This was my first residency and all brand new to me. Unlike traditional residencies I was not obliged to produce work towards anything and participation and the level of social interaction with the creative residence occupying the other six artist cottages was entirely optional.
As the summer is a popular time most artists stayed for between 1/2 weeks so I felt very lucky to have a whole month. The residency has a communal cottage for artists to meet and share but it’s use, I learnt, varied depending on the dynamic of the group staying at the time. I would describe my stay as a social sandwich with a comfortable slice of solidarity in between.
Many interesting people ranging in age, background, culture and profession came and went as the weeks passed. Including, but not limited to painters, performance artists, dancers, print makers, animators, illustrators and even a musical composer, all from different ends of the globe. Being at the start of my career I felt overwhelmed (positively) and in awe of the way each person had built their lives around their passions. I would sit drinking wine and eating biscuits with perfect strangers bonded through their love of the arts and sharing their work. Then, full of admiration ( and wine and biscuits) I would go back to my studio and draw all night.
Back in the UK I have always considered myself to have a strong network of artistic friends and colleagues, but living in a big expensive, fast city like Brighton with so much happening all the time, it’s hard to keep a consistent community alive, to share ideas and a sense of support in what can be a rather solitary profession. The unique thing about a residency, especially in a different country, is the mental and physical separation and detachment it allows us from our everyday. Being solitary and meeting new people without a context-blanket is a wonderful thing. It’s through this vulnerability that we can be our most open and experience unexpected and new things. These connections are fleeting and impermanent, so in a way valued more in this situation. This residency highlighted a valuable lesson for me to appreciate and maintain a constant connection to the people I know, especially creatively. Although I live in a city full of thousands of people, I can spend many days without exchanging meaningful connections with likeminded souls. Sure, my job means I exchange words with hundreds of people a day but these exchanged are fleeting and surface and quick.
With everyday commitments and distractions its hard to keep a community of artists coherent, mutually supportive and exchanging. It is these exchanges, whether it be art critique or networking information, which are invaluable. Since this residency I have become more determined to see the value of such connections.