As my Re:view bursary draws to a close at the end of February, Rebecca Spooner, in her mentoring role, suggested we write about the experience from our different perspectives.
My plan was for a sustained, in-depth mentoring relationship as most likely to help me try out new approaches, and embed what I learnt in the way I work. I approached Rebecca because of my interest in and admiration for her artistic pre-occupations as well as her deep commitment to promoting exciting art to wide audiences, especially in a rural setting.
I was looking for a questioning, objective and critical view of my practice. A challenging approach of this kind demands not just knowledge and experience, but quite an investment from a mentor and I have been hugely grateful for the energy Rebecca has brought to the process. Her empathic, imaginative engagement, along with a professional rigor have enabled me to get to grips with many of my uncertainties, and given me the confidence to try new things.
It is no co-incidence that I have had a very full-on time over the course of the bursary, with developments in all aspects of my work. Along with exhibiting, these include:
* changes to my website www.pennyhallas.co.uk
* 2 blogs – one about my artistic pre-occupations and Arts Council Wales R&D project boxingthechimera – and this one charting the a-n re:view process
* development of contacts database
* learning more about how arts organisations function, and adapting communications with them and with curators.
* setting up AXIS page www.axisweb.org/p/pennyhallas
Looking back at the hopes I had outlined in my initial application to AN, I found that all had been met. These included: development of professional profile; adapting presentation of work for different gallery spaces; presenting work to curators; relationships with arts organisations; reviewing where I was professionally, where I would like to be and identify ways of getting there. Whilst we did not overtly address other aims to do with critical appraisal of my work, I did find that my attitude and perspective towards it was changed. In retrospect I think these aims arose from insecurities and a lack of confidence: a focus on communication about my work with new external audiences, and Rebecca’s assumption that a more ambitious approach was completely in order have indirectly changed my internal dialogues about my work.
Here is Rebecca’s perspective on the a-n re:view process…
The mentoring sessions with Penny gave me a valuable insight into her artistic processes, thoughts, ambitions and concerns. I was impressed with the deep consideration she brings to all her work, whether producing a hand-printed business card or installing a solo show. Every element of her practice is carried out with authenticity.
Penny was very open to ideas and explored all my suggestions – some worked for her and others didn’t but she was always willing to embrace a new approach. She was prepared to challenge herself and to dedicate time and energy to her professional development.
It felt very satisfying to support an artist that I admire. I particularly enjoyed seeing Penny’s exhibition, Pantechnicon, at Arcade Cardiff in November as this was the culmination of an intense period for her, creating new work and experimenting with new ways of presenting her art in a public space. The mentoring sessions provided her with structure and momentum during this busy time.
Spending time one-to-one with Penny made realize the anxieties and insecurities artists feel about their work can be very real. However, we took a proactive approach and sought to take practical steps to develop Penny’s practice rather than indulge in too much reflective conversation. I hope this approach has provided Penny with greater self-awareness, confidence and resilience in relation to her work.
Thanks again to Rebecca and to a-n!