Mike Hall (School of Art, The University of Wales, Aberystwyth) makes installations, modified objects and paintings within a museological environment: “The work is informed by the impact of history on our lives and how response can be conditioned by information, and the role that presentation plays in this conditioning.”
What a difference a year makes. Around this time in 2006 my degree show was taking shape: a difficult time, full of tension, apprehension and misgivings emotions common to all final year students. In short, life was fraught. Now a year further on, half way through a part-time MA, and with adrenaline levels back (I think) to normal, its time to reflect. I wanted to maintain my BA impetus and carrying on without a break gave me this opportunity. But was it a sensible thing to do?
Well, that depends. If you need to get out there earning money to pay off that humongous student loan and an MA is a requirement of getting that job, then, yes, perhaps you have to get on in there and do it. If not however, some time away from academia might be beneficial. Perhaps consider part-time study as an alternative. Its working for me. I enjoyed my undergraduate time at Aberystwyth, and could see no sensible reason to uproot and change (Im probably getting too old for that now anyway). The staff here are enthusiastic and encouraging, I have the freedom to drop into any taught modules that I feel might benefit me and theres a great series of lunchtime talks by top contemporary artists (with an added bonus of tutorials from them if you want). It suits me well. The course is flexible and its content is negotiable, although as with everything there are certain prescribed elements that everyone has to do. The hoops remain theyre just higher off the ground.
My MA studies are self-funded I thought it might be the case when I applied. I tried for AHRC funding and although my proposal was classed as excellent there were, regrettably, insufficient funds available. One of my fellow students however was successful in gaining an award, so its not necessarily a foregone conclusion that youll have to fund yourself. Do your homework on alternative funding sources, but be prepared for the harsh realities of life. I am continuing to develop my own practice, building contacts and creating a body of work for exhibition, at the same time as studying and I find that a combination of work and study suits me well (although ask me on an off day, when everything is happening at the same time and you will probably get a different, and probably quite curt, response!).
Mike Hall graduated from the School of Art, The University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 2006.
Everything comes down today – exhibition over, finished and done, and with it possibly a final parting of the ways. Normally Graduation Day would provide an opportunity to say goodbye and wish people well for the future, but this year – who knows?
This is going to be my last blog so I want to wish all my fellow bloggers all success with their exhibitions. Although we’ve never actually met, I feel that some form of bond has developed over the past few weeks, and therefore, like all partings, there’s a trace of sadness as I type these last words.
A very big thank-you to A-N for giving me the chance to share these last few weeks with you all, plus, of course, the opportunity to give Aber a plug. I don’t know whether I’ve fulfilled the brief set, but I do hope that I’ve provided an insight into what’s been happening out here.
Now it’s back to the mountains for me; sun, fresh air, green fields, fantastic scenery, peace and quiet (apart from when the RAF flyboys do low-level practice over the house!).
Take care y’all, it’s been really great being a part of this.
(Tips hat, reins horse, rides off into the sunset; music swells, titles roll.)
(Sob, sob, boo, hoo, pphhaarp).
The dust has now settled, so there’s a bit of spare time available to compile some form of write-up. Sorry for the delay but I’ve had one final piece of written work to do and that has been taking all my time and effort. Well, that’s now out of the way, the final result rests in the lap of the gods (and the University authorities of course.)
Saturday evening was, as expected, a bit of a scrummage – but I suppose for an opening night that is infinitely preferable to rattling around in an empty gallery, trying to look interested and enthusiastic. Apart from parents and offspring (God bless ’em) there were a good number of unconnected interested parties casting a critical eye over proceedings. Those tasked with wine dispensing were pushed to the limit as consumption reached an all-time high. Amazing the affect the word ‘free’ has on people’s capacity. By the end of the evening several red spots had appeared against exhibits and some six exhibitors had been chosen by a selector from the Exposure Gallery in Swansea for their work to be shown there. Many congratulations to those concerned.
The variety and quality of work was amazing. I had spent the previous two weeks head down slaving away in my own little world so it was good to come out on opening evening and witness the work of others. Charlotte’s choice of toilets as a backdrop to her photography certainly paid off judging by the comments I heard!
