Meet Victoria Pomery and Jasmin Vardimon

Jasmin Vardimon and Victoria Pomery

Jasmin Vardimon and Victoria Pomery - Credit: Archant

What happens when two leading female art directors in Kent enter into a creative collaboration where their different worlds of art and dance come together? Kent Life enters the Maze to find out

Two of Kent’s and indeed the UK’s leading arts organisations, Turner Contemporary and the Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company, are collaborating to present a groundbreaking new work next month which draws together choreography, the visual arts and architecture.

I am sitting in the café at the Margate gallery with two of Kent’s most powerful female arts directors and discovering just how many surprising opportunities there are for engagement between the disciplines.

One of the two is Victoria Pomery who, in 2002, was appointed Director of Turner Contemporary, her role to develop an arts organisation in Margate as part of a strategy of cultural-led regeneration.

Working with a small team and with funding from Kent County Council and Arts Council England, Victoria – formerly Senior Curator at Tate Liverpool, now happily living in Ramsgate – instigated a programme of audience development work which included exhibitions and events.

In summer 2006 she was part of the selection panel that appointed David Chipperfield Architects to design a gallery building with a budget of £17.4m and worked closely with David and his team on the design development.

The gallery went on site in 2009, opening to huge critical acclaim in April 2011 and since then has welcomed more than one million visitors, including HM The Queen.

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Beside Victoria is Jasmin Vardimon, a leading force in British dance theatre for nearly 20 years and now with a studio at Ashford’s Stour Centre. Born and raised in Israel, this self-confessed ‘weaver of stories’ has built a reputation for challenging, visually stunning dance.

She continues to add to the body of artistically respected, accessible work both for the company she formed in 1997 and for some of the leading dance companies across the world, including Sadler’s Wells, where she is an Associate Artist.

So what brought these two dynamic women together? Victoria explains: “We both knew each other was working in Kent, we’re an organisation funded by the Arts Council and so are they, so there was an almost natural coming together when we had the chance to use public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Exceptional award programme.

“The funding was for up to £0.25m for an ambitious, one-off project and we thought if we worked with somebody else we could learn quite a lot from them and vice versa. But we had to have spent the money in the current financial year, so it was a very tight turnaround indeed.”

Their first discussions, however, were all about Risk, a major exhibition Turner Contemporary will stage this autumn exploring the theme of risk and art.

“We thought about what each of us wanted to do in terms of Jasmin as a dance practitioner and me as running a big art institution,” says Victoria.

“Although we both come from very different arts disciplines, there are overlaps; the actual creative act is a risky process and performing artists take risks as do visual artists. That’s how we started.

Victoria adds: “An application was made for an outline project and the Arts Council said yes, we’ll fund you. Then it was about how we could work really closely to ensure that it was a shared collaboration, as we each operate at a very different pace.

“The rhythm is different – dancers work right up to the last minute, while in the world of visual arts it’s more structured.

“But we both run a venue, Jasmin is the creative driver for her organisation and I am for the Turner, and we have had some really fascinating discussions. My team and I have been to see some of her other performances, including Park, which has been in Canterbury and London and indeed Margate’s Theatre Royal this February.”

The first result this year of their collaboration is Maze, an extraordinary new work bridging dance, theatre and the visual arts that invites audience members to explore a world of surprise, wonder, delight and occasionally unease, as dancers and audience inhabit a vast labyrinth structure made from industrial foam.

Inspired by his visit to a foam factory in China, the architectural structure is the brainchild of London-based architect and designer Ron Arad, who worked in collaboration with installation artist Guy Bar Amotz to create this immersive space.

The venue chosen to present Maze itself is another surprise. The Winter Gardens, a short walk up from the Turner, ticked all the boxes for Jasmin and Victoria, with the benefit not only of location but also the opportunity to introduce different audiences to new and different art forms.

Opened in 1911 and decorated in a rich, Neo-Grecian style, the theatre will have its seating taken out to be replaced by Arad’s enormous foam labyrinth where visitors will enter the maze one by one. They will then have to navigate their way along one of several paths, encountering a feast of sights, sounds, smells, textures, actions; everyone will have a unique experience.

Jasmin adds: “I’m excited to create a project that will allow audiences to experience my work at an extremely close and intimate proximity. This will be an experience that is similar to being on stage with the dancers and face-to-face with the artwork itself. The adventure each visitor will have will be dictated by the individual path they might choose within the structure.”

She adds: “The difference is that a lot of the time you are not allowed to touch the artwork in a gallery, but the dance will be a multi-sensory experience because you will have to squash your way through the maze and perhaps be touched by a dancer.

“It’s about making the two experiences much more similar, by taking away the natural barrier the stage usually presents when you watch a dance performance.”

With only 30 to 40 visitors at a time, 22 dancers from 15 different countries offering six performances a day across five days, each geared to their particular audience, this multi-sensory experience will be unlike anything you have experienced.

Find out more

11-15 April 2015: Maze

Margate Winter Gardens

Fort Crescent, Margate CT9 1HX

01843 292795

7 October 2015-17 January 2016: Risk

Featuring works from the 20th-century to the present day, the exhibition will bring together artworks and artistic practices that engaged directly with risk, exploring the subject through a range of themes.

Among the artists presented will be Marina Abramovic, Francis Alÿs, Marcel Duchamp, Simon Faithfull, Gerhard Richter and JMW Turner, with performances by Jasmin Vardimon Company.

The Turner Contemporary

Rendezvous, Margate CT9 1HG

01843 233000

Jasmin Vardimon Company

Stour Centre, Tannery Lane

Ashford TN23 1PL

01233 628 545