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If the Living Art Hungerford gallery were a band, curator Justin Cook would have cited “artistic differences” as the reason for his departure. He has now cut loose from the family firm to do his own thing at ‘Oil’, just a few doors down the road. TRISH LEE spoke to him about his new gallery, which recently launched with an exhibition in its ‘Boiler Room’


5A Bridge Street, Hungerford

TL: So, a new venture?
JC: Yes, Living Art went very well in a commercial sense but there were “too many cooks” in the kitchen and so, by mutual agreement, we decided to part so I could pursue my own sense of self and curate my own space.I wish Living Art all the success in the world and hope by there being two quality galleries in Bridge St now this will bring more people to the street for all the traders.

What is your thinking behind Oil? How did the gallery’s name come about?
Oil is a very powerful and expansive word. Not only does it have the
obvious paint reference but also it is a substance that is naturally made from the earth and the fact that it powers things. Without oil, nothing happens on an industrious scale.

I then put the concept together that without the oil my gallery would be nothing, just four walls and a nice floor. The artists are the oil, I am the oil, we are all the oil that powers things forward so it just seemed the right name.

Oil is from the underground, its naturally made. It powers everything

Have you brought featured artists over with you from Living Art?
Yes, the artists that I brought to Oil from Living Art were friends really and I had been collecting their work before I started to deal them, so they wanted to stay with me and be a part of my new project. Luigi, Broussard, JK Brown, JJ Lynch came with me but Gabriela Bodin stayed with Living Art.Sara Issakharian has also moved over with me to Oil. Sara has just recently sold a few pieces of her art to the Brook Shields Art Foundation from Art Southampton where she showed this year. She is being asked more and more to exhibit in the US. She is also exhibiting in a group show at the flowers gallery this December and is coming over to meet some UK collectors who are very interested in collecting her work – so things are moving and her new works are quite simply epic. She is bringing me new works for Oil.

The present exhibition in the Boiler Room is the Shotgun series by Lynch & Patmore. Is the current show selling well?
Yes, the line up is, as always, delivering. Broussard, Luigi, JK Brown and JJ Lynch have all sold pieces and a newbie artist from Japan, Yuta Adachi, also sold so it’s been a great start. Also we have a great bronze artist from the local area called Lewie, who makes some wonderful bronzes that have a Westworld feel due to the artist’s background in CGI. Even though Lewie has fashioned it with her hands, there is definitely a digital finger print feel. Very, very cool.

Has there been feedback from the artists?
They are all delighted that I am back in business and happy and are willing me on with their support and love.

What sort of shows can we expect to see in future?
Delighted to say I am in talks with Christopher Luigi Veggetti about his first solo UK show in early summer with Oil. This is very exciting as he is probably, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and fresh artists bubbling in the world today and to be able to do his debut show with Oil is very exciting.

Also there will be various revolving shows in the Boiler room within Oil. I aim to turn a new exhibition every six weeks, so stay tuned to the site and local press to know what's showing next but it will be fresh national and
international art from both new and emerging artists.

I am also working on a big concept show called The Oil Factory which I aim to show in London next year, probably November, in a 3,000 sq ft gallery in North London. I intend to bring four to five Oil artists together in the summer for a month to work separately and individually to create a body of work and then take it to London. I’m also looking into filming it and making some kind of documentary about it and even getting a soundtrack done by an old friend. It’s a very ambitious project but the first piece of the puzzle is confirmed with the gallery in London so now have to put the rest together...

Who should visit Oil?
Anyone who wants to see beautiful and unique things from around the world. Most of my artists are exclusive to me in the UK and are all in international galleries ex-UK, so the level of work is world-class.
I have art for sale from £70 for a JK Brown Butterfly, all the way past 10-grand. There are pieces to suit all budgets and I will be very happy to welcome buying and non-buying viewers into Oil so we can talk about the art and the artists together.

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