My own exhibit soon became known as ‘the black room’ (not my intention, but at least it showed that people were visiting it.) Unfortunately owing to the stream of visitors to the room it proved impossible to close the door and gain the full impact of the environment, but comments I heard suggested a favourable response all the same.
And the future? Well the exhibition comes down 2nd June and the pieces get packed away until the next time (if that happens). I’ve certainly learned a lot of lessons from the experience and have got some improvements/alterations etc. in mind as a result.
Oh, by the way it seems that I will get more time in this beautiful place. I’ve been offered (and accepted) a Postgraduate place at Aber starting September. Remember what I said a week ago about putting myself through it again?
Two frantic days of racing against time are finally over, and despite a few last minute changes and hitches everything’s up and running (I’ve just typed ruining – some form of intuition?). Doors are now closed at the School of Art and the next time anyone’s allowed in will be at 6.30 on Saturday when the show opens.
Has it been worth it? I think so – even though there were times when I vowed never to put myself through this again. But then, I seem to remember saying the same thing on many occasions before, and look, here I am again. (Stupid or what?).
The room looks pretty sepulchral now that the lighting levels have been lowered. In fact with the door closed the atmosphere gets pretty spooky. Talking of atmosphere there has been an added bonus that I never imagined. The combined smells of hessian and paint within the room give that little ‘je ne sais quoi’ – not unpleasant but just a little bit strange; you can almost feel the dust of age – just right! As I said in one of my earlier blogs there are more questions than answers within the room, so I am preparing myself for the inevitable ‘what’s it all about? which is bound to happen at quite regular intervals.
The main theme to my work is how the interpretation of facts becomes twisted and changed over time and how it is not only the written word that brings about such changes, but also our own perceptions of the evidence supplied. At the same time the innate conditioning we are all subjects of ensures a particular – in most cases a predictable – reaction to any given set of stimuli and this can be further manipulated by the method of presentation used.
The installation ‘Wherein Lies the Truth’ presents fragments of fabricated tiles, some bearing script, which represent ‘facts’. The assemblage is set on a triangular floor which, when viewed from the front, provides a perspectival image. The lighting for the whole is diffused through hessian, making the work indistinct and requiring concentration to view properly.
The second piece ‘Orphanage’ is a glasstop display case containing the modified object, some of which have already appeared as images in my blog. These are the enigmatic orphans whose past is unknown and whose identity is catalogued by a cryptic caption only. Make of them what you will. You can create your own past for them, and who knows, if your story is convincing enough, then maybe everyone else will come to believe what you say, even though it only started out as a figment of your imagination.
Finally, the series of paintings, ‘Hard Facts’. These take up one complete wall of the room; each is individually uplit, and again because of the low lighting intensity, indistinct and enigmatic. White stone fragments float on multi-coloured backgrounds; simple pieces in a complex world. A closer inspection reveals gradations of shading; simple shapes become more subtle – the simple fact takes on a deeper meaning.
Anyway that’s some thoughts about what it’s all about. They are my thoughts and it will be interesting to see what others make of it on Saturday. Hope to give some feedback on how it went early next week. Until then – wish me luck!
Well here we are then – the last few days of mad panic before the opening this Saturday night. In fact we have to be all done and dusted by 5 on Thursday so those last minute little tweaks will have to be either done earlier or forgotten about all together. I’m still short of four boards in my exhibition space so this one is going to go right down to the wire. Everything else, well the major stuff anyway, is more or less done now (or will be by the end of today).
If this blog sounds a little tense (or is it terse? – both probably) then it’s probably because however hard you plan something will always pop up to confuse, confound or just generally throw a spanner in the works. Yesterday was one of those days. Started off by attempting to amputate a finger with a Stanley knife, then the rain came down just as I was trying to get my work into the back of the car, then the car decided to try and boil over. (Do you ever get the feeling that someone’s trying to tell you something?). It doesn’t seem to matter how hard you try to tell yourself that it will all be alright eventually, there’s still that monkey on your back making life b***dy difficult for you. Ah well, such is life.