Jo David & Rachael House

Camberwell College of Art (From Arts London Image Library)
Camberwell College of Art
Arts London Image Library ©

Gallerists - Jo, Camberwell College of Art, 1983 and Rachael, Camberwell College of Art, 2001/ Central Saint Martins, Fine Art, 2004

Rachael House and Jo David talk to the Alumni Association about London in the 80s, fancy dress picnics for dogs, and ten years of running their gallery, Space Station Sixty-Five.

What are your memories of being a student? 

Jo - Camberwell School of Art was an exciting place to be in 1980 - the end of punk/new wave and the beginning of something new which didn't yet have a name. In the middle of my first year the course visited the big Jean Tinguely exhibition at the Tate and I was captivated! In my first term I lived at the halls at Furzedown and moved to a shared student house in Gordon Road, Peckham after Christmas. The course at Camberwell was tiny by contemporary standards, which meant we had great staff ratios. I think students today are much less lucky than we were. We also had grants!

Rachael - I don't have to think back that far, I graduated from my Fine Art MA at Camberwell in 2011... hard work, excitement, information overload and the sheer delight of making stuff being the most important things in my life.

Who was your favourite member of staff and why?

Jo - We had a great drawing tutor named David who showed me how to look at things with fresh eyes again and open my mind up. There was a lovely student services officer at Camberwell called Pat who went above and beyond the call of duty for students, including arranging counselling, housing and all the rest. Sorry I don't remember people's second names now. It was a long time ago!

Rachael - What a horrible question! How can I choose? On Foundation everything was new, and I thought lecturers were the font of all wisdom. My BA at Central Saint Martins was led by the wonderful John Carson; his humour, political engagement and sense of democracy continue to influence me.  Rebecca Fortnum was the course leader of my Fine Art MA at Camberwell and her vision created a course absolutely unique to UAL. 

What was the best part about being a student here and living in London?

Jo - Being in South London at that time was very special. The pub at the end of our road still had a lady who played the piano and regulars joined in for songs. The London art scene was very much West End at this time, artist-run spaces came much later. Camberwell felt like it had a community around it though. Some of the most interesting people I met turned out to be life models. In those days, some lucky students used to have their degree show in South London Gallery!

Rachael - I've lived in London since the early 80s. I moved here following my first BA in philosophy, I always knew I'd live here. As well as galleries, bands and performances, we have great places like Duckie to dance and see groundbreaking queer performers. As a mature student my experience was probably different to those of younger people with no worries about finding accommodation and making friends. London's a great place to study art.

Do you keep in touch with people you met here?

Jo - I am still in touch with a few people I knew from Camberwell although we have spread around the world now, many of us fell in love with South London and stayed. I sometimes bump into people who look familiar and turn out to be from Camberwell.

Rachael - Oh yes, I have friends still from all my UAL courses and work with fellow students as well as those who taught me.

What do you do now?

Jo - I am an artist and curator and run Space Station Sixty-Five (SS65) with Rachael. We have just moved to a very exciting new site in Kennington with an exhibition of new work by Canadian artist, Shari Hatt.

Rachael - I now balance co-running this space with making my own work. My work is event-based, and as well as ongoing Pet-Tastics, I was commissioned to launch Peckham Peacocks, a mobility scooter meet at Peckham Space in 2010. I continue to show work internationally and locally, the local being important to my practice. My next project is Apathy's a Drag on 27 May 2012 at Café Gallery Projects. For this I'm inviting people to make a wind-powered model boat and float it on the lake to form a spectacular flotilla commemorating 35 years since the Sex Pistols' abortive boat trip on the Thames.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever received, and what advice would you pass on to students or recent graduates?

Jo - “Keep it up”.

Rachael - On my BA Mike Thorpe told me to play more, so lovely to be told to play! My advice to others? Enjoy it, make things happen, don't wait to be asked, and don't believe in the art world’s fake hierarchies.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Jo - Difficult to say- there have been many, in different ways. I was very pleased when SS65 was listed by Ben Lewis in London Evening Standard as “One of the galleries to watch out for” in 2008. I was also very pleased with the exhibition we made for Rosie Lee’s Starchy Gallery. More recently I was delighted to perform with Edwina Ashton in her exhibitions at the Barbican and Jerwood Space.

Rachael - Telling my parents I got a first for my BA and my Dad cried. They have both passed away since then. My parents were art teachers themselves and I'm pleased that they saw me starting my life as an artist, they always wanted me to do this.

What drives you to keep pursuing your dreams?

Jo - The next project.

Rachael - I just want to change the world.

What are your goals for the future?

Jo - To keep going.

Rachael - Space Station Sixty-Five will develop over the next few years, with studios, a café and a bookshop. I'm excited about curating projects here and carrying on with my own art practice, inside and away from gallery spaces.

What do you like most about being part of our alumni community?

Jo - Keeping in touch and hearing what people are doing.

Rachael - It's good to see what everyone is up to, and hear about those I don't see on a regular basis.