The new players: Studio Chapple

If you are in the known in the London art scene, chances are you have found yourself on a 6pm train to Deptford to catch a beer at an opening before they’re gone. Over the past few years, a cluster of art galleries, studio spaces and cutting-edge art events have been proliferating in London’s South East, alongside newfangled restaurants and emerging music scenes. If you want to hang with the new cool kids, this is where you have to go.

Someone who knows a thing or two about being cool is Louis Chapple, I think as I look down at his geometrically paint-splattered four-toned mocassins and orange socks. In late 2022, Louis opened his first gallery space, Studio Chapple. “I’ve been doing pop up projects for a couple of years now. Whilst that was great fun and it was brilliant, I was always looking for a permanent space to have the freedom to experiment with shows that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do when you’re having to fork out a huge budget for a pop-up rental space. And then this space came about in the summer of last year, I’ve been speaking to one of the other galleries on the street, and they were leaving and I started a conversation with the landlord and it just kind of happened!”

However, Studio Chapple doesn’t work on a regular gallery model. To keep costs low and preserve his time as well, the space is used by two galleries in alternation. “We just do one month on, one off. My sign comes down and theirs goes us up and we can be different entities in that way”. As Louis points out, this is not a new business model, it is just a matter of looking around. “When you look at Deptford High Street, for example, which we are just off, you’ll see the most multiple kinds of units that are shared by more than one business. So, you might have a food store that also has a mobile shop in the front. That kind of process of sharing space for a common need has been going on for ages. And I think we may start to see it more in the art world, as rent is obviously only going up and our time is precious as well. To be able to have a month off to plan the next show, but still constantly have something going on in the space is fantastic.”

Studio Chapple is an experimental art gallery and project space, focused on showcasing emerging UK-based artists from a myriad of backgrounds. With particular interest in the intersection between visual and sound art, Louis Chapple curates an eclectic mix shows and parallel events, aiming to attract a wider crowd. “Prior to my coming to art world life, I started off as a musician and deejay. While I still do that, I decided I wanted to, within this space, combine both rather than have them as separate entities. And so, the programming is going to be sound-focused, but not limited to working with sound artists in any way, but just a space that connects contemporary art, sonic production and the very defined history of club culture in the UK. Alongside the program of shows, we do raves, performances, gigs and we’ve got some exciting things coming up later in the year, hopefully a sound system event outside the gallery too.”

At the moment of speaking, Durian Revolution was on show, a solo by Hoa Dung Clerget, exploring themes of home, community and womanhood, reimagining a Vietnamese nail salon. In the engulfing pink space, durian-fruit textured paintings frame the side walls while a magical waterfall of unidentified nail beings consumes the centre of the room. On one of the exhibition weekends, they had a nail workshop, inviting people to get their nails done at the gallery. Louis stresses how much it is important to him that the Deptford community feels the space is for them as well as for the artistic community. “It’s very important to acknowledge where you are as a gallery. There’s been some kind of element, in each show, that either brings Deptford in or we take the show out to Deptford. So, with this show, we have one of the works on the wall of a Vietnamese supermarket just down the road. Having this work hanging with the actual durian fruits they have for sale, was just a brilliant way of taking the show out of the space.” 

Finally, I ask Louis what is to come: “I’m Looking at starting a new series of exhibitions called B2B Back to Back, which is going to be a series of duo shows, pairing painters with sound artists. I’m trying to devise a monetary system where half of my commission of the sale of the painting goes towards the sound artist because there’s a lot of issues around sound, lots of artists not being able to make money from sales. Hopefully that might start a way of being able to incorporate a more diverse range of practices into a more commercial setting.”

In the depths of Deptford, new galleries are trailblazing the industry, disrupting traditional business models and being more mindful to the social and cultural environments around them. The only question is: who is going to keep up?

A Fine Arts graduate from the University of Lisbon, with one foot in London and her heart in Lisbon, she currently works in an art gallery in the United Kingdom. After going through the fashion world, she has revised her major interest in art. She is co-founder of Coletivo Corrente de Ar, which focuses on promoting emerging artists and democratising Contemporary Art. Her work is developed around curation, art consultancy and writing.

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