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My faith in a pretty debased British art scene was temporarily restored by  news via Facebook on November 15th 2012.

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In face of larger scale competition, “WE WON! Studio75 has won University of the Arts Creative Enterprise Award for Enterprising project. Thanks to EVERYONE who has been part of the studio or has supported us in any way!”                                                                            Gillian Nazir-Tanbouli

“Today STUDIO 75 has won the CREATIVE ENTERPRISE AWARD 2012, I would like to thank every artist, film maker and blogger who have contributed to the studio in any shape or form, I was awarded for running a successful art space/gallery on zero budget and no funding for 2 years……I always believed that artists need money but art doesn’t.”                                     Nazir Tanbouli

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The award citation read:

Nazir Tanbouli graduated from Printmaking MA from Camberwell in 2010. He set up The King’s Land at Studio75 to bring some art and life to a semi derelict East London housing estate, attracting a wide variety of people including local families who have never been to a gallery before. He organised international partnerships including an exchange with Spanish gallery La Clinica Mundanae, hosted an artist’s book show from Moscow and collaborated with German artist Valentin Manz on murals. Nazir has organised film screenings, a mini festival event featuring world music acts attended by over 200 people and workshops with local schools.

Studio75 has operated entirely without any public funding and sustains itself by selling work, using reclaimed materials and using networking, barter and small donations, and sponsorship from L&Q’s in the form of free space. The project received coverage from The Community Channel, CNN, the BBC and Time Out.

“I just want o to say how proud I am of Nazir Tanbouli my partner in art and life. He won the award yesterday beuase he stuck to his dream. He had a vision of what to do with a crummy run down room on a crummy run down estate. He brought colour and life to it and has shared that with everyone far and wide. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it is to stick unerringly to our dreams. Most of us don’t – we compromise and prevaricate. I know I do. But Naz doesn’t. He has a vision and a vocation to devote his life not just to making art, but to make art available to everyone to share it and to extend it. For him, art is not the acquisition of the rich. It is the fundamental lifeblood of creativity, the very stuff of civilization; that which makes us human – and it’s for everyone. Naz is generous with his time and his energy.”                                                                            Gillian McIver-Tanbouli

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I have been the grateful recipient of attention paid my art practice by Nazir Tanbouli and  Gillian McIver-Tanbouli, the creative partnership behind the studio75 project. I am an artist [hopefully] in mid-career with no agent representation. I absented myself from London’s art scene ten years ago by mutual consent; I could do without its cultural oligarchy’s wilfully obtuse aesthetic caprices; London could do without my developing ouevre. I tend not to enter competitions /opportunities which require fees at point of entry. –I am always happier to pay a little more when work accepted. Having organised two national Open competitions, I have found that many artists are of a similar mind. It was at one group exhibition which had been funded on these lines that I met Nazir Tanbouli. “Freaks” had been arranged by Tom Adriani and “the‘Cactus Lab.”  in the subterrainean basement level of Shoreditch Town Hall; all small atmospheric, minimally lit  spaces, linked with pipelines and exposed brickwork perfectly suited to the theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At_uxXlCWsc

.In a show of wide-ranging subject matter, we found a common bond. We had both shown work which Communicated ideas rather than producing a form of currency, but these ideas were laid down as a sub-stratum below a puzzling, and faintly disturbing surface image. I am always drawn to artists who can wrong-foot their audience; whose seriousness is leavened by humour or irony.

We kept in touch thereafter online. I live in West Wales, so it is only an opportunity promising particular interest which can pull me across the Severn crossing and down the M4. Nazir offered me the chance to participate in one such opportunity several months later.

“We set up Studio 75 to reinvigorate and renew the definition of the “artist-run space,” as neither gallery nor institution.”

Haggeston is an area of London currently in a state of flux. Uncomfortably close to the city, its local multicultural populace is slowly being forced Eastwards as more affluent incomers form new communities and take up residence behind security gates.

Nazir and Gillian established an art space in the middle of an estate of Edwardian tenements which were at the very end of their timeline. Studio 75 took flight as the process of demolition commenced.

From the outset, the pair fought to dispel the stereotype of the artist-run gallery as a studio squat. This perjorative label is favoured by  galleries and dealers in much the same way that publishing houses rail against self-publishing online as mere vanity publishing; a default response from partisan interests.  Studio 75 was certainly not a squat, as all necessary permisssions had been obtained from the relevant authorities responsible for the site’s clearance and eventual demolition.

Studio 75 doesn’t have a ‘house style’. The only agenda Naz and Gillian hold is a search for artistic merit, derived from personal response rather than by following any prescription issued by mainstream arbiters of taste. Because they didn’t pigeonhole me by the images I showed at “Freaks”, I have on different occasions been allowed to show drawings [“the Draughtsman”], a narrative film [“Tatsuko”], abstract collages [“Mash it Up”] and a suite of paintings based on extraordinary rendition [“Consignment”].

All were selected purely on visual criteria: I have never been asked for either C.V.,  list of awards or articles. I am not sure if they know what I have done in the past; I don’t know if they even care. Everything is about the quality of the imagery which they are examining at that moment.

By the time of the “Rip it Up” show, I was sufficiently confident in Naz and Gillian’s curatorial capabilities to simply send a folder of unframed work by post. every confidence  in their curatorial abilities. I knew that the show’s audience would be informed by a display of sensitive juxtapositions and thought-provoking contrasts.

I had the pleasure of stewarding my “Consignment” show and was delighted that the visitors were real people. By this I mean people who lived in nearby housing blocks, some with young children in tow ,or on their way to work. They were not scared of the space, they knew from previous visits that they would not confronted by an environment of  activity requiring alienating information panels of unintelligible artspeak. I had the pleasure of sharing several conversations comprising pertinent questions about the work, over mugs of tea and Kit-Kats.

“Being free to make and show, has been a challenge. It is also exhilarating, which is its own reward – and it develops you as an artist.”   Gillian McIver-Tanbouli.

I have never been asked for an exhibition fee at Studio75; not even for my solo show. In a city where art’s primary function is to perform as economic currency, this approach is quite radical. I was happy to donate an artwork in lieu of payment. Barter of course fits in seamlessly with their ethos and works for me; one can only hope the painting may repay them for their kindnesses in the future if required.

To be involved with Studio 75 is to work with genuine people who share an awareness of our current socio-political nexus; of what it means to create art in economically straitened circumstances, of how art can speak in a language which people out there, beyond the reach [or the interest] of the solipsistic art world, can understand. Naz and Gillian do not condescend. Rather, they communicate with an assumption that the audience is capable of bringing something to this encounter, to create a balanced dialogue.

Read their blogs. Follow them on Facebook. Feel as I do; feel included in a list of what Gillian calls “friends not just jpegs”.

List of addresses:

http://www.studio75.org.uk/

http://blog.situ.org.uk/

http://blog.gillianmciver.org/

http://lunaneraart.wordpress.com/

Studio 75 is not an address, not a building, not even an overspill onto the streets of haggeston via the kingsland project. it is a manifesto, a state  of mind. It is on the move. It may morph into something else, relocate to a different area, in new quarters  with changed dimensions, facilities and opportunities.

But be thankful that, through the energising spirit of two good people, it exists as a viable model for visitor access and artistic self-enablement.

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