When a fire rages through a forest, it carves the opportunity for a fresh start. There was no fire at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery, but the inaugural exhibition, Scorched, signals a new life for the former Boathouse in Barnes, West London.

The exhibition showcases an array of artists, designers, and makers who all work with wood—in this case, scorched wood. The exhibition was originally commissioned by the London Craft Week 2019 for the Fitzrovia Chapel (Central London) but has now moved to the Western banks of the River Thames, where gallerist Sarah Myerscough’s new permanent space can be found.

“We want to show people the relevance of contemporary, craft, art, and design in the UK,” Myerscough told AN. “Putting on curated shows like this, it’s quite fitting to bring [Scorched] here to show how it’s possible to curate something which allows us to look at individual artists, their unique skills, their innovative approaches, processes involved in making like lathe work, carving and CNC cutting.

Looking at sculptures of organic forms carved from charred wood

Installation view of Scorched. (Courtesy James Harris)

Designers David Gates and Helen Carnac have produced the most architectural piece, of which there are 17. Using elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar wood from Lebanon, and vitreous enamel on mild steel, the Gates and Carnac have created a cabinet that riffs on the industrial landscapes they draw inspiration from; particularly the former, now-derelict Tate & Lyle factory in East London’s docks. Rust has been used to form decorative patterns while the structural elements, the joints and drawer mechanism, of the cabinet are celebrated and made very apparent. If Lebbeus Woods were to design a cabinet, this is what it would look like.

With a background in fine art, Myerscough founded her own gallery in 1998, setting up shop in Mayfair on London’s West End. “All the rents went astronomical,” she explained. “We had to decide to do exhibitions of fares. We chose fares so we could go out and reach our audience.”

Then came the opportunity to do both, in Barnes. Supported by the landlord, Myerscough has renovated a former boathouse. Timber beams have been exposed, wood flooring has been put in, and the brick walls were painted white. On the Friday before the gallery opened on June 10, the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air.

“When we first got it, it was like a 1960s office space,” said Myerscough. “It’s changed completely.” Where the opening for boats to come and go once was, is now a window which looks out onto the street. Today it advertises the contents of the gallery, offering a view into the relatively small, linear space. “We wanted to bring back its character and the original state of the place. Everything you are shown is full of character, narrative.”

Despite being outside of Central London, Myerscough isn’t worried about a drop in visitor numbers. “It’s probably more modest in the West End, but I don’t think that really matters, it’s more what you do in the space,” she said. “I think we were slightly shackled by place. People say, ‘Oh you’re a West End gallery’ and you immediately have this kind of profile. I don’t think it should be like that; what you do in the space should determine how successful you are as a gallerist.”

“In the art world, you need to have a specialization to be noticed. But it won’t just be timber on display here. There are so much more exciting things going on — with organic materials, sustainability.”

Scorched runs through August 18, 2019. Other artists featured include Max Bainbridge, Alison Crowther, Christopher Kurtz, Eleanor Lakelin, Malcolm Martin and Gaynor Dowling, Gareth Neal, Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley, Benjamin Planitzer, Marc Ricourt, Wycliffe Stutchbury and Nic Webb.

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