"If you’re producing high calibre and ambitious productions, audiences should recognise this and take note."

Community-led art label Caustic Coastal are opening up the artistic dialogue in Greater Manchester with their artist-focused ethos and innovative space.

Words by Scott Causier 

Caustic Coastal

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Salford based independent art label Caustic Coastal work with artists to develop site specific exhibitions. Situated behind the well-established Islington Mill, their ventures include one off short term projects, digital commissions, a sporadic critical writing output and a monthly artist talk’s programme.

"Caustic Coastal started as a project for my degree show at Camberwell College of Arts which invited 6 artists, mostly represented or at a higher stage in their career (Lilah Fowler, Victoria Adam, Claire Baily, Harry Meadows, Patrick Langley & Nick Jeffrey) to exhibit in place of presenting my own ‘work’.” 

Going beyond a simple curatorial arrangement, Founder and Director Dean Brierley, combined the artists within a booth scenario that took design references from boy racer and nightclub culture. A deep purple carpeted stage with underfloor lighting, handmade wooden lighting rig, a hand painted car door and various pieces of furniture were used to site sculptural and text based works.

Caustic Coastal

Since, relocating from Camberwell to his native Manchester, Caustic Coastal has gone through several permutations as an ongoing project.  Initially located at Rogue Project Space in Manchester, they ran one project per month for a year, before moving to its current home, a former industrial warehouse unit in Salford in April 2016. The label now offers monthly site-specific shows within the main gallery, quarterly larger projects in the warehouse space, studios, and a dedicated live performance space gaining recognition as a cultural hub for the creative community of Greater Manchester.

With Arts Council and National Lottery funding obtained alongside the assistance of a creative business enterprise scheme, the project has flourished. This shift has seen the area of the site increase ten-fold, evolving from one gallery space to three and eleven studio spaces.

"Securing the new site and funding has allowed us to convert artists into friends, we've gone from being wavering and unsustainable to self-sustaining, left behind certain ropes, bringing heat to continue with our consistently inconsistent delivery.

“The focus has shifted from caring about the audience to caring about the artists and from doing what we thought we needed to do, to doing what we wanted to do without the need to do any of it; just the desire."

Caustic Coastal

The improved budget and facilities allow for a greater amount of time to dedicate to the preparation of shows, with the addition of a curatorial assistant to aid the delivery of projects and the capacity to host artists on site at Islington Mill's B&B. The site promotes the integration of visiting artists into the existing creative community, facilitating the possibility of a potential collaborative conversation and dialogue between both parties.

"The studios at Caustic Coastal have been built to further enable this kind of open dialogue with an open plan predominately doorless studio setup. Obviously this is not a system that would work for everyone but for those who have joined there is an acknowledgement of this kind of openness and the potential this system has in flourishing relationships.

“Personally I also hope that the time I can provide with people, whether the artists we work with, studio members, those at Islington Mill or the wider public provides some kind of axis for this to happen."

Central to Dean's ambition of developing Caustic Coastal as a label is the exploration it allows outside of the constricted descriptors of gallery, project space, online platform or artist led collective. Having spent time within more commercially driven organisations during his years in London, logistically and respectfully, the Greater Manchester area had greater physical and metaphorical creative space to explore. The settled, concentrated resident artist community has as Dean believes, less physical constraints, therefore providing a more interesting landscape to deliver an alternative to that which has gone before.

Caustic Coastal

"Having come in as an ‘outsider’ it has been a slow and lethargic effort to gain both territory and audiences, which has been both enjoyable and frustrating,” he explains. Caustic Coastal has continued to present artists predominately from outside of the city who have otherwise not shown within the region as a personal remit in the hope of opening wider dialogues, and to provide a two way opportunity for artists who we work with to engage in open conversations and relationships with those based in the city."

In their bid to break new ground, and with the mentorship of established and experienced organisations such as Islington Mill and Castlefield Gallery, Caustic Coastal has developed quickly yet organically. Dean's curatorial open-mindedness makes for a bright future and his vision sees no bounds in where it can possibly go.

"We may look outside of the art world. Maybe towards fashion, film, theatre, landscape gardening, maybe in practitioners who have no interest in aesthetic and in turn produce something wildly radical. Away from social media and against influence through osmosis but more influence by conversation, listening and a genuine ambition to produce what is maybe inconceivable through inspiration alone." 

Felicity Black: Radical Vulnerability will run until 23rd October. Caustic Coastal (http://www.causticcoastal.biz ) is open Thursdays and Saturdays, from 1-5pm