Tonight sees the opening evening of The Beast Within – a group exhibition that invites artists from Exchange Place Studios to create work towards the theme of The Beast Within.
As expected, the broad and highly interpretive nature of the theme has led to a very diverse exhibition that highlights the innovative, intriguing and progressive nature of Exchange Place Artists, and showcases some beautiful, high quality pieces. My personal effort is a scented narrative that re-assigns knowledge as a biblical myth – a beast in it’s own right.
The exhibition yet again re-affirms Exchange Place Studios as an emerging and intriguing venue for exhibitions. As a young space still attempting to find its place within the wider Sheffield art scene, it is advisable that exhibitions at Exchange Place are attached to other events. Last year’s exhibition – FLUX – was attached to Castlegate Festival and Sharon Mossbeck is looking to stage a cabinet exhibition that takes advantage of this years’ Halloween festivities. The Beast Within is no different, as it seeks to utilise the crowd associated with OpenUp Sheffield – an event that sees studios around Sheffield opened to the public. This means that anyone attending Open Up Sheffield over the next two weekends at Exchange Place will also be treated to an exhibition that perfectly highlights the talents of those in the building.
The Beast Within opens tonight from 7-9pm. Many of the artists will be on hand to talk about their work, or to just chat to! There’ll also be a free bar. I hope you can make it!
Exchange Place Studios – the space where I share a studio with Sharon Mossbeck – is hosting an exhibition from 29th April – 10th in parallel with Open Up Sheffield. The exhibition brings together Exchange Place artists of varying styles and disciplines, all working towards one common theme – ‘The Beast Within’
This theme opens up various means of interpretation. As such, I intend to use it as a chance to show brand new work and to use a new creative medium – the humble scented candle. I intend to use scented candles in a contemporary way – using scent to describe a narrative that speculates upon the idea that knowledge is a beast which we feed to further human endeavour.
The narrative, which takes cues from Ancient Eygpt and religious ritual, suggests that if you offer the essences of your body and mind to the beast of Knowledge they will be sacrificed for the good of human endeavour. However, the narrative also advises caution against feeding knowledge, as a collective sense of truth may compromise your own place within the world.
The narrative provides insight and metaphor for how we navigate our way through our own reality, learn from our experiences and how we sit on the axis between the realities of the wider world and our own personal battles. If you want to see – and indeed smell – the creation, why not pop down to Exchange Place Studios? There will be a Private View of the exhibition between 7-9pm on the 29th April. Do come along if you can!
And so, after around 150 visitors through my door, 2 pieces of work sold, 6 cups of tea and a slice of carrot cake I believe it fit to deem this years’ Yorkshire Artspace Open Studios a success.
Last year my work felt a little impenetrable to the public gaze: Attempting to explain why I make paint out of food, and how I consider that paint to be a complete and potent work of art was tricky at the best of times. This year, equipped with a spiel about perfume and with an abundance of oils, scents and fragrances on display ready to be sniffed, there was a palpable sense of the audience directly and instantly engaging with my work, processes and thoughts.
Measuring audience engagement is a useful tool for discerning the success of a body of work. After all, you could be occupied by the most conceptually rich and innovative project imaginable, but if an audience can’t access it, you might as well deem it a vanity project. This last year has seen me take care in creating work at offers a trade off between innovation and accessibility, and how my work was received at Open Studios this year in comparison to last is a reflection of that.
Open Studios tends to be a bit of an unknown quantity, usually dependant on external factors such as time of year, weather, how it is promoted and what other events are happening nearby. But as I have now participated in 4 different Open Studios I feel I have learnt a thing or two along the way. Here’s 5 tips, based on my experiences:
1. Know your audience
In my experience, you can divide an Open Studios audience up into two distinct categories; members of the public looking for something to buy and other artists have a snoop around other people’s studios. An awareness of this this year enabled me to tailor how I talk about my work, allowing it to become accessible, intriguing and fun for an audience. If they wished to scratch away at the surface, they would uncover more about how I use perfume as a platform for portraiture and how I am attempting to find alternative uses for per-established concepts. But there’s nothing wrong with someone just wanting to have a sniff at a Christmas fragrance before trundling off.
2. Attempt a trade-off between working space and exhibition space.
Catering for all needs whilst remaining true to the functionality of a working studio is key. For one, a wider audience will remember you if you offer both finished pieces of work and the opportunity to see the materials and equipment you have, and being remembered is essential to securing opportunities and developing connections. I’m more than happy to be remembered by some as ‘that guy that makes perfumes’ and by others as ‘that guy with loads and loads of little bottles in his studio’.
3. Be aware that people might want to buy something
If, like me, your current practice is difficult – or even impossible – to sell, you may find that you have some more commercially viable work deep within the darkest corner of your studio somewhere. If you do, then I don’t think there’s any harm in displaying them and offering them for sale. I tend to keep an audience’s focus on my current project, but I do also refer them to a wall I isolate as a shop space, packed full of old paintings offered at a reasonable price. It’s always nice to get a bit of cash in the back pocket, after all. And it’s always rewarding to see someone loving your work – no matter how old it is.
4. Visitors will always find a point of interest
This follows on somewhat from my previous point. You can set up your studio any which way you like, but chances are someone will pop in and attempt to look at something you didn’t even consider close to worthy of display. This is fine, just go with it. Don’t forget that the more open and accessible you are, the easier it will be for an audience to be captivated by at least one facet of your creative endeavours.
5. Relax and Enjoy!
On the whole, people tend to be very pleasant and positive towards your work. You’ll probably get the odd quip or awkward comment but nothing that you should take to heart. Indeed such comments might even be useful and constructive. Not everyone is going to fully understand, or appreciate, or really connect with what you do, and that’s fine, because there will certainly be those that do.
…So there you have it. Hope this was informative in some way! And don’t forget, this is based my my personal experience. What are your experiences of Open Studio events?