Square Squared exhibition in Camden’s tiniest gallery

Natalia Zagorska-Thomas Brightest and The Best still life with Bullington Club

Natalia Zagorska-Thomas Brightest and The Best still life with Bullington Club - Credit: Archant

Every year, Natalia Zagorska-Thomas invites the public into the bijoux Studio Ex Purgato in her Camden Town flat

Spindle by Helen Ivory

Spindle by Helen Ivory - Credit: Archant

Art in, on and about boxes is the theme of the latest exhibition at the extraordinary Studio Ex Purgamento.

Carefully curated within the bijoux 2x2x7 metre space, Square2 is a collection of 20-plus artworks ranging from video, print, performance, kinetic sculpture and repurposed antique jewellery boxes.

For the next four weeks, Natalia Zagorska-Thomas will answer her doorbell and show total strangers around the third floor gallery, which doubles as her artist studio for the rest of the year.

"We have lived in the flat for 30 years and after decades talking about building a purpose-designed gallery on the side of it, we finally did it in 2012," she explains.

"It works extremely well because I am not afraid of people, either on the street or in my house. I just love the idea that it turns into a social action. It involves something on behalf of the viewer, who has to come and press the doorbell of a person they don't know. "In a funny way it's harder for them, they have to make an investment that I am not going to try to sell them something, or overpower them, or murder them. "It requires a mutual contract for them to come into my space, but people find that exicting."

Once ensconced in Gallery Ex Purgato - the name inspired by Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor's observation that 'an object exists between eternity and the rubbish heap'- they are offered a drink and a tour.

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"It's an interesting way to show work. The gallery is a white, clean space while the rest of the flat is very much living space. It's a nice contrast between the public and the gallery. It relaxes people and makes them look at the art differently, without compromising the professionalism."

As for the exhibition, as a museum curator Zagorska-Thomas is fascinated by conducting "a survey of what is possible with a subject, just like in a museum."

In this case, the subject is boxes. "I am interested in lifting lids, in a shop it's a childish impossibility to resist a lid, and there are lots of artists making exciting work in boxes.

"It can be a universe contained within a closed space, or a metaphor for the human body, self-protection like a skin, it can be a form of outside out, or inside in, or like opening a window onto a 3D world. Each artist takes it in a different direction."

Some pieces are newly commissioned, while others were already made.

"People say: 'it's such a small space, how is it possible?' But it is perfectly possible to make an exhibition," says Zagorska-Thomas.

"It's not the kind of gallery where you can have a work in splendid isolation, things have to talk to each other, it's critical to make connections between the work and the people who come to see it." She adds: "It isn't large but you would be amazed at what you can do."

Studio Ex Purgato is open at 132D Camden Street, London NW1 until December 8 from 11-6 Saturdays and Sundays, and at other times by phoning 07799 495549 to check the owners are in.