Jennie Guy


Start to Finish

Rayne Booth of Monster Truck Gallery & Studios in dialogue with Jennie Guy, July 2008. Published in the Visual Artists’ News Sheet Issue 5, 2008.

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JG: Past life?

RB: Me personally? I studied painting at NCAD and worked as an artist for about two years. I am very proud of the work I made during that time, and I had a few shows including a solo at the Ashford. I met Alan Butler and we started to organise shows and projects together, and I realised that it was something I really wanted to explore. Monster Truck came along at the perfect time for me as it gave Alan and I the opportunity to experiment curatorially. We were basically allowed to do anything we wanted and make up our own rules and our own shows. We were not really interested in presenting the type of show that you can see in other galleries. We were, (and still are) trying to present shows that are fresh and don’t necessarily play along with current practice and trends.

JG: Role playing?

RB: Our roles in Monster Truck constantly evolve and change depending on who has the most time because we all work voluntarily and obviously we all have to make ends meet. So people will do more work depending on their work situations. I have recently dropped some of my ‘money’ job days and am working a bit more in Monster Truck. I have to say though Peter is the glue that keeps it together and we would not be here without him. Alan has just left to do an MA in Singapore for a year so it will be interesting to see how our roles change to fill his absence. Though with Skype and email, we anticipate that he will still be quite involved and we hope to curate a Monster Truck show in Singapore while he is there.

JG: Agenda – to have or have not?

RB: We are not trying to impress anyone. I think this is one of the guiding principles that we all share, and we will only ask other people to get involved with the place if they have the same philosophy. I think we have been at it long enough now to prove that there is an alternative system and that artists can initiate their own systems and be successful.

JG: Turnover of shows?

RB: Up until recently we were having one show per week at Monster Truck. This was necessary, not only to pay the rent, but to keep the energy of the place going. The most recent shows have all been two weeks long, which has been like taking a holiday! We work to such a tight schedule that one-day off is very much appreciated. So we are planning to keep the one-week shows in 2009 but intersperse them with some longer curated projects, which will be organised by the new curatorial team. Recently I did a rough count of how many artists we have worked with since 2006 and it is up to about 350 at this stage so this is the advantage of the one-week shows. We now have such a huge network of artists we have worked with, who we keep in touch with through email invites etc, and who come to our openings and talk to one another. I can’t think of many other galleries in Ireland who have such a huge support network, and it’s the main thing that has kept us going.

JG: Pivotal shows?

RB: In 2006 Alan Butler and I curated a show called ‘Plasticine’. It was really conceived as our re-launch show and the artists we invited represented the kind of work we are about. There was a lot of crossover between fine art and graphic design and a lot of the work was highly engaging. This is the kind of work we are interested in. Magnhild Opdoel’s piece consisted of a glass tank containing six white mice and a huge pink birthday cake. Over the course of the show the cake got eaten away and an almost sickeningly sweet piece of work became this strange miss Havisham-esq diorama. It was great and all the neighborhood kids used to come in to see the mice! This year, to follow on from ‘Plasticine’ we invited Ruth Caroll of the RHA to curate a show called ‘Let go’, which focused on the next stage of play in a young childs development. In between this we organised a 6-week series of shows called ‘Attack of the 50 foot women’ which was 6 shows featuring only female artists. This came about simply because we were getting such a huge number of submissions from women.

This coming September Magnhild (winner of the first annual Monster Truck award) will be presenting a ‘project platform’ at the Dublin Art Fair. We were really delighted to have been asked to do this, and she has some very, very ambitious plans for the space. It will be spectacular and we are all very excited. We will also be taking a commercial space and showing the work of about 10 artists who we have worked with before. We don’t usually ‘represent’ artists, except for the night only when we announced the monster truck award. We invited 40 artists to each bring a piece and we had an old bingo machine which we used to pick out the numbers. It was pure luck of the draw but there was a very high standard of work so no one was disappointed. I got a little painting by Maurice Caplice, which I love. We hope to do another one in a few months time as it was so much fun!

JG: Energy?

RB: I’m not sure where it comes from, but we have been going for 2 years now and it doesn’t seem to have diminished! We have 4 new people on the team now, who will be really getting stuck in September. So we will see how that affects the energy!

JG: New curatorial team?

RB: I am really excited to start working with them. Jonathan Mayhew, Niall Flaherty, Davey Moore, and Sharon Phelan. We asked them because we really wanted people we knew had similar visions to us, and we needed four people to do the work of Alan! The first thing we will be doing all together is the art fair, and in September we will also start programming for 2006. I can’t wait to see what new artists and influences they all bring with them.

JG: Evolution?

RB: We will continue to evolve to find comfortable ways of working. Peter Prendergast is the director now and he is really open to people’s roles changing to accommodate what they are good at and what they want to do.

JG: Awards received?

RB: We were nominated by the RHA for a Business-to-Arts Award and were short-listed. The collaboration with the RHA has been one of the most important thing to have happened to us and we know exactly how incredibly lucky we are to have gotten so much advice and experience and help from them. At the award ceremony, we didn’t win in our category, and we were sitting there in our gowns and tuxes so dejected… then the very last award announced was the Dublin Airport Authority award eligible to all the nominees, and our names were announced! It was a total shock! The money has enabled us to really commit to our new curatorial team and to improving the programme in 2009. It’s amazing how far we can make a relatively small amount of money stretch if we put our minds to it.

JG: Awards given?

RB: It a bit of a strange thing for a small organisation like us to be giving out awards, but the idea behind the imaginatively titled first annual Monster Truck award was that as we are not really a commercial space we cant ‘represent’ artists and give them the opportunities they need. Instead we decided to pick one artist per year and put all our efforts behind promoting them. Around the time we decided to do it, we were being offered a huge amount of opportunities for collaborations, shows and fairs and we really wanted to work with an artist who would benefit from it. Someone who was not already represented by a commercial gallery, but perhaps could be in the future through our efforts. We picked Magnhild Opdoel because we just unanimously love her work and she is great to work with. She is not daunted by anything and she has great energy. She is ambitious with her work and doesn’t let things like money and scale hold her back.

JG: Studios?

RB: We have 8 studios now and I think it’s a very good place for an artist to work. Art making can be isolating, especially if you are just out of college and are used to a support system. There is always something going on in the building between openings, meetings, and artists working there, so artists can develop a network very quickly. Peter is very keen that artists are happy working in the studios, and puts a huge amount of effort into ensuring this.

JG: Website?

RB: We are really luck with our team as Peter has a background in web design and Alan has loads of experience with techy stuff, so we have a great website that we update weekly. It has info on each show as it comes up, and archives of every show we have ever had. We also put up photos and news of exciting things that have happened, like the awards, the Art swap, the Candy Karaoke show which shut down traffic on Francis street… we also have MySpace and Facebook profiles which are great for promoting shows and getting people down to the gallery without spending money on invite printing and postage.

JG: End / Future?

RB: Watch this space! Judging from the submissions we have already gotten, and the ideas that are currently floating around in the ether, 2009 will be an amazing year.