Sam Curtis is an artist and curator based in London. Working with other people is central to his practice. Through dialogue, walking and making with others; his work explores ideas around agency, autonomy, exchange and labour.
He has exhibited and worked with Seymour Art Collective, Whitechapel Gallery, Edgware Road Project: Serpentine Galleries, Turner Contemporary, CREATE London, The Showroom, Eastside Projects, Arts Admin, Ateliers de Rennes Biennale, Beursschouwburg, News of the World and Pi: Artworks Istanbul. He has an MFA from Goldsmiths College and his work is represented by Division of Labour. He is currently curator at Bethlem Gallery.
C.I.R.F Centre for Radical Fishmongery
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Knives like Fingers
Knives like fingers (2018)
Reclaimed fishing industry steel cables, pure nickel, O1 tool steel and spalted birch
Artist Sam Curtis has worked with Artisan Blacksmith Leszek Sikon to produce a fishmonger’s knife made from reclaimed steel cables from the fishing industry. Curtis gathered the opinions and experience of fishmongers to build up a design of the ideal knife looking at length and shape of blade, cutting edge and originality. The design draws on a fishmonger’s expression that through repeated movements and muscle memory, their knife becomes an extension of their fingers. Sikon then worked up this unique knife using a Damascus steel technique to forge weld layers of the reclaimed cable steel with pure nickel and O1 tool steel in the middle for the cutting edge. The finish on the blade is Sikon’s Coastal pattern, an intentionally visible remnant of the labour of layers and layers of steel forge welded over time.
Leszek makes handcrafted bespoke knives and blacksmith products. Making hand forged knives and custom objects in only the highest quality materials is the core of his practice, precision in craft is fundamental. Nowadays shops are filled with mass made products that are cheap, disposable and poorly designed – customers have a hard time forming a connection to them. By combining modern design with tradition, he strives to create artworks (often in the form of knives) that speak of quality, in turn becoming precious to their owners.
Did anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re following orders?
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Getting a grip series
Getting a Grip
In his series of works Getting a grip, Curtis has been asking tradespeople and freelancers to work to no brief and without a problem to be fixed.
The Getting a grip series are attempts by the artist to commission other workers, as artists, using their job-specific skills and tools to produce something unusual. The commission involves no specific brief or problem to be fixed, instead the question is asked: What can we do with the materials and tools of our trade if a space is created for us to think more openly about what we do and how we do it? The less commercially pressured space enables experimentation with new ideas and processes. Although the objects produced come solely from the creative minds of the makers, Curtis supports them in their commission, offering constructive feedback to help them push their ideas and work.
In his book The Craftsman, Richard Sennet discusses the phrase ‘get a grip’ and it's historical origins in the workshop and in the practice of a technical craft. Today we apply this phrase to our comprehension of complex situations or when someone’s emotional or mental state is called into question. The original meaning of the phrase suggests a set of relationships between an individual, material and technique. Several attempts in the Getting a grip series have not yet been fully realised due to the complexity of negotiating a job for which the customer has no brief to fulfil or obvious problem to be fixed