Perched beside St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, sits The Clerk’s House, now Emalin gallery’s second exhibition space in London. The oldest building in Shoreditch, set between a cemetery and a high street, has a rich history, including its use as a ‘watch house’ by those looking out for body snatchers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The property’s 118½ street number has been preserved since 1735, and now provides the name of the gallery space, which is used by Emalin to showcase independent works that explore ideas of home, shelter, value, and intimacy.
On view now at Emalin’s 118½, aka The Clerk’s House
The building could seem haunting to some, however it enthralled Emalin co-founders Angelina Volk and Leopold Thun, who tell Wallpaper*: ‘Emalin has a history of engaging with the history of buildings: our opening exhibition in 2016 by Augustas Serapinas [at the gallery's 1 Holywell Lane base] was made with objects left over by a locksmith who previously occupied the space, and created in relation to the recently gentrified gay sauna around the corner from the gallery.
‘The Clerk’s House has been used intermittently by artists for decades, but no one ever committed to truly care for the historic building. So many old-school Londoners recognise it as a long-running mystery – and just today, we found a Fax-Bak press release critique of an exhibition that was held upstairs in 1998,’ they say (referring to the Fax-Bak Service art project by collective BANK, which comprised edited gallery press releases).
‘The building has lived so many lives between the church, the cemetery, and the high street – it felt like a place that will allow artists to engage deeply with ideas that other locations don’t bring to the surface so immediately.’
Until 16 March 2024 at 118½, Emalin presents the contemporary works of Tolia Astakhishvili, Alvaro Barrington, Matt Browning, Laura Carralero Morales, Nicholas Cheveldave, Adriano Costa, Matias Faldbakken, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Ceidra Moon Murphy, Karol Palczak, Matthew Peers, Coumba Samba Vunkwan Tam, Sung Tieu, and Marina Xenofontos.
The Clerk’s House’s history and the contemporary art make for a stark contrast. ‘The building has witnessed many changes and inversions that happened through the centuries – the location itself implies the dynamics of history, economics, urban transformations and the way people attach value to objects,’ say the co-founders.
‘For an artist like Sung Tieu, whose work speaks of the implications of French colonial rule in Vietnam, the setting may make visitors realise the politics in their surroundings, in buildings from around the same time. But apart from the conceptual and political layer, there is also the intimacy of encounters with art: small rooms that bring us closer to the artworks, many doors and steps that slow down the process of taking in an exhibition.’
View the Emalin gallery exhibition at 118½ Shoreditch High Street until 16 March 2024
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Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, Williams taught scuba diving for three years before heading into journalism. Previously she has been involved covering social media and editorial for BBC Wales, Ford UK, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, while also completing an MA in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Her work covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.
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