They Said I was Special & Adapt to the Collapse

10/11/2018 - 24/11/2018


PV: Friday November 9th, 6-10pm

Union Gallery is pleased to announce They Said I was Special, with paintings by Glasgow-based artists Sophie Vallance and Douglas Cantor, curated by William Gustafsson.

The work of Sophie Vallance and Douglas Cantor is deeply rooted in the personal language of their everyday lives.

As a married couple Vallance and Cantor share important life decisions together and upon the UK government forcing Cantor to leave the country due to immigration policies established by Theresa May in 2012 when she was Home Secretary, they unwillingly had to reconsider everything. Vallance left her degree and they settled in Berlin. This major change altered their perception of society overnight, questioning everything from the culture in which they called ‘home’.

Yet, it was this move which liberated them.

Drastic changes in context catalyse a sense of freedom and create a less restrictive existence. This freed them of external pressures allowing the production of their work to be carried out with unapologetic honesty.

Rooted in Cantor’s works is his layered identity, a Latino, an immigrant sense of being British, he embraces this duality and mediates this through his practice. His work addresses the mundane as well as hefty issues of his existence. Cantor is constantly collecting thoughts, phrases and imagery. His work is reminiscent of a journal, with a painting being a page from this visual diary navigating the anxiety of being. He uses his paintings as a vice to release his anger, pain, grief and love, reminding him of each life moment. Although, being solely personal work, Cantor is not protective of “meaning” or “purpose” allowing the work to be open to interpretation.

Similarly to Cantor, Vallance’s work is deeply autobiographical, painting from her own experiences, conversations, and jokes. She creates her own visual narrative as displayed in the exhibition with three self-portraits, navigating her own state of being and charging her work with her emotions. Vallance has long since struggled with anxiety and only recently been able to see it properly, she uses the act of painting to transform her own vulnerability into power, allowing her to step back and re-enter the anxiety that she holds. Vallance uses humour as a vice to address these serious issues of her personal journey, allowing the work to become approachable and relatable to the viewer.

Not only do Vallance and Cantor share a life together but also a home studio. They point in the same direction in life, which creates a mutual visual language in their work. On occasions there are elements of their work which are re-appropriated, yet there is no possession of ideas or jealousy of ownership between them.

An example of this is the exploration of the use of branding in their work. Branding implies identity, a subject in which both artists heavily consider. A brand is a tool for a product, but also implies a certification in quality. For Cantor it is unavoidable to separate his work from his story and believes an artist in a way is something of a “brand”. Yet, he has no desire to be a brand, himself, but believes an artists story, via their practice, holds up a seal of quality. Vallance labels a brand as a product but also an identity. Noting the key difference in terms of identity and branding being to do with intention and honesty, believing a sense of integrity, keeping as one’s priority the idea of always moving forward in the practice, no matter where it takes you, having command over yourself, and being nobodies product.

Like branding Vallance and Cantor share an admiration for animals in their work; for Vallance, cats, and for Cantor, horses. They live vicariously through these spirit animals. Cantor’s interest in horses lies in the subversion between high and low culture, as horses are difficult to identify for one purpose or status, much like Cantor’s struggle with identity. The horses represent what Cantor wants them to represent and often feels like they are right symbol to embody himself. For Vallance the cat encompasses everything from power to anxiety becoming a fundamental allegory in her practice, a vessel for the artists’ deeper intentions and emotions, a manifestation of her vulnerability and a manifesto for self-empowerment. This is seen in Just Do it, as Vallance mirrors herself with a cat sharing a tender moment between woman and feline.




Sophie Vallance (b. 1993, Stirling, Scotland) Recent exhibitions include Predatory Behaviour, T293, Rome, IT (2018), Her Presence is Fuel, Mo Gallery, Berlin, DE (2018), H E R U S, Berlin, DE (2018), Slightly Seared on The Reality Grill, Unit 5 Gallery, London, UK (2018), Young Contemporary Talent Exhibition, Ingram Collection, London, UK (2018), Mine, Others and Yours, We are BUD, Athens, GR (2017).

Vallance lives and works in Glasgow.


Douglas Cantor (b. 1989, Columbia) graduated from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London with a BA (Hons) in Illustration. Recent exhibitions include Young Contemporary Talent From The Ingram Collection, The Lightbox Museum, UK (2018), H E R U S, Berlin, DE (2018), MŌ Gallery, Berlin, DE (2017), Young Contemporary Talent Prize, Cello Factory, London, UK (2016). Cantor’s work is included in The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.

Cantor lives and works in Glasgow.


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Union Gallery is pleased to announce Adapt to the Collapse, Mike Ballard’s first exhibition at the gallery in our Showroom Gallery, curated by William Gustafsson.

As an artist living in London, surrounded by the wave of gentrification flooding the city, Ballard is a spectator of the everyday urban environment in its constant flux. Using the cityscape as his primary source for material, Ballard conveys the weight of visual noise displayed in the urban matter, immortalizing the fabric of a city, giving new life to the often ignored.

Ballard has always been interested in urban society, born from his time writing graffiti, labelling himself as a graffiti writer, instead of artist, ignoring the notion of street art, telling his story by exploring the lines of legality and the private against the public.

Hoardings are the basis of his sculptural work. They function as protection for non-places stuck in a state of inbetweeness whilst bearing witness to the world going by. His fascination lies with ownership, displacement, the transitional and the division amongst the city. Ballard’s sculptural work bestows the energy of the aged, worn, weathered, lived from an unpainterly aesthetic rooted in the “found” edging toward the “ready made”. This aesthetic is chosen by Ballard for its utilitarian abstraction, fusing weathering, graffiti application and removal. Taken as sheet material and then given form by the reconfiguration and collage of different environments transforming from being a threshold, keeping people out and forming a dividing line between public and private property.

Ballard, is also a vice in his own ideology as he often reworks his sculptures injecting new dialogues into them, deconstructing and making new. This is the case with Adapt to the Collapse, which includes new elements but mostly was reworked from Ballard’s monumental sculpture Laying in the Cut presented at KAST projects in Plymouth earlier this year, 2018.

In Ballard’s painting he recreates a layered nostalgia from the “found” image which Ballard has taken himself. Signage holds an indispensable position within Ballard’s painting practice. Ballard’s interest lies in the abstract forms of the layering and aging process of urban surfaces. Seeking out these forms and compositions of urban matter taken from his local envirmonet Ballard uses gestural abstraction layered over these abstract remains, while preserving the appropriated. He superimposes the “found” imagery from his photographic transfers onto canvas using industrial mediums alongside more traditional tools, such as spray paint and oil and acrylic paint.


Mike Ballard (b. 1972, London, England) graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in Fine Art. He has previously exhibited at The Silver Building, London; Royal Academy of Arts, London; KARST, Plymouth; Unit 1 Gallery, London; Griffin Gallery, London; Parafin Gallery, London, amongst others. Residencies include the KARST Residency, Plymouth; Untapped Residency, Cyprus, Griffin Gallery Project Based Residency, amongst others. Collections include but not limited to David Roberts Foundation, Qatari Royal Family Collection, and University of the Arts, London.

Ballard currently lives and works in London.