The millennial masterminds behind one of the hottest new art galleries in London
Jonny Burt and Joe Kennedy
Co-founders Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt launched their new 6,000 sq ft gallery space in the former Citibank building at 3 Hanover Square.
The inaugural show in the new space is from South African artist Ryan Hewett, who launches ‘The Garden’, a new series of brightly-saturated oil paintings, drawing on notions of fantasy and surrealism.
Mark Hix provided guests with canapés, including beef tataki and green beans; crushed peas and goat’s curd on grilled sourdough; golden beetroot galettes with pickled walnuts; as well as a selection of crudités accompanied by Dorset black garlic mayonnaise served in terracotta plant pots. Mount Gay offered its signature Dark Storm cocktail as well as a bespoke ‘Unit London’ tipple of its iconic rum mixed with watermelon shrub and Double Dutch Cucumber & Watermelon Tonic.
Unit London was founded in 2013 by Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt in a pop-up space in Chiswick, later moving to Soho and Covent Garden, where the gallery continues to manage a satellite space. With neither originating from a formal gallery background, Unit London remains firmly committed to its core principles that art should be celebrated, inclusive and undivided. Two expansive exhibition floors will form a new central London flagship to house the gallery’s growing primary artist roster of bold and interdisciplinary cultural events.
But Unit London is so much more than a gallery space, it’s more of a creative hub, a brand, an ideology explains Joe. ‘We wanted to [create something that was] inclusive, celebrate genuine talent and bring back the human experience into the industry’. It seems, that at its core, Unit London is aiming to connect people with arts and culture in a digital age. ‘It’s all about mass engagement’, explains Jonny. ‘That’s our big thing […] the future of art, is art for everyone’.
About Ryan Hewett
Renowned for his brooding and evocative paintings, for South African born Hewett, the portrait is not about capturing an external likeness of a subject; but rather creating a portal to the inner journey of self-exploration. He relies principally on the free-flowing processes of memory and creative imagination. Esteemed writer and art critic Edward Lucie-Smith, labelled him as “one of South Africa’s most distinguished painters today – we become part of the work, engaged by the act of looking.”
Hewett’s techniques have evolved from tightly wrought pencil drawings into the looser, layered richly hued surfaces of his present work. In his more recent landscape work we see the artist taking a bold leap of faith, exploring gradients of colour and moving away from the realm of portraiture for which he is widely known. The heavy, impasto brushwork appears in stark contrast to the smooth, flat textures divided up across the canvas. Hewett’s restless desire to keep developing has led him to bring a sense of order to his previously chaotic approach. A bold new mark making can be seen in his use of clean lines and solid blocks of colour, each carefully calculated to hold a perfect weight.
Ryan Hewett held his first solo exhibition, ‘Untitled’, with Unit London in April 2015 and has since shown in numerous Fairs and gallery exhibitions, including Barnard Gallery, Cape Town; Volta, New York City; Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii.