Thursday 2nd April

| BY Paul Toner

Ten’s to See: ‘When Shit Hits The Fan’, the Insta-Exhibition by Guts Gallery

You’re headed to a private view for a new exhibition, what can you expect? A DJ spinning some obscure tunes? check. A free glass of something bubbly on your way in? double-check. The chance to feast your eyes on some exciting works up-close-and-personal before the doors are opened to the viewing public? Now that’s guaranteed. But what happens when those doors never open? The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus has meant galleries across the country have closed; their exhibitions postponed or axed completely. This leaves artists nationwide steeped in an unprecedented level of uncertainty surrounding their own futures. For Ellie Pennick, founder and curator of Guts Gallery, she couldn’t sit around and do nothing.

“When shit started to hit the fan, all of Guts Gallery’s physical exhibitions had either been cancelled or postponed. I had phone calls with artists who were panicking about income and having no other choice but to go onto universal credit,” explains Pennick. “I could of either sat in isolation and waited until this blew over, or put my ethos of supporting underrepresented contemporary voices into action by navigating this set back through a digital Instagram exhibition.” With this came the aptly titled When Shit Hits The Fan, an Insta-exhibition that even kicked off with a virtual private view of its own. I attempted to join in on the fun myself, pulling a tinnie from the fridge and sticking on a questionable Spotify playlist whilst I made my way through the in-app space.

Featuring 38 artists in total, don’t expect any unmade beds or cows in fish tanks. The exhibition continues Guts Gallery’s ode to supporting a broad mix of emerging talent – from both working-class backgrounds and a diverse mix of gender identities. “I have been following the exhibiting artists for a while and have built relationships with them. They have always supported each other on social media, at each other’s physical exhibitions and are of course all extremely talented, with a great work ethos and attitude. It seemed natural to choose these artists,” says Pennick.

A quick scroll through the exhibition and you’ll get the gist that When Shit Hits The Fan houses an eclectic display of some of Britain’s wittiest and finest contemporary talent. An inflatable bingo-winning grandma with a fag in her hand courtesy of Rosie McGinn sits below Lydia Blakely‘s drunken racecourse kerfuffle on canvas. No two pieces look alike. There’s a knitted tapestry of a chicken shop menu by Sam Harris, a Trackie Mcleod footy kit stamped with ‘Mummy’s Boy’ on the back and a clay sculpture of Mark Zuckerberg’s head by Wilfrid Wood. If you’re looking for versatility, it’s safe to say this exhibition has a bit of everything.

“The online exhibition has bought together a large number of artists, building a platform of support for those struggling as well as creating a united front in a time of crisis,” says Pennick. “I am hoping that this will continue to be the case post-isolation and Guts can be a space for support in the arts, whether that be in a digital space or a physical space.” The latter, not-too-far into the distant future, will be an opportunity for one of the artists who will go on to receive The Guts Gallery Prize. Each of the 38 participants will vote for three fellow exhibiting artists. Whoever receives the most votes will stage a solo exhibition at The Room Upstairs Gallery later this year.

How come Pennick didn’t want to pick the winner herself? “The artist voting system is a fairer process, who am I to decide who deserves a solo show? I am a platform of support, not an art critic!” she says. But that’s not to say you can’t be. Head over to @guts_gallery on your next trip to Instagram, and channel your inner Jerry Saltz whilst you discover the fantastic works, all for your scrolling pleasure…

When Shit Hits The Fan’ takes place on @guts_gallery until April 16th, when the winner of The Guts Gallery Prize will be announced. Top image: ‘The Deposition’ by Lydia Blakeley.

@guts_gallery