One of the many struggles that Cape Town artists face is getting the right amount of publicity to secure sales. Having been recently invited to visit Space Between, a gallery neatly tucked away on 139 Albert Road in Woodstock, I was pleased to be introduced to a venue that caters for the more daring artists…especially street culture.
To get a better idea of what Space Between is all about and what uniqueness it can offer artists looking to exhibit in Cape Town, who better to talk to than its owner, Megan Theunissen.
Megan has been drawn to the world of art since the age of 3, a magnetism that was only strengthened in her high school years by friend and local artist Kilmany Liversage, who flared her interest in graffiti practices. Having completed her honors in Fine Arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in Cape Town and currently completing her Masters in Visual Arts with UNISA, Megan praises her educational opportunities for helping create Space Between.
What inspired you to open your own gallery?
For years I wanted to open my own platform, because I felt a deep seated need for artists to collectively produce freely in Cape Town. There hasn’t been any development or management for artists who do not want to produce typically over conceptualized works or those that stemmed from street inspired practices. When I travelled to London, I would spend days upon days visiting urban based galleries and I would like the movement to be dominant in Cape Town.
I never expected to open my own space at the age of 27, but opportunity struck due to hard work and networking. When you place a goal in line and obsessively work, these things happen when you least expect them to. I ended up in Woodstock due to where I was curating previously. I love the area, the people here have so many problems to deal with and I try to make friends wherever I can from every cultural background. I am in love with this community, there is so much personality and growth happening in this area, you just have to open yourself up to the culture present here.
What makes Space Between different from other Cape Town galleries?
What sets Space Between apart from other galleries is that, if you are invited to the program, you have the ability to design your exhibition alongside our small team. Each exhibition is incredibly reflective of the artist involved and each show is so unique and dynamic.
I also try to encourage artists to be as socially aware and conscious of what’s happening in South Africa and try to reflect that through themes in their practice. There is so much trauma attached to our heritage and it’s important to never forget that.
What has been your biggest struggle as a gallery owner?
In the words of the much loved Skullboy, ‘Money is the existential crisis.’ Yip, cash flow. I haven’t paid myself a salary in a very long time, everything I make goes towards projects. I care more about the sustainability of Space Between and its artists than partying or shopping for clothes and looking like a hip trendsetter. That said, being understaffed. It’s tough being a one man army most of the time, but it has made me recognise many faces of our creative community in Cape Town.
What do you like most about the Space Between venue?
It’s beautiful, large and when people enter inside for the first time, their faces light up. It’s unique and it is positioned in a rough area – I love the contrast and I love the people that surround it and whom I get to interact with on a daily basis. Space Between has a lot of personality and is a large enough space to showcase big exhibitions, it’s wonderful.
Do you have any other plans for Space Between?
We are stocking Loop spray paint from Italy from November 2015, I am too excited for this! The paint has excellent coverage and is reasonably priced. This in turn is going to better aid our creative projects and feed artists with production budgets.
Other than spray paint supply, we are growing our residency program in 2016 and workshop structures, these are a ton of fun for us and I love introducing excellent and interesting creatives to the community. What I would like to see from Cape Town is more photographers renting and utilizing our space. I welcome all party and project organizers to utilize our space – whether it be for parties and launches, shoots, private events or exhibition rentals. The space exists to serve everybody.
What was the one most rewarding moment for Space Between?
One of the most rewarding aspects of Space Between has been seeing a ton of people show up at exhibitions to support the artist and actually enjoy themselves enough to return, whether it be just to view artworks or a new collector coming to purchase the start of their collection. When you work hard and don’t take a step backwards, it’s hard to see what you do objectively, I love this surprise! It’s difficult to estimate how many people will come to a launch and when you see a crowd of people fill your venue, it’s great to think ‘Yeah, this is hard work paying off!’.
What advice would you like to give Cape Town artists?
- Place yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s when you start seeing real growth in your production.
- Always ask yourself ‘How does this relate to the person viewing my work?’, ‘Does what I am creating have a significant message?’ and ‘Is this the best I have ever produced?’
- Never give up! The market in Cape Town is a tricky one, push through those difficulties and always look for constructive criticism and take it to heart and see it in a positive light – leave the ego aside.
- STOP LEAVING CAPE TOWN! Stick your neck out for your hometown, if you care about the development of subversive practices here – stop leaving. Hustle a bit more despite the circumstances and work collectively with others that share the same passions.
Who has been most helpful to you and Space Between?
My band of darling interns (Daniella, Alexandra and Jacqui) are stars in my eyes, always willing to chip in and learn, assist where needed and lend a hand despite having other academic commitments.
Elad Kirshenbaum from Side Street Studios has been instrumental to Space Between and a huge supporter to both the space and the need for Space Between to exist, and of course to all the artists involved. I am extremely grateful to be able to bounce ideas off of him, it’s fantastic to have constructive criticism from somebody established and respected in the industry, and who is also dedicated to the development of Cape Town creatives.
I also need to say thank you to those that attend the shows and support our cause, without your collective support we would not be able to do this and grow at the pace we are.
‘Memento Mori’ and Space Between
As an additional treat, I was introduced to Nicole Weniger, a multi-talented artists who studied Transmedia Art at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and is currently exhibiting her ‘Memento Mori’ project at Space Between.
To show off one of the many talents to be showcased by this new Cape Town venue, I ask Nicole a few career questions.
What or who inspired you to enter the world of art?
Exhibitions that I visited in Austria and while I was travelling inspired me a lot. I liked, and still like, the idea that art can show me another perspective on things. It always felt like a break from my daily life when I perceived art.
When did you eventually find your own artistic tone?
I think my stay in Istanbul in 2011 helped me a lot to focus on my works and define what kind of art I like. The projects that I’ve developed there are very important to me. I like to work with humour and absurdity. Since I’m using different mediums, such as photography, performance, drawing, sculpting, and video, I try to evoke emotion across a broad array of senses.
What inspired you to create the Memento Mori collection?
I got inspired by the question: Do you actually need a body to be present?
This refers to the influence of technology when it´s about the way we occupy space. The exhibition will be focused around the concept of absence and presence and how certain landmarks and scapes pose questions such as how do our bodies and landmarks activate associations around remembrance of something that used to reside.
I like to question the unknown and one’s positioning within time and space. In the show Memento Mori, I pose the question if it´s possible to immortalize ourselves as we mark a space with our own presence and experiences.
Why did you decide to exhibit at Space Between?
I like this space a lot! I think it´s a great place for showing your work. I enjoyed having my studio next door to the place where I will exhibit my work, it made it possible to really engage with that space.
What career moves do you have planned for the near future?
There are some exhibitions coming up when I´m back in Vienna and I´m planning some new photoshoots. I want to amplify more on the topic of Memento Mori. Cape Town inspired me a lot, so when I´m back in Austria, I definitely will work on ideas that evolved from my residency here. I love working abroad, so I´ll try to travel again as soon as possible.
Be sure to come and indulge in Nicole’s Momento Mori exhibit at Space Between, until 30 October 2015.
Check out Nicole Weniger’s works on her website: www.nicoleweniger.com
To stay on top of new exhibits and events at Space Between, visit their website:
You can also follow Space Between on Facebook
Or peruse their photos on Instagram: @space_between_gallery
Text: Andy Moller
Answer: Megan Theunissen and Nicole Weniger
Photographs: Andy Moller and Nicole Weniger