September 22. Find out more about Frieze 91 here.

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Main image: Gabriele Beveridge, Lattice, 2022, Courtesy of the Artist and Seventeen

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