APRIL YOUNG AND THE BRIGHTON ART FAIR
Working in isolation in the green and rolling Derbyshire Dales couldn’t be a greater contrast to the bustling, culturally rich backdrop of Brighton. When I was a kid, my mum used to send me down to my trendy aunt, who lived in a studio flat in Montpelier Street, and was dating one of the guys off Spitting Image. Apart from being a bit put off by being made to eat veggie food, I can remember those halcyon days of feeling a bit VIP, and waking up with the sea air in my nostrils and butterflies in my stomach.
Thirty years later, and coming to Brighton Art Fair doesn’t feel to me so different from those days back in the seventies, when the West Pier had just shut, and my life had just opened. Packing the people carrier for the journey down, not with kids and inflatables, but with my more ambitious creations, feels like a ritual, though I’ve only done the Fair for four of the ten years.
Through that time, I’ve become increasingly self aware as an artist thanks to the dialogue with both other artists, and the visiting public. There’s been many a golden observation made in the occasional lull of a Friday afternoon, not to mention many a white face showing up on a Saturday morning from too much fun the night before with friends old and new.
Brighton has been so good that, in preparation, I now get last minute nerves. I wonder if I will get stage fright talking to the colourful array of guests. Or that my work won’t be able to live up to the previous year, or will be so new for me, that I won’t have figured out how to display it. Having these anxieties makes me push myself creatively. For example, this year, in my work, which has increasingly become about urban decay and conversant childhood aspiration, I am responding directly to the arson attacks on the West Pier, which was also coincidently ten years ago. This ability to respond to place, to formulate new ideas, and forge and consolidate a creative identity has been greatly contributed to by experiencing success at Brighton. I always leave the show happily exhausted, but buzzing with new energy and ideas, and (touch wood) the funds to explore some of them.
If I had known I would be doing such a great event right next to the Pavilion that I was so impressed with as a kid, I’m sure I would have loved Brighton all the more back in those days. The West Pier may be grandly sliding into the Channel, but one thing's for sure: Brighton Art Fair will continue to be on fire for many years to come.
Because the show is predominantly artist led, and most of the exhibitors are aspiring or established practitioners, the unbiased but informed input you get from that interaction is also extremely valuable.