A wonderful collaboration has been born on the streets of Notting Hill, dreamed up by curator and founder of Studio West, Caroline Boseley. A ballet performance by two dancers from Portobello Dance School will take place in her gallery responding to Karolina Albricht’s current exhibition 16 Branches High. On the night of the 24th of March, the white walled space will become the stage and paintings will line the walls alongside viewers of the spectacle.

When she met painter Karolina Albricht, Caroline was inspired by her focus on gesture, movement, and the relationship of the body to painting. For Karolina, the canvas and the painter are in constant dialogue, like two bodies navigating space, they shift and move in relation to one another. Further, music is a great influence on Karolina’s process – the exhibition title is drawn from the lyrics of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Spinning Song. Musical dissonance, lyrical melodies and unusual sounds populate Karolina’s ‘Studio Playlists’, like familiar friends they float around the room accompanying and inspiring her as she paints.

Caroline’s vision was shared by Portobello Dance School; they were enthused by the opportunity to create something unique in a new environment. Stanley Young, one of the highly talented performers who has co-created the piece with dancer Anna Daly found working from a painting surprisingly easy. Together, this team of creatives and patrons have brought to life a beautiful evening of multi-disciplinary artistic experience and formed a lasting collaboration. I caught up with the team to learn more about this exciting process.

Caroline Boseley

Curator Caroline Boseley, Founder of Studio West

Where did the idea come from to bring together art and dance in this unique way? 

Firstly, I am always thinking of different ways to extend the programme we offer visitors to the gallery. The idea came to me after a discussion with Karolina about her work and learning about the way her practice is connected to music and syncopation. I had previously met Mark Elie, CEO and Founder of Portobello Dance School and was so impressed by the work his school and foundation do to support and train young dancers of diverse backgrounds and the incredible programme of dance lessons Portobello Dance School has offered to local people, especially children, since the organisation was founded in 1994. 

What does it mean to you to work with Portobello Dance School? How does this further your aims as a gallerist? 

A central aim of mine when founding Studio West in North Kensington was to actively work with and support the local arts and cultural ecology. Portobello Dance School is based a few roads away from us, so when they were so enthusiastic about my idea to commission a pair of young dancers, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore the connection between these two different forms of creative expression. Movement and rhythm are an integral part of Karolina’s practice and visitors will be able to learn more about how music and syncopation influence her process and that is very interesting to me!

Karolina Albricht, Image by David Owens

Artist Karolina Albricht

How does it feel as an artist to have your work responded to through movement and dance? In what ways does this resonate with your approach to painting and sculpture?

Movement, and the question of how it can be translated through pictorial means, is one of the central concerns for me. It will be very interesting to see how the dancers read this sense of physical motion, visually inscribed in my work, and transfer it into a kinetic response

Sternum Mileage,-2021

Why do you think it might be useful or important to integrate other art forms into artistic spaces such as galleries? What do you think this offers the viewer? 

I like this holistic idea of cross-medium transference. The dance performance is a huge opportunity to see how my practice can be extended into another domain. The proximity of the paintings and the bodies of the dancers is quite important here as well – the performance itself becoming a more intimate exchange between the dancers and the paintings.

It feels as if the paintings themselves entered this collaboration independently of me: they will activate a particular sequence of movement without my direct involvement. I hope this will be a chance to offer the viewer a broader understanding of painting as an unfixed entity and propose a more egalitarian and adaptable territory.

Do you think experiencing the dance will change how you see and understand your paintings? Might it impact your process in future?

I imagine the performance might expose certain aspects of the body-painting reciprocity which I haven’t previously encountered or considered. This response will be external to my work: Anna and Stanley’s autonomous and personal reading, akin to a verbal exchange, but through a spatial sense of the dancers’ own bodies. 

What are you most excited about in regard to the upcoming Ballet performance by Portobello Dance School? 

I think the most exciting part is simply to witness the dance unravel. To be able to take in the movement as it travels through space and time and uncovers the deeper workings of the human body. 

Stanley Young

Stanley Young, Dancer from the Portobello Dance School

It must be unusual to choreograph based on paintings. What elements of Karolina’s work resonated with you? How to you plan to explore these through movement?

Choreography, by nature, is very similar to painting. They share a compositional and visual quality. Karolina’s paintings are actually a very good stimulus for choreography because the physicality and texture of the work is both striking visually and powerful emotionally. Therefore, recreating this through movement isn’t too challenging, it is a matter of transferring abstract shapes from canvas to bodies.

When exploring unchanging or static visuals like Karolina’s paintings it’s important to find a specific interest to explore; for example, the second piece we will perform was created around the title of one of Karolina’s works, ‘Downside Up’. By focussing on this alone, we already had an outline of the appropriate movement possibilities – from there all we had to do was generate the material and piece it together.

Downside Up, 2022

In terms of process, Karolina sees her painting practice as gestural, with movement being essential to the process. Do you think there are strong connections between painting and dancing? 

As I said earlier, I do. Painting is innately physical; it revolves around movement; in its creation and style an artist relies somewhat on habitual movements from their experience. This is very similar to the philosophy of movement and dancing as a response to identity, personal experience, and movement habits.

What was the project like as an experience? 

This has been an interesting experience for us. This opportunity has offered us a lot of creative freedom which is great, also working together with Anna is always a joy. What’s more, working professionally is amazing and essentially the goal of all young artists so we’re both very grateful for this opportunity and for Karolina!

Spencer Murray, Operations Manager at Portobello Dance School

What is the ethos of Portobello Dance School and how does this align with the project in collaboration with Studio West?

Portobello Dance School works within the community to teach and promote dance as a craft and help dancers graduate from the local to the international stage. Our open-door policy allows over 150 budding dancers to pass through our classes each week. The school’s high achievers often move onto further training and become renowned professional and commercial dancers. This is ultimately a key aim, to help young people progress in their craft and build careers in the artform they love. Further, through events such as Classically British, taking place this year on Friday October 14th, we pay homage to Black History, and the unique contribution that has been made to dance and movement. We also promote and platform amazingly talented people of colour in our craft.

The Studio West partnership is something exciting and unique for us. It allows us to engage with the local community in a different way and it is such a great professional opportunity for our dancers Stanley and Anna. I think creating a performance for this unusual space, a gallery, is also interesting for Stanley as it challenges him and helps him to further develop his skills as a choreographer. I think Portobello Dance School and Caroline also share a passion for supporting and promoting creative young people and celebrating the amazing talents across mediums in London.

Ballet Performance by Portobello Dance School. at STUDIO WEST created in response to the current exhibition KAROLINA ALBRICHT: 16 BRANCHES HIGH

Thursday 24th March 2022, 7pm – 8.30pm, Free and open to the public

STUDIO WEST, Unit 1, 216 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 1NR

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