Graduate interview: Puy Soden
Puy Soden graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 2011. We talk to her six months on from leaving undergraduate study.
"One of the reasons why I chose the Contemporary Arts course at Huddersfield back in 2008 was for its international outlook and in particular, the exchange programme with South Korea. I studied and made art there from the beginning of September to the end of December 2009 and came back valuing even more the amount of studio space we were so lucky to have at Huddersfield. The painting studios in Seoul were very crammed. Some students had even squeezed beds into their tiny spaces so they could sleep overnight if they got locked in after curfew."
Six months on from study, and as she puts the finishing touches to her new studio in her back garden, Puy poises ready for a new journey ahead: journeys in paint, or up the hills surrounding the West Yorkshire town where she has begun to lay further foundations.
"I studied Spanish at the University of Leeds from 1997 to 2001 and ended up in London and South America working in International Development. I travelled a lot and will never be able to shake my global interest (I'm continuing an ongoing project, The Join, that began in South Korea), but if you are an artist and you do not make you become ill."
With hindsight under her belt and inner-soled to her shoes Puy began researching contemporary practice degrees in the North of England. She eventually settled on West Yorkshire as she had family there already, loved the countryside, the contrast with London, and above all, rated the course at the University of Huddersfield.
"In Huddersfield there seemed to be a lot less talking and a lot more doing than in London. And in terms of learning, I needed a course that embedded you in making and realising ideas through processes of creating something. The strong emphasis on the practical was balanced with the appropriate criticism and stretch, and I was able to satisfy my need to be making and developing every day alongside others. The degree was really only the beginning and the need to move paint around daily continues: I'm now in my fourth year, even though I've left the university."
So what of a blog to muster some of this critical mass? While discussing the use of blogs in artists' practice Puy had some pretty strong ideas, but eventually decided on its place in her work:
"It is worth it if there is an existing community of creative people who are communicating constructively. Keeping a blog will help with discipline and structure, and by exploring a particular tradition [that being painting] the discussion will hopefully tap in to further networks still."
As Puy sets foot on the back garden path leading to her built studio, she is not restricting her horizons to a garden shed. This is comparable with her thoughts on a ground for the work she produces; seeing West Yorkshire as her base, does not mean it is the sole location of her practice.
"Limitation can be very liberating. But I do plan research trips in London and elsewhere often, and use these condensed visits to make myself aware of important things going on. I am then able to pile this information in to one place, take it back to West Yorkshire and re-charge in Huddersfield with new ideas for approaching work. I am also looking at international residencies."
As a maker exploring and documenting through paint, Puy is also very aware of her practice and the course it can take, against the course she might foresee. The studio is both a retreat and reflector for this process:
"The new space allows for the extreme elements of a working process. You need to give and take feedback but when I am working I am very solitary. It then becomes a learning process in how to work with other people and get them to see and comment on the work, in a mutually beneficial way. I do run the risk of falling deeper and deeper in to the well (which is sometimes useful) but I have to set up mechanisms that enable outreach."
It was at this point in the interview that Puy went on to mention that the word 'puy' means 'well' in old French as well as meaning ''volcano'. So does her work allow her to bury deeper in to the chasms of self-exploratory practice, as well as give her the chance to erupt from time to time - for people to see and respond properly?
See more of Puy's work on her website www.puysoden.com »
Richard is an artist/writer living in Edinburgh. He works as online editor on behalf of a-n The Artists Information Company for the Degrees unedited and Students community sites. He also produces art news for the a-n News site.
First published: a-n.co.uk January 2012
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