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Isle Of Dogs: How The Forge Art Fair is set to fill Craft Central with vibrant creations

Carolina Kollmann has founded the week-long event to showcase contemporary artists’ work

Artist and founder of The Forge Art Fair, Carolina Kollmann

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Carolina Kollmann wants to build something.

Originally from Argentina, the artist and teacher studied in Buenos Aires and at Central Saint Martins in London in the 1990s before relocating to Asia in the early 2000s.

Having returned to the UK to live on the Isle Of Dogs in 2019, she took a studio at The Forge, Craft Central’s Westferry Road facility, where she works and runs classes (often involving a glass of wine or two).

Now she’s eager to use the former industrial building as a venue to showcase her work and that of other artists by creating an annual event – The Forge Art Fair.

“I’ve always been very independent and I never paid a penny to expose my art,” she said.

“When I was in Hong Kong, I was a member of a group and we’d find sponsors to put on exhibitions.

Detail from one of Carolina’s works

“Here it’s different – it can be very difficult and when I found that one organisation wanted to charge me £800 to have my work in an art fair, I decided to start my own. 

“It took a while to find the right artists for this.

“The main idea I had was that it should be at The Forge – it’s a great place and it needs to be known as creative and artistic.

“I thought that if I created a proper contemporary art fair here, that will create some noise and help draw people from outside the local area to come and visit.

“I knew we couldn’t do 100 artists, that we’d start small and then, if successful, we’d grow.”

The Forge Art Fair is set to take place from October 20-26, 2023, with a private view on October 19 from 6pm-8pm.

The exhibition will feature work by eight contemporary artists including Carolina herself.  

“This is not a collective – for that, the people involved would need to have something in common,” she said.

Detail from a painting by Pierre Benjamin

“For the fair, every artist’s work has to be different from what’s next to it.

“I hope it brings people into The Forge and that we amaze them with what’s on display here in east London.

“There aren’t many places where you will find a beautiful gallery with fantastic artists all together, showing you their art, that’s also free to visit.” 

Visitors to the fair will find work by painter, sculptor and NFT artist Pierre Benjamin, silkscreen printmakers and collage artists Jairo And Nicola and sculptor and designer Arturo Soto.

Also on show will be paintings by Jasmine Honor Mercer, work by painter and illustrator Tammy Walters, photographic abstraction from Het and pieces from digital artist Leah Ibrahim Sams.

Carolina herself works in a range of media, often blending painting with 3D printing to create pieces that literally burst off the canvas. 

“The Forge is a wonderful building but it’s not ready for art – it doesn’t have enough wall space, so we’ll be using display boards for the pieces,” said the Isle Of Dogs resident, who created digital collages from images of Mudchute Park And Farm during the pandemic and sold them to help raise money to feed the animals.

Detail from a work by Leah Ibrahim Sams

“I really hope that people will be able to see what I saw when I came to The Forge – that it’s a beautiful place.

“My work is inspired by my own life.

“For example, there’s breast cancer – a horrible thing like this where you lose friends, so I wondered how I could make it beautiful? 

“I mixed in fashion – Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Versace – for a series called Looking Up that’s about cancer and death.

“There are also pieces to do with the menopause, age and health. It’s all the same thing – it has to be about my life.

“When I was growing up in Argentina we had a military government. People were disappearing – there were so many horrible things all around us.

“When I was little I didn’t know what an artist was.

Detail from a piece by Tammy Walters

“My parents definitely never mentioned that I should study drawing or anything like that.

“But my grandma, who travelled a lot and loved art, said that I should be allowed to study, so I went to art school when I was 14.

“That was an amazing time in my life, when I was studying art – it was like an explosion of creativity as the military government was coming to an end.

“I met amazing artists, including Philippe Noyer, who is still alive and influenced me a lot. He showed me how to express my ideas.

“It was while I was in Asia that I had the idea of bringing my pieces more to life in relief, but I couldn’t think how.

“I couldn’t use papier mache or anything like that, because it would have been damaged by the humidity.

“Then a friend of mine – a very bright and creative person – who was one of the first people to have a 3D printer, suggested I could try using one.

Detail from a work by Jairo and Nicola

“He said he’d heard there was someone in Japan doing it.

“But I thought it wasn’t very artistic and so I said no. This is always me – I say no at first. 

“It took a while but then I had an idea and started designing what I wanted to create. The technology does have its limits but you work with it.

“First I paint on the canvas, then I put the 3D element where I want it and paint over the top in acrylic to make the finished piece.”

While the forthcoming fair is primarily about showcasing the work of the exhibitors involved, visitors are also invited to participate in various events over the course of the week.

Animal illustrator Tammy Walters will be running live drawing class I Love Dogs on October 21 at 3pm, with NFTs: Empowerment Through Art scheduled for 6pm on October 23.

Carolina will be hosting 3D Artist Exhibition Tour, covering her work and a printing demonstration on October 25 at 5.30pm and visual artists Jairo and Nicola  will lead Fairytale And Surrealist Screen Printing on October 26 at 5.30pm.

The latter costs £5 with participants taking home a finished screen print. 

Detail from an sculpture by Arturo Terraquio

Carolina is also a qualified fine art teacher and runs regular classes at The Forge – so for those unable to visit the fair, there are other ways to get involved in art.

She is currently offering Ladies Night sessions – which run over the course of a month with participants producing a finished artwork over four classes. The next begins on October 10. 

“I’d taught in Hong Kong and one of the classes which was very popular there was this concept for women,” she said. 

“We open some wine, but we learn about art too.

“Each month we do a different project – we might look at acrylics or watercolour, for example.

“We’re all busy working on our pieces but it’s also an opportunity to chat. 

“We look at painters and take inspiration from them – especially English artists as we are in London.”

The sessions cost £100, which covers four 90-minute classes over the course of a month. In October these take place on Tuesday evenings from 6pm.

You can find out more information or book the classes online at carolinakollmannartdesign.com

The Forge Art Fair runs from October 20-26 at the Craft Central venue. It will be open from 11am-8pm Friday-Sunday and from 4pm-8pm Monday-Thursday. Entry is free.

You can also find links to all the artists featured via this link.

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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