The beginning of my MFA here at Cardiff has felt odd, as it started for me with an exhibition. I missed my first taught week to exhibit at FloatArt. The work I was exhibiting was the work I had developed for my degree show at Hereford College of Art. To find out more about this work please look here.
FloatArt opened on 7th-11th October 2015. 60 Artists who graduated from BA and MA courses from across the country. It took place at The Bargehouse, The Oxo Tower which is a fantastic space for many reasons. Firstly there is such a rich visible history to the building as whilst it has been preserved it has not been ‘fixed’. I think it is interesting how the space in which a work is being shown can inform the work. I feel that this space is very atmospheric. There is also an element of nostalgia- maybe that is me being reminded of my infant school which was very old and falling apart. When I left it became an abandoned building as a new school had been built. My year was the last year to study at that school and as I walked passed it daily whilst it degraded I felt that there were ghostly memories of mine at the building. Like the traces of my energy and the energy of my peers still remained there. The connection between The Bargehouse and this memory seemed to add another layer / aspect to my work. I suppose the connection to a place that was so firmly in my childhood and ended / ceased to exist in my childhood, and the fact that the stitch work grew out of that notion of being a child exploring the body seemed poetic to me.
This was the room where my work was to be hung. The actual exhibition took place over the whole five floors of The Bargehouse. This was on the first floor- which I was pleased about. I hoped that my work would be presented to the viewer whilst they still had the energy and anticipation- rather than the exhaustion of making it to the fifth floor. Whilst this may seem to be a trivial consideration I do think that the behaviour habits of the audience / people within architectural spaces is an interesting point to consider. There will naturally be a point where people disengage with an exhibition of this size (60 artists), and so where you are placed really is of importance. Admittedly I had no input into this decision, but was relieved with the decision that had been made!
I think that because of how my work was received in Hereford,(some people struggled to connect and felt that it was just out to shock!) for me seeing how the audience would respond to this work was my key interest in this exhibition. I suppose in a way that is the whole point of exhibiting your work- or is it? It is interesting how the architecture and surroundings of an exhibiting space feed into a work. A work looks different in different spaces.
I wonder: Does the work end at it’s edges? Or does the space become an extension of a piece? Where does the work end and the wall begin? Aren’t galleries just installations?
The private view was a huge success with close to a thousand people attending. The queue was huge and access had to be staggered. This added to the buzz, I think not only for the audience but also for us as artists- we felt that we were part of something special. The feedback with my work was mind blowing. The conversation that was generated by the work was amazing. To see my work received as I’d hoped felt amazing- but mostly motivating. I felt a sense of confirmation that I had been doing the right thing – whereas in Hereford so many people seemed to struggle to engage with it, which made me doubt my work and it’s place in the world. On reflection I realise now that giving consideration to the audience when making work is a dangerous practise. I have struggled to make since the degree show and I especially felt that I wanted to leave the stitch work behind. But then my experience in London has made me feel re-energised about the work. I question whether this is from the perspective of my ego- or whether it is because there are still concepts to be excited about and to explore further with this work. I am trying to push the inner doubter to one side and just accept that at this point in time I am excited and want to push further! Overall though, the thing I am trying to learn from this experience is that my work has a place. That it is best shown in a more contemporary space. That people who are surrounded by wider variations of contemporary art seem better equipped to engage with concepts that are more of a challenge.
Some of the interesting points that came from conversations / listening to reactions during the exhibitions:
- I noticed that people seemed to feel at ease with the work when they realised that it was ‘okay’ to feel strange / uncomfortable about the work. When they realised through our conversation that their unease or perceptions of the work was actually part of the work it was as if it freed the viewer up to be open with their responses rather than feeling like they had to understand some hidden dialogue. I realised that this work is actually a surface that not only connects people to their own bodies, but also acts as a surface on which to project. The more I discuss the work the more complex it seems- and I don’t think this is isolated to this work alone. I think that this is actually the case with most if not all art. There is no right or wrong way to look at art- it is truly subjective, and this is one of the magic things about it. Through looking out at an object we are in fact able to look within, and understand ourselves and our opinions better.
- Someone raised the question- why the hands? I suppose the main reason for me was as simple as that fact that it worked. The skin held. But also what the hands represent. As an artist who felt so desperate to ‘make’ at the time- to use my hands seemed somewhat poetic! I wonder how using other body parts may inform the work? Also is it even possible to do so without it becoming violent- which is something I want to avoid.
- When I talked about how we are becoming disconnected from the physical as we interact more and more via digital interfaces such as Facebook and Twitter, a few people mentioned to me that they found that it seems interesting that I had been thinking this as they saw the pattern sewn onto the hand to look like a microchip / circuit board. Again, I think this relates back to my point that people will perceive what they can relate to.