When I learnt I had a place on a residency at Phoenix Gallery, during the Brighton festival I was delighted.
At the time I was using my one-bedroom flat as a studio as well as a living space and was missing the stimulation of working alongside other artists. I welcomed the idea that the residency would open up the often private world of the artists' studio to the public and hoped that the project would break down some of the communication barriers between artists, galleries and visitors. After meetings and discussions with the other selected artists we decided to call the exhibition 'Watch this space'.
We had a few days to set up our spaces and turn them into a studio before the opening night, which was well-attended and generated lots of interest about what might develop in the following five weeks. At the same time, we started to realise that people were going to come into the gallery regularly to see how our work was progressing. Although this was a positive experience, it was also very scary. I was not used to people constantly asking questions about my work and watching what I was doing. Some days it was great, some days I just wanted to hide and get on with my work.
I work in a range of media and the residency was a way to exploit this and experiment. I used photographic techniques, clay and plaster, screenprinting, painting and textiles to communicate my fascination with abstracting the human form. It is important to me that the textures I collect and use are fragments of history from a person's life. I work with garments and enjoy discovering suggestions and clues from the fabrics themselves as opposed to meeting the people who once owned them. There are currently two sides to my work: a 'skeleton' which discovers texture and light in monotone and a 'skin' which explores colour and form. Both are investigations of time.
The space available freed up my ideas and because I felt exposed and pressured working in the public eye my work developed quite quickly. I could talk to the other artists and the public about my creative processes. The public were generally very respectful of my space and I was surprised to see how many people are afraid of art and artists. They had the chance to see the development process and the skills and techniques each artist used and ask questions.
Most of the feedback from the public was verbal rather than written in the comments book, as we built up a rapport with them. This was a positive experience because, when asked questions, I had to give an immediate response. I enjoyed going into the gallery to work, getting and giving feedback, building friendships with the other artists, having space to work and to be able to stand back from it and make new contacts all of which I can take forward in my professional development. I learnt from the other artists and gained information about studio space, funding, presenting myself and articulating my ideas. Although sometimes I felt too exposed, I would definitely do it again.
Angela Carter-Rhodes is an artist based in Brighton.
First published: a-n Magazine November 2003 as Watch this space
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