As part of Yorkshire Artspace’s Open Studios I am running a two-day exhibition at Exchange Place Studios. The exhibition will act as a trial of some of my current ideas around the themes of identity and creative processes. It will run Friday 21st November from 5:30 – 9pm and Saturday 22nd November from 11am – 5pm. I will be on the 4th Floor of Exchange Place Studios.
Included in the exhibition will be a re-imagination of two artists’ studios, based on their perceived creative output. I speculate upon their processes, their materials and even their own personalities in order to devise an alternative yet informed identity. I will also be displaying three purposely-constructed mechanisms that attempt to disrupt my own creative processes and highlight and assess how value can be placed upon everyday objects.
A sneak peek of one of my ‘speculative studio spaces’ – on display at Exchange Place Studios this coming Friday & Saturday
I would like to invite you all to the exhibition, which will use an empty studio space near my own studio, I will also be present during both days, so you’d get the opportunity to meet me, ask questions or just chat.
In fact, the whole weekend gives you a great opportunity to meet loads of the artists, makers and designers that work in Yorkshire Artspace. Full details can be found here:
Thank you. See you all on Friday or Saturday hopefully!
Consumed by the practice of painting, thoughts, seemingly unrelated, can not only emerge, but crystallise. So it came as no surprise a couple of days ago when, equipped with a fully loaded paint brush about to attempt the rendering of an apple in only 2 brushstrokes, a question appeared before me – Was going to University worthwhile?
It’s a subject not without documented debate – The contrasts of learning through academia against learning through intuition and life experiences. One school of thought suggests that developing artistic practice – something intuitive and which can be used as a tool for which to comment on the failure of academic systems – simply can’t be developed meaningfully within an institution. Another school of thought suggests that a university offers a platform for which to develop practice within a suited environment – and as such encourages collaboration, knowledge exchange, and all the apparatus you need in order to apply your skills to the wider world.
With regards to known experiences of attending university in order to complete a fine art (or similar) degree, a tangible pattern can be traced: The first year provides a basis for which a discipline can be explored, that discipline begins to be developed in the second year, but becomes stilted by the confines of an institutionalised, formal, and objective marking scheme: Seeing the need for creative practice to fall within restrictive boundaries. By the third year, the student is disillusioned: Either producing work that blindly adherers to marking schemes for the sake of a good grade, or producing work in direct conflict to the marking scheme at the sacrifice of a good grade but with integrity. I know of ten accounts of graduates that can identify with this pattern and, whilst ten accounts is by no means comprehensive, it provides a little insight into the shortcomings of attending university.
So, given the urgency a 17 year old feels with regards to attending a University from their respective college, is their faith in academia misguided? Well, yes and no. Let me explain.
Whilst there may be advantages to gaining knowledge through artistic endeavour at university, I believe a problem arises: Not with what is being taught, but the fact that you are left unequipped with any knowledge concerning how to apply what has been taught to a wider context. Nothing is said of how to establish professional contacts, how to get your work seen away from the university environment, how to sustain the interest of contacts and there is little guidance with regard to professional development strategies.
Yet in the interests of balance, and because of the fact that, on reflection, I am satisfied enough with my university experiences, I do not wish to simply sully the good work done by universities. Instead, I will simply accept the fact that they can’t do everything. It is up to the graduate to forge a meaningful career out of the knowledge gained. But the feeling of disillusionment and confusion in the first months away from university can daunt, overwhelm and even allow you to lose faith in your abilities and knowledge entirely.
So, how do we combat this feeling? Well, by providing some kind of interim platform, not constricted by an academic establishment, that provides a basis for which graduates can develop their practice and initiate their emergence onto a wider arts scene. And, as an individual with first-hand experience of the trials of attempting to emerge into the arts scene, I would have found such a platform meaningful and worthwhile. Somewhere that is connected to the wider community, that and yet retains of degree of familiarity. Somewhere that provides a knowledge exchange, a place to initiate scholarly and empirical enquiry through practice, somewhere that encourages career development through critique, collaboration and sharing knowledge. A hybrid, if you will, of the disciplines of academic study and the business of making a name for yourself.
How would such a platform manifest itself? Well, I’m still connecting the dots on that question. But an artist studio, tailored to graduates with a programme of cooperative events, critiques and workshops, sounds like a suitable starting point. Indeed, leading an artist’s studio is something I’ve always wanted to do. And tailoring it to the needs of the graduate provides a niche that will allow certain upcoming artists, who want a place to apply the knowledge they have gained at university, to thrive.
