Your burning questions answered: Q&A with WILDFIRE Gallery founder, JOhn Davis
What is Wildfire?
Wildfire Gallery is a travelling pop-up art gallery, seeking to challenge the traditional commercial gallery model, perceptions around art in general and increase engagement with local communities.
Travelling pop-up, what’s that?
Traditionally pop-up art galleries appear in spaces, like empty shops, in towns or cities, showcasing a variety of art, usually organised by the artist(s) themselves. Wildfire will appear in locations across the country, in empty shops and other spaces, with each event spanning three weekends. We will draw from a pool of artists, to deliver unique exhibitions that sell work, in the same way a commercial art gallery might.
OK, so why travelling?
The decision to travel was about taking the project and its ideas to as many people and places as possible. Obviously when it comes to the traditional art gallery, it is static, although sometimes with multiple locations. Even in the case of those galleries with more than one shop, the brand is often standardised, keeping the same look and feel, like a chain shop. Each incarnation of Wildfire Gallery will be different from the last, the look and feel of each space and the work within it will reflect the place we visit as opposed to the artists or our brand.
Our exhibitions will respond to local communities and current affairs at the time we visit, but will also draw on artistic, cultural and historical influences. We seek to engage every community we visit on new levels, levels perhaps not quite explored previously by traditional galleries and institutions. Art will be made for the community, made for them to enjoy, made for them to own. Wildfire Gallery is a commercial art gallery, but one that really seeks to present an alternative to the norm.
What about Artists & Collaborators? What’s in it for them?
Artists and collaborators will have the opportunity to show and sell their work in different locations across the UK. This, we hope, will help them to build a following in numerous locations that they may not have previously considered. We will be ‘featuring’ specific artists in each location, who will create work that directly responds to the locale, its heritage and its community. This will never be a didactic engagement whereby the artist will be told what work is desired for a show, they will be given a broad creative brief, and given the freedom to create work around this. Nothing is off limits. Art is an emotional conversation – the artist expresses what is inside them and the viewer reacts to that with whatever is inside them. This gallery will hopefully be a space where that emotional conversation not only happens, but is unique to that place and that moment.
Want to work with us? Get in touch! Let’s talk about your art, your ideas, collaboration and what working with Wildfire Gallery could mean for you. Check out our Call for Artists page for more information.
Beyond this, what makes you different from everyone else?
At the heart of this project, possibly more important than anything else, is that the art must, and will, be affordable. However, we know, like you, that affordable doesn’t always mean affordable; we often walk into art galleries and feel priced-out, even by what they deem “affordable”. That word can mean work that costs £1000 and more. Or, work that actually might be affordable is often so small as to be ridiculous. This, we feel, is wrong. This does not mean that this project wishes to devalue the work of the artist, far from it, the opposite in fact. Art can and should be created for everyone to enjoy, and therefore affordable for everyone. It shouldn’t be unattainable, it should be in your living room. It must be stressed, though, that we are looking beyond the traditional marketplace of the ever-present art lovers in towns and cities. While these are of course a key audience, an essential part of this project is to broaden the appeal of art, its consumption, the way it is experienced and who owns it. This is not about alienation, but about engaging with wider audiences. We wish to provide a welcoming and engaging environment that challenges the norm and alters perceptions around art galleries and art ownership.
We wish to introduce more people to buying original art, increasing demand so that an increase in artists and artistic expression can exist. Ultimately starting a conversation around how the art world operates in modern society. Our aim is to include as many forms of art as possible, and all will be welcome to enjoy it. Nothing need be dumbed-down, nor devalued. We wish to foster new ownership, new investment, new engagement and new collectors. Imagine 14-year-olds hanging original paintings on their bedroom walls, starting their own art collections. Nothing need be impossible, nothing need be out of reach, for this project, its collaborators and for the people it reaches.
How it all started
Gallery Director John Davis officially founded Wildfire Gallery in 2018 after first having the idea in 2015.
Originally from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk he spent much of his youth growing up in Norwich and surrounding parts of Norfolk.
He studied The History and Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent in Canterbury, graduating in 2012 with a First. Following this he briefly worked in art insurance before returning to Kent to study an MA in Curating, graduating with Distinction in 2014. During which he completed a year-long internship with Studio 3 Gallery, curating several projects towards his final grade, including the final exhibition of the academic year.
Shortly afterward, he was Marketing and Box Office intern with the Salisbury International Arts Festival, an experience he enjoyed immensely.
He has also worked with Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre and The National Trust.
Since 2015 he has curated projects on a freelance basis in his spare time, while managing several cafes for Waterstones. But his first love being art, he has been working hard to get his idea for Wildfire off the drawing board and standing on its own two feet.
John is a self-confessed “culture vulture”; constantly going to exhibitions, concerts, theatre productions and thoroughly embracing the ever-changing array of cultural fare in the capital. His love of theatre has seen him appear on stage a few times with amateur groups wherever he’s lived. A huge fan of music, he is a vinyl and hi-fi enthusiast, always looking to experience new music. His shelves bulge with vinyl, but of course a background in art history and two years with Waterstones would not be complete without amassing a serious book collection to match. He also enjoys sport, playing tennis and badminton with friends and can be regularly heard extolling the virtues of his beloved AFC Bournemouth.
Since the turn of the year Wildfire has been John’s full-time job and he’s been working hard, already delivering a fantastic launch party to kick this year off in style. Safe to say, with the first shows only round the corner, he and the artists are incredibly excited to show off all the work they’ve been producing so far.