First Week of StudioBook 2017
The first week of Mark Devereux Projects’ StudioBook 2017 surpassed my expectations. I arrived in Manchester on Sunday night at Islington Mill, the incredible space that I and two other StudioBook artists are staying in for the StudioBook fortnight. We started the week with twelve short presentations given by each artist about their practice. I had researched each artist before the start of the programme, but it was brilliant and so insightful to hear them speak about their own work. I had expected the fortnight to be a great opportunity to network but hadn’t foreseen the supportiveness and genuine interest in each other’s practices that has been displayed so far. The opportunity to discuss work and to share experiences has been so helpful and extremely exciting.
The speakers of the first week of StudioBook have also surpassed my expectations. So many varied and amazing stories and experiences were shared by an array of people coming from vastly different places. Each of the speakers shared an openness and generosity that I couldn’t have predicted.
Kitty Anderson from the Common Guild in Glasgow was a wonderfully kind, sensitive and ambitious woman. Hearing about her projects with Carol Bove and Steven Claydon, two artists whose work I really admire, was fascinating. It was particularly interesting to hear about the importance of studio visits in building relationships over years between artists and curators. Hearing about Kitty’s projects with local artists, as well as her focus at the Common Guild on round table discussions with early career artists, was also lovely to hear about. For the second part of the morning the tables were reassembled and we experienced our own StudioBook round table discussion with Kitty. This discussion felt so genuine and honest. There was a real exchange of experiences and ideas between the twelve artists as well as Kitty which was very insightful and useful.
Another speaker that I particularly enjoyed was Eleanor Clayton from the Hepworth. Eleanor was completely different in her manner to Kitty but equally fascinating in what she discussed. In her talk she presented the nominees of the Hepworth Sculpture Prize as case studies of how to make the most out of a space and an exhibiting or commissioning opportunity. Doing so, she gave an in-depth view into the logistics of working with established artists working at advanced levels both conceptually and technically. I loved this talk as I had visited the prize and found the works of each of the nominees incredible.
On Wednesday we had a presentation cum creative writing workshop from the lovely Laura Robertson. Laura tackled the problem of the artist statement and worded aptly through the amusing sound bite: ‘as my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and therefore full of deep significance’. She was so funny, entertaining and passionate and really injected energy and enthusiasm into the group. Laura Robertson co-founded the Double Negative and writes for Frieze, Art Review and Art Monthly. Laura stressed the importance of stories and using exciting language. She really was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with. Laura wasn’t the only speaker to stress the importance of stories. This, and the idea of building narratives around art work and a practice seemed to be an overriding theme in week one.
Ann Bukantas spoke to us on the same day as Laura. Hearing Ann speak was very interesting as she is used to working with early to mid career artists as well as artists on a more international scale. She for example, edits the John Moores Painting Prize catalogue as a part of her role as Head of Fine Art at the National Museums Liverpool. On Wednesday afternoon I had a one-to-one session with Ann. This was probably the most useful conversation that I had in week one. Ann had really done her research on my online presence and the way that I was projecting myself on my website and social media. Based on this she gave me so much real terms advice. Lesley Taker, curator at FACT Liverpool who I had a one-to-one with earlier in the week had also been fantastic for this, recommending appropriate opportunities and artists for me to research and explore.
We are now almost midway into week two of StudioBook 2017. I am excited to meet the rest of the speakers that will be joining us this week. On Friday we will be writing our three and five year plans. StudioBook has provided us all with plenty to move forward with. I am looking forward to returning home to digest this fortnight of information, stories and advice from many brilliant different people; to recuperate and to begin to make the work for the StudioBook group exhibition in November.