In the midst of the excitement of reaching our Kickstarter funding (An embarrassingly big ‘thank you’ to everyone to contributed and who helped spread the word, incidentally) I have shamefully neglected to describe and assess the recent open studio event I participated in at my studio at KIAC. So here goes.
I have only been involved in one other open studio event prior to this. It was at University a few years ago. It consisted mainly of drinking tea and waiting for someone – anyone – to show up. Inevitably, no-one did, and I left the event with the assumption that all Open Studio events would be like this.
However, last weeks’ open studio, thankfully, was different. Whilst naturally it still involved drinking tea, at least this time I had people to share a cup of tea with. Whilst the amount of people visiting my studio was by no means vast, all involved certainly responded and identified with my work and my concepts. And the simple act of talking to a stranger about my work helped consolidate my ideas and conceptual principles.
Indeed, something I learnt as the event progressed, is that talking, in this context, is a powerful tool: It is used to generate and sustain intrigue, to sell both yourself and your work and to establish connections with others, which in turn may lead to something grander. In a studio environment, it is harder for the work to speak for itself: Work isn’t visually isolated, with accompanying text and an underlying theme. It is up to you to fill in these gaps in order to pull the work from it’s physical trappings, thus allowing it to be contemplated and identified with, if you wish to succeed in an open studio event.
However, my experience was by no means perfect, and I think that’s partly down to me. My studio could have been tarted up somewhat in order to make it look more appealing to the visitors. I vaguely attempted to arrange works of art in an orderly fashion, but many visitors simply glanced at my studio and proceeded to walk on by without any additional thought. I think I could have made it look more appealing and more engaging in order to achieve a more positive initial response from visitors.
I also wished to sell jars of my own paint at the event. This did not happen and was a bit of a missed opportunity. I could blame the fact that the empty jars I needed in order to store the paint were only delivered to me on the same day as the event itself, but really it’s my own fault. I knew when the Open Studio was going to be, and I simply didn’t order the jars quickly enough. As I say, this was a bit of a missed opportunity, and one that should have been seized in order to generate more interest in my work.
Anyway, lets not finish on a downer, it was still a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. And the negative elements of the experience are small enough to learn from, without having to label the whole event an all-encompassing, abject, vomit-inducing failure. And that’s always good.
Why your studio space should be both embraced and confronted.
Upon my recent move to Sheffield, I have acquired new dwellings and, for the first time, a dedicated and personal studio space. No longer am I attempting to squeeze artistic practice in between bedroom furniture and household appliances; I have a space which exists for art and art alone.
Initial steps towards any kind of mark making have been tentative, yet bewilderingly so. A studio space offers no danger. It will not retract at the thought of paint stains: It will not scrape out your eyes should a charcoal crayon fall to the floor: It will not weep uncontrollably should it find itself in a mess. Yet I suppose human nature dictates that there is a certain satisfaction in having everything just-so.
It won’t be like this for long. Over the next few days I intend to bombard it with egg yolks, linseed oil, tea bags, vinegar and salted water as I re-embark upon the process of creating paint. Paint which will contain within it associations and experiences derived from food. Needless to say, the eerie sense of cleanliness it currently possesses will be wiped out of memory almost instantaneously. Yet I think there is something to be said about the very notion of a studio space, or at least, how it dictates the art we produce.
Experience has thought me that, generally speaking, a smaller studio space equates to smaller scale work and less scope for the exploration of materials and concepts. But this is not necessarily a bad thing and possibly not even true. Consider this – an experiment whereby a painter who has spent several years becoming acquainted with a large warehouse of a studio is suddenly forced into using an attic as a studio. Space is no longer a luxury, and creative output will have to adapt to the environment. Canvases will reduce in size and brushstrokes will be harnessed, yet such a meteoric and forced changed to the approach of painting will unquestionably open up new possibilities and directions. Particularly for a painter struggling with instigating a new direction, a change of studio could be a great source of influence.
This sort of change should be embraced and of course, it does not only apply to painting. I’d happily bugger off to a converted airport for a month to see what kind of monumental instillation could emerge, just as I would trundle off to an unused prison cell to see if any small scale and domestically charged delights could develop.
I guess what I’m saying is claiming ownership of a studio is dangerous as it can blinker creativity. Not being afraid to abandon the comfort of your own studio is healthy as it can lead you to directions that would otherwise be overlooked and could be of great value. Wow, I actually summed that up more concisely than I imagined. Not that you needed to know that. In fact, these last three sentences have all but undone my lovely concise work. Shame.