George Serventi's Instagram profile picture is the clown face emoji. And this pretty much sums up the 28-year-old. He doesn't take himself too seriously, nor his artwork. He doesn't take himself too seriously, nor his artwork. Having left the prestigious fashion and art university Central Saint Martins, he wound up as a freelance journalist, writing for titles including LOVE, DAZED, i-D and The Face, and now works as a social media manager and content consultant. But his true passion - and current side-hustle - is making quilts, which he hopes to do full time in the future. Quilts with rats on, guns, naughty slogans, planets, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable, good. That's how George likes it.
We were allowed access to the young up-and-coming artists' very first exhibition, at one of our gallery spaces in East London, and spoke about finding gallery space without management, being brave enough to showcase your work, and why all young artists should 'climb the cringe mountain'.
Hi George, tell us about why you decided now was the time to share your art with the world?
Hi Appear Here! Since Covid, I think the pressure on creative professionals to juggle full time work and a side hustle has mounted - I’ve definitely felt it scrolling through Instagram where it seems every nepo baby and their dog is an artist. The realities of pursuing your dream whilst paying the bills are hard and I know I’ve found excuses in the past to put my own projects to one side and prioritise my 9 to 5 but this exhibition was really to challenge that.
My collection of Discomforters, ‘Rat Race Ends Here’, finds inspiration in the suffocating grip hustle-culture has on modern life, poking fun at the pursuit of hyper-productivity and ‘best self’ ideology using sardonic referencing inspired by internet culture. The irony that I’ve been working on these textile pieces every night and weekend over the past 6 months is not lost on me.
You also studied at Central Saint Martins, what course did you study and how did you find it? Has it impacted your career and art?
Though I’ve always found it hard to define myself through one practice, I was 12 when I decided I was going to study fashion at Central Saint Martins. There was so much I wanted to learn (and I knew graduating meant getting a real job) and I managed to eek out my BA studies for 6 years, during which time I studied fashion design, fashion journalism and a third of a textiles degree at Chelsea College of Art. My work today is really a marriage of those three interests: words and satire, textile surfaces and handcraft, style and trends - though quilting is only really the start of where I want to take my practice.
What are your artistic influences? Your art is very meme / slogan based, and there’s tons of twisted humour...
Whatever medium I’m working with, I’m always trying to subvert stereotypes. With this collection, my quilts or comforters became ‘discomforters’ and the goal was to turn the traditional technique of quilting on its head through the introduction of sardonic references like ‘Make Your Bed, Lie In It’ and ‘Risk It All For An Extra 5 Minutes’.
I’m heavily inspired by memes and the way they connect people who have never met through humour and shared experiences and I felt the rich history of artistic expression, storytelling, and community bonding textiles made for the home was ripe for satirisation.
Describe the process of your artwork? Where do you make it?
All my quilts are machine-appliqued between my flat in Walthamstow and my Mum’s house in Staffordshire, which has become a bit of a refuge from the daily slog of London living. Growing up, she taught me how to first use a sewing machine and more recently how to quilt. Together we’ve rediscovered our shared love of textile design and the project has meant we’ve spent a lot more time together which is a gift in itself and what making textiles for the home is really all about.
What materials do you use?
Lots and lots of cotton.
What made you decide to have a show in East London?
I’ve lived in and around East London for 10 years and the area has definitely informed my work. When looking for a gallery space on Appear Here I was really keen to find something minimal and unaffected, a cross between a modern art gallery and an East End shop and the Filet gallery in Hoxton is just that.
How easy was it to set-up your gallery space and what were the challenges?
The works in this collection are pretty big and heavy (1.5x1.5m) and I knew there are often limitations to what you can do in a rented gallery space (DRILLING!). A loop of fabric sewn into the top of every wall hanging combined with 1.5 meter poles and self-adhesive hooks made things easy for me and for everyone who bought a piece on the night to install in their own homes.
*What elements did you have to consider when booking your gallery space to best amplify your work? *
When looking for a gallery space, I knew I needed something really clean and minimal to best show the work. White walls had to come before anything else.
Aside from your temporary gallery - where else do you love to go?
The Fashion & Textile Museum, unless the V&A have one of their blockbuster fashion exhibitions on
What is your advice for young artists also wishing to show their work for the first time who don't have formal management?
My advice for young artists is to climb cringe mountain. Being creative is a personal pursuit and at the end of the day, we do it for ourselves, not for anyone else. Don’t wait for anyone else to give you a voice, just get your work out there.
Which artists should we all be following right now?
Max Siedentopf, Wilfrid Wood, Babak Ganjei
What do you have planned for future exhibitions?
The exhibition was a huge success and I plan to do it all again but bigger!
If anyone could purchase your art, or you could feature it anywhere in the world - where would this be?
I really want my work to be accessible to everyone and am always trying to marry the hand craftsmanship of textile design with the instantaneity of meme culture so it’s always going to live on my Instagram.