One Year Since WEYA

Hasn’t time flown?

I can’t believe it was a whole year since 1000 artists (including me) were basking in the Nottingham sunshine.

Although it seems like yesterday, lots of exciting things have happened in the last year for everyone. For Alana and myself it has been especially busy.

Since meeting in Nottingham and returning to ‘normal’ life, we have seen each other regularly and have started a blog together (haveyoureadourblogyet) We began a helpful dialogue about both our practices as and when we need, its so healthy to talk about work in a crit situation; I miss that aspect of Art School.

I felt WEYA brought back that Art School vibe where lots of interesting and ambitious artists being altogether in one place makes for a happy and energetic ambiance. Nottingham was alive with the sound, taste, look and feel of a lively European city. Visual art, music, gastronomy, literature, performance and dance filled the air, enticing passers-by to look further, deeper and dragged them into buildings they might have never explored before. I found it very useful to explore and visit all the galleries, spaces and back streets Nottingham had to offer. As a site-specific installation artist it is imperative to visit said spaces before making proposals or starting conversations with gallerists. I knew of all the larger/council-run galleries and a handful of artist-lead spaces, but I never imagined Nottingham had so much to offer a creative. Bravo!

How I wish we could do it all over again. I regret not having the time or energy (we were EXTREMELY busy indulging in the arts) to talk to more people and possibly start other friendships/collaborations.

Looking back at the past year in reflection always makes me nostalgic. I would never have suspected what was round the corner for me. I was awarded Arts Council England Grants for the arts funding in May. I was delighted to receive money for the research and development of a new body of work: funding my practice for whole year. I have changed the way I work as a result, having a fluid studio-based practice. In May I set myself a challenge to produce a drawing a day, this in turn has helped free my block and allow me to interpret these works-on-paper into sculptural light-works or installations. I will be showing this brand new work at Piccadilly Place, Manchester in my solo presentation ‘On Brown & Violet Grounds‘ (25 September – 2 October) where I will also be exhibiting drawings for the first time next to large-scale sculpture. Further works on paper will be exhibited within my studio as part of this year’s Rogue Open Studios.

I was then invited to make a new site-specific work for this year’s Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield in June. I took over an empty shop unit in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre to create a sensory installation using transparent object to create my largest site-specific installation to date. I positioned found objects on top of red, yellow and blue light boxes all placed within a Perspex museum-like cases, transforming everyday things into new sculptural forms. Finally in October I will be showing new work in Bury Light Night.

During World Event Young Artists Alana installed her solo exhibition at Oriel Davies in Newtown, Wales. Alana was excited to exhibit in Oriel Davies’ testbed space (for new and experimental work) because it is so wonderfully small. She had been looking for a confined space like this for quite a while because she wanted to be able to create a completely immersive experience for the viewer without having to build false walls.

Alana was recently awarded an a-n Magazine re:View Bursary to assist her in pursuing new work. For this she has enlisted the help of Mark Devereux as a mentor and critical aid. (more information about Mark Devereux Projects will follow in a future blog post). In May Alana received an Arts Council of Wales Research and Development Grant to facilitate her ongoing practice. This funded period will result in the making of ambitious new works, pushing Alana’s abilities and allowing her time to question the nature of her work in a wholly positive way.


North East Visit: Platform-A Gallery & The NewBridge Project

I have only stepped foot on North East soil once in my life when I visited Newcastle many years ago. With the uprising of various arts organisations and studios I was keen to re-visit with my artist head on. Recently I received an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts funding award for the research and development of new work. As part of my proposal I wanted to venture into different regions introducing my practice and meeting the facilitators responsible for making it possible to live in the North as an artist.

As an avid reader of Corridor 8, I noticed an article in 2012′s Part 2 edition written about artist-led spaces. This included interviews with The NewBridge Project and Platform-A Gallery, both seemed impressive and spurred me to organise a visit; I was not to be disappointed.

First stop was Platform-A Gallery in Middlesbrough. I had been lucky enough to meet director Tony Charles at The International 3 Share Market Share event at Cornerhouse, Manchester a few weeks before and was very interested to talk for longer, see his own work in the flesh (Tony works as an artist based at Platform Arts Studios) and see the gallery for myself; news along the grapevine was that it was a stunning space and hard to not fantasise about showing in.

Sometimes I find a galleries output (through social media, online) far more impressive that the actual space in question. When you rock up at the gallery it can be disappointing compared to what your perceptions were. This was not the case with Platform-A Gallery. When pulling up to Middlesbrough Station (where the gallery is based) I was immediately impressed with the outside, it had curb appeal; clean, big windows, adjoining studios, lots of clear letting telling me what was on.

On ringing the doorbell I was greeted with an enthusiastic curator; Tony Charles. I was handed a gallery guide on thick card; no expense spared, with the intent (I am sure) of creating a good impression, high-output and sure sign of quality. I was there to see fellow Rogue artist Lee Machell‘s solo exhibition Interruption, a pared down approach to making work and a brave curatorial display. The minimal hang let each work sing, given the space for the visitor to question.

After a tour of the studios and workshops attached to the gallery I can say 100% that anyone would be happy to live as an artist in Middlesbrough. With a studio in this facility and this gallery on your doorstep showing such exciting work, not to mention MIMA just around the corner, Middlesbrough is becoming a contender in the North East art scene. If only there were more Tony Charles’ to set up such wonderful spaces, bravo!

Next stop was The NewBridge Project in the centre of Newcastle. Upon entering the gallery space, my first impressions were how sharp and well installed the current exhibition A Small Hiccup was. It was great to see co-director Will Strong sat at a front desk, available to give information and offer an insight. I am finding it rare to find visible directors of arts organisation, they tend to want to hide away in back rooms – I understand why this is, but think it is still vital to have a gallery presence.

I was there to see the space. I was treated to a tour of the adjoining artist studios and was allowed time to ask Will about the set-up. The calibre and amount of artists they house is extraordinary. This is another highly desirable arts facility in the North East. I know from experience that is takes genuine passion, time and self-made poverty to create an organisation like this. It’s not easy. Rigorous ideas and planning for such a space is integral to the organisations success and it seems this bunch have is sussed. Will was telling me of future plans for an onsite artists’ bookshop, new office and hub. They are expanding thanks to the support (I presume) of the local landlords. The NewBridge Project have a tidy gallery space, masses of room for studios, soon-to-be bookshop and social space.