From outside, the creative offices at Salt & Powell seem to be nothing special, located above an optician on a busy York road. A trip up the stairs reveals what might also be misconstrued as a series of abandoned, even rather tatty offices. Tatty only in the sense that art isn’t tidy; creativity isn’t ordered.
There’s a certain art school charm to Charlotte Salt and Bonnie Powell’s artist/curatorial duo, set up after graduation to ‘support artists and facilitate challenging exhibitions and events.’ Charlotte and Bonnie share a long-term goal to connect emerging, recently graduated and local artists on the cusp of their careers with a wider demographic, creating new opportunities.
There is a tremendous amount of variation in the work being done at Salt & Powell’s studios, evident while moving from one room that looks like an office-come-art installation, to another containing shelves full of colourful, rigid felt shapes. Charlotte and Bonnie’s own creative room contains anything from bits of painted cardboard to indeterminate plastic and wood shapes. "We’re not sure what most of this is yet," says Bonnie. "We tend to gather stuff in here over a period of time and then find ways of piecing it all together."
After opening the studios, Charlotte and Bonnie found that their low rent, open door policy was gratefully seized upon by York’s creative community, from Jessannah Cooling’s work with video and image projection, Alex Tobin’s digital animation and Stu Burke’s sculptural work.
This work and more is evident on our tour, which feels like a sneaky tiptoe through the working studios of some of York’s most promising artists. Not wishing to trespass on these private worlds for too long, we move into the last few rooms to discover the obvious: a few blank canvasses stretched out next to a palette and some tubes of paint; to the not-so-obvious: an electric fan with a wind sock hanging from it, to be told that this is part of Alex Tobin’s latest experiment in web animation.
"There’s no-one around today," says Charlotte. "Sometimes this place is really buzzing and full of people but then they disappear for weeks, only to reappear when they’re working on something new."
Today, all of the dozen artists currently using the space as "somewhere to go and work" are absent and there’s a tranquility to the place, the only life evident being the bursts of colour here and there and the comforting smell of creative materials, reminiscent of a University art and ceramics department.
"It’s been an amazing first year," comments Bonnie, "and we can only hope we get more and more artists using the place as we evolve."
We leave the Salt & Powell studios for now and anticipate their forthcoming exhibition POWER UP, which will showcase work from over a dozen creatives currently with the collective. With art, sound and moving images, it proves to be quite a collection of talent.
POWER UP is at Artemis House, Eboracum Way near Heworth, York YO31 7RE on 14 August at 6:30pm. For more information, contact [email protected]Salt & Powell