The New Light Prize Exhibition is open for entries again. It’s come around so quickly but also I find it hard to remember the time when I had not won the Valeria Sykes award because it changed my life so much. I’ve been asked to write a short quotation for a press release that New Light is putting together to advertise the exhibition being open for entries, about how winning the award has changed my life and my artistic practice. It wasn’t easy to sum it all up in a couple of sentenced and although I did for the benefit of the press release, I also wanted to let everyone involved with New Light know about all the many ways it has contributed to my artistic and personal development, so I wrote back with more than the quotation they asked for, and then after I wrote back I thought I should post it on my blog, as you might be interested as well, or maybe it will inspire other (Northern) artists to enter the exhibition. So here it is:
It’s difficult to sum up what winning the Valeria Sykes prize has meant to me in just a couple of sentences as it’s changed my life from all sorts of perspectives: It gave me the financial freedom to travel and make all sorts of artwork that I wanted to make and have my work professionally framed, it boosted my confidence no end, it made me feel that people were interested in what I was doing and gave me a reason to write a blog, it made me feel that I had a responsibility to deliver on using the the money in the best way possible so it pushed me in that sense, it gave me the confidence to leave my permanent job and become a casual worker (which is what I do now), it helped increase my knowledge of contemporary art and art history as I was able to buy a load of books and visit exhibitions across the country, I believe it increased sales of my work although I’ll never know if that would have happened anyway, I’m sure the recognition from the prize helped it along. Because of the residency in China there is now a whole other element to the way it has changed my artistic practice.
Before China I was making work that focused primarily on my interest in the visual elements of the landscape and specifically the landscape of Britain. Now I feel that my work is surrounded by much deeper theoretical subjects. I feel that through my paintings I can now also educate people about the things that are going on across the world that will actually effect us all in the long run and I feel this might influence people to question the ethics of what we do with the landscape. I feel like I have a unique insight into something that I can share with other people through painting. Because of all of this I feel like I’m part of a much bigger art world than I was before and one that recognises it’s power to change the world with art. The residency put enough pressure on me to make me feel like I needed to deliver with some ambitious work, but also presented me with an environment which really supported me to to do that. It gave me the opportunity to try different ways of working and use different materials, but also try a different pattern for managing my time. It showed me the benefits of doing residencies or creating similar situations in order to take breaks from daily life, where I focus for an intense period on art alone. My work itself changed because of all of this.
I also made some really good connections with people in Xiamen which have already and I think will continue to lead to further opportunities. The Chinese European Art Center, who provided my residency, have invited me to be part of an exhibition in Iceland in July and I will be going there for a week to discover the Icelandic landscape and see the exhibition. I also made connections with another arts organisation in Xiamen that offers opportunities to international artists and I am hopeful that I can return to work with them in the future. I feel like it would be possible for me to establish another base for myself in Xiamen, which I can return to to make more work and from which I can travel to other parts of the country to do more research.
Before I won the award and before I went to China I had a more narrow view of what I was capable of achieving. I had ideas for individual paintings rather than for bigger projects and bodies of work that have a real focus. Now I feel inspired to think about applying for funding to put on more projects that engage the public with my work.
If you’re interested in applying for the New Light prize exhibition yourself then visit their website for more details. Of course I would recommend it. http://newlight-art.org.uk