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If You Could Collaborate

The fourth annual exibition opens at Rochelle School, London, until 23rd January 2010

Finding the A Foundation Gallery at the Rochelle School in East London is a bit of a task if you don’t follow a map or happen to be short-sighted (judging by their tiny sign at a creeky fence), but it is definitely not as adventurous and compelling as the task given to the artists now displaying at this exhibition. ‘If You Could Collaborate’ is the fourth annual If You Could exhibition by Alex Bec and Will Hudson, who see this as a side project of a more personal enterprise called ‘It’s Nice that’, which focuses on publicising and promoting the best work from across the creative industry. ‘If You Could Collaborate’ aims to provide a platform for the finest creatives from all over the world to question their conventional working methods and outcomes. According to Alex Bec, asking the contributors to work with a partner of their choosing from any discipline, profession or background was the first big challenge. Since they were told to produce something a little ‘unexpected’ and there was no brief to answer or format to honour, what could have been the much desired artistic freedom of choice, turned out to be a bit of a headache, and this without considering the liberal 12 month deadline. As Bec admits, “Designers and illustrators are used to working with a brief so we wanted to give them an opportunity to do what they really wanted to; yet having so much time in ones’ hands and so much to organise with a partner specialised in another discipline resulted in some artists putting the project off for months.”

The contributors picked are as varied as they could possibly be. A bunch of them were chosen by Bec and Hudson, those elected would choose other creatives, and then they all would pair with a partner. “We were expecting surprising results, and we did find really compelling works, but it is interesting to see that the most successful projects went through the hardest times”, adds Bec. Indeed, regardless of personal preference or personality stigmas, the works that are pieced together in one, blending and fusing both partners’ ideas, work best and communicate in a moving, bold and striking way that others may somewhat lack. When it comes to talent and mastery, there is no questioning that “hard work is key”, and even if we are attracted to the “immediacy in a work” whereby “the more ‘complicated’ pieces get looked at the least”, it does not necessarily mean that this is a pre-determined natural reaction but that it depends in personality traits, fashions and what people want to really get out of the experience.

Collaborations based on unlike disciplines are eye openers to a world of infinite possibilities in beauty and meaning. Thus we have designer Anthony Burrill working with astronomer John Griffiths to create a series of bold and striking drawings, and designers Andersen M Studio, collaborating with LekaGape, a care home for women and children in South Africa.

In the case of Hvass&Hannibal from Copenhagen, who produce from music videos and installations to album covers and classic flat illustrations, dynamism is their basis of communication. With their friend Anne Werner, they have cut, and sewn their way to a beautiful aqua, red, black and white “Op-Art medieval-like tapestry made from cotton fabric”.
BCMH approach their work with a sensible message. Their tone is as relevant and minimal as their execution. Teamed up with furniture, lighting and product designers Smith&Wightman they are offering a proposal for a new currency. Their objects have accrued their value through the amount of time invested in them, thus pushing us to ask ourselves – how much  of the value of an object resides within it and how much is it brought to it by the owner? And what is the value of an object with no apparent function?

Mario Hugo is an American illustrator with a dedication to making beautiful marks, be it with his pencil or his mouse.  Collaborating with one of Hugo & Marie’s illustrators, Micah Lidberg, they have created a drawing consisting of three panels, based on a stream of consciousness. These 12 sheets of A4 are interlaced illustrations filled with flowers, a pastel-coloured structure, a spider, chain, fire, and printed names of Daumier, Delacroix or Carpeaux, which were passed back and forth between the artists to produce this final attractive outcome.
Oliver Jeffers is not only an illustrator but an imaginative story-teller. Collaborating with his studio mate, jeweler Aaron Ruff, they have managed to create the first ever pair of 4D glasses. Inside an old suitcase, instructions of usage, vintage time/space/relativity indicators, a barometer to measure past, present and future, and a head model displaying the gadget in question bring us back to the realms of dream and magic realism.
The medium of film is represented by Michael Moloney’s work with photographer John Hooper. Michael has made a time-lapse film set 2500ft up a big hill in the Great Langdale area of The Lake District. They shot continuously for 24 hours with the camera rotating twice through 360°, documenting sunset, sunrise, stillness, movement, stars, and the ephemeral beauty of life. Their work is soothing and elegant, perfectly combined with a nostalgic soundtrack by Tim Phillips.

Praline create brilliant design solutions, from publications and branding, to websites and exhibitions. Always looking to add humour and clarity to their work, they realised architectural modellers The Model Shop were the perfect match for the typographic designs of their studio; and so they ended up with a new font, Avec, and physical scale models interpreting its shapes and neon lights. The interactive surprise comes from Julien Vallée, who is adept at creating either static or moving images, and no doubt wants to add a stamp of quality execution. Choosing Nicolas Burrows from Nous Vous, Julien has made a humorous interactive piece, a video where the visitor controls what object on Julien’s desk is to be put in motion, thus creating chaos and harmony at the pressing of a key. Michael Marriott created a blank canvas in the form of a flatpack rocking chair, so as to allow Rob Ryan to illustrate it with messages of deep sentiments and vibrant shades and thus producing a lovely piece of furniture, alluring to children and adults alike.

Other outstanding pieces complete this exhibition, open until the 23rd of January. A catalogue charting the process of each project, including sketches, workings and final displays is available online and can be purchased via

So, If You Could drop by this week, do not hesitate to do so. It’s nice to do things unexpectedly.