You can’t put a price on this exhibition of a year’s isolation

What was your ‘lockdown project’? Paul Hall opened an art gallery in Addiscombe, and KEN TOWL popped along to view its first show

Room 1: the artwork on the wall might go viral

In a backstreet in St Leonards on Sea last year I noticed – you couldn’t miss it – a five-metre high wooden scale model of the Eiffel Tower.

Ah, I thought. A lockdown project. We all had one, didn’t we? Something to do while we stayed at home, something to do instead of seeing people, instead of socialising, instead of living our normal workaday lives.

During the first lockdown, Paul Hall, struggling to connect with his students (in the most literal sense) took both redundancy and possession of a ground floor retail space at 41 Lower Addiscombe Road.

Originally, he planned to rent it out as artists’ studios with perhaps a small space at the front to display the work of his tenants. He realised the space was not ideal for that but convinced himself that it would make a great gallery.

This became Paul’s lockdown project; he worked as electrician, painter, handyman and labourer to create the Croydon Art Space Gallery. It opened to the public in late July and its first exhibition, Isolation, will be there until November 21.

Isolation showcases the work of six artists and their responses to the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.

Eclectic mix: the gallery’s first exhibition features the work of six artists

They are an eclectic mix and there is, as a result, something for everyone here.

The exhibits include pastel drawings, ceramics, paintings in oil and acrylic, graphic design and ink on sized cardboard, and the results are striking and oddly harmonious.

Hall has curated the exhibition with a sensitivity that allows for each element to shine.

Pot luck: the gallery includes some impressive ceramics

The space is made up of three rooms and the first room, which you enter as soon as you step out of the street, is dominated by the work of Martin Masterson.

This is partly because his skilfully rendered pastel drawings are the largest of the works on display, but also because his sculpture, The Collision of Species – not so much a representation of, more an abstract nod towards the virus itself – hangs spikily from the ceiling.

In the second room I was taken with the collage work of Gillian Fielden, featuring modernist steel, glass and concrete buildings of London, laying bare the beauty in the brutalism.

Anatomical Sun: Anyone know the price?

I would probably buy Anatomical Sun if I had enough money, but I probably don’t.

I got the impression that this was one of those galleries where it is considered vulgar to ask the price of anything. I feel vulgar just mentioning it.

Barbara Gorton’s rather beautiful pottery is distributed about the first two rooms.

I was fascinated by Hall’s description of how she had started making small pieces, mostly tealight holders, at the beginning of the pandemic and then had made use of the time available to her to experiment and create larger pieces playing with new techniques.

A discreet bid has been lodged against one of the bigger, bolder works, a pair made up of a bowl and flask. I was invited by Hall to feel the texture of the underside of the bowl, so I did; it felt knobbly, in a good way.

Matthew Kolakowski is a member of the very prestigious artists’ collective The London Group and so merits a room to himself. The white walls of the gallery’s Room 3 are the perfect backdrop to Kolakowski black ink on sized cardboard reflections on a society damaged by isolation.

His images are full of contradictions, stark yet cosy, depicting scenes that hint at conviviality and social interaction, but which are empty of people. Here, a table is set for two but no one dines, there a couple of drinks are witnessed only by a China cat.

Drinks for Two: one of Matthew Kolakowski’s ‘stark but cosy’ works

I am grateful to Paul Hall for giving me the opportunity to step out of a rainy Lower Addiscombe Road and into his lockdown project gallery space.

You are welcome to go along any Tuesday (10am to 1pm), Thursday (10am to 12pm) or Saturday (10am to 2pm) before the end of November.

If you do go, and you are less self-conscious than me, and unconcerned about appearing vulgar, would you do me a favour and ask the price of Anatomical Sun?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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