Monday, 3 December 2012

Interview with Artist and Educator Gemma Cossey

ACRYLIC AND INK ON CANVAS, 36’’ X 48’’, 2011-12

I wanted to start interviewing artists who work in education, as this is a route that many artists go down, whether it be lectureing at a university, or teaching in a inner city state school. My first interview is with artist and educator Gemma Cossey.
  Cossey's recent work explores process, gesture, scale, time and the relationship of parts to the whole. Her practice culminates in repetitive mark making drawings and paintings. She currently teaches art and design at a west London sixth form college. Previous teaching experience includes spending a year working at a comprohensive in Gloucestershire teaching art and graphics, and teaching English as a Foreign Language in the Galapagos Islands. 

 You are a practicing artist and have a wide range of teaching experience. Do you see yourself primarily as an educator or practicing artist or both?

When I was teaching, I saw myself as both artist and educator, more or less in equal measures. The one complements the other.
Now I am currently practising full time, having left my job in July this year, I see myself as primarily an artist, and that the educator side of me is dormant, for now, but is something I am certain I will return to in some way in the future.
 Do you have a personal education philosophy? If so, do you feel the current curriculum supports this philosophy? 

I can answer this with regards to Art & Design in education, but don’t feel I have the knowledge or experience to answer for education in general.
Through the learning of Art & Design skills, knowledge and experience, students learn about themselves and the world around them, their place in the world with regards to others and their environment. Students learn observation skills, problem solving skills, ways of expression, communication and learn how to use their imagination and creativity.
The teaching (compulsory and regularly at the core of all students’ timetable) of Art & Design in schools is, I believe, crucial to a well-rounded education. The current curriculum in that it includes compulsory Art & Design up to key stage 3 for all children seems a good one to me. I think the current GCSE and A Level Art & Design courses are very good and suitably challenging courses that provide students with the opportunity to achieve in Art & Design and provide teachers with a solid framework with which to deliver the subject.
The changes proposed to the curriculum by the current government worry me greatly as I think that the diminishing of importance and regularity of Art & Design learning and experience in every child’s timetable will have a devastating effect on our young people and on UK education generally and, in turn, on our culture and society. I just hope that those in power listen and learn from those working in education, NSEAD, and the positive wave of resistance from those in creative industries.
 What drew you into teaching art to young people? 

Teaching was really the only way to earn a living that I could imagine doing, and seemed the best route to support and give time to my art practice. Having had short experiences teaching in summer schools in Somerset, and some private English tuition to young people and adults in France, I realised that this was something that I could possibly do well.
It was also a plausible way that I could help and give to others.
Having spoken to friends and sister, who had done a PGCE previously, I knew that initially I would not have much time with which to practice art, but held on to a future situation when I would teach part time, and always had idea of going into 6th form. Teaching I realised would also provide me with a way to be able to work abroad again in the future.
 Is there an age group you find particularly inspiring, and if so why?

Having taught so far ages 2-19, I have particularly enjoyed the last 6 years of teaching Art & Design to 16-19 year olds. It has been very rewarding to witness students’ development from leaving their school with GCSE’s and arriving at the 6th form college, and within two years becoming ready to progress further at university (or gap years/employment). This age group seem just to be developing a sort of creative voice, and an individuality and there is always a big leap from the student that arrives in the first lesson of an AS or BTEC course, and the one who leaves two or three years later.
These students were of a huge range of varying abilities, and from a wide range of different school experiences all over London; from real ‘high flyers’ with a stack of A grade GCSE’s to students who arrived at the college with just a one or two passes at GCSE level. It was particularly rewarding to see the development of students who for various reasons had not achieved as much as they had hoped at school, but to see them, with guidance and support, a strong pastoral system and a new teaching environment with good resources, really achieve well through a BTEC course route. I taught a few students who progressed from Level 1 BTEC (with a couple of GCSE’s) right through to Level 3 over four years and then straight to university for an Art & Design degree course, and their sense of achievement and that of their families was justly huge.
The final exhibition at the end of the Summer term to show the students’ work of both A2 Art, Photography and Textiles, and final year of BTEC Art & Design, was one of my favourite parts of the year, when the rest of the college students and staff, students’ families and friends were invited to see the students’ best work and final pieces. Witnessing the students pride and sense of accomplishment in hanging their first exhibition was very special.
I haven’t yet taught 20 years and upwards and I would like to maybe in the future.
 You have travelled widely and have taught abroad - Do you think, even though you weren't always teaching art there, that you gained skills and experience that were useful? 

Yes, definitely. Having had no training before teaching English abroad (with some Art, and French at times), the experience was a fast learning curve, and fortunately with some smaller groups of students to begin with. It made the first teaching practices on the PGCE not quite as daunting.
I initially began a job with 2nd school in the Galapagos as art teacher, but unfortunately as it was for only 1 day a week, and the school was desperate for full time English teachers, I was obliged to take the full time job, as the voluntary stipend pay was already low.
The moment when I decided I would return to the UK to train properly to become an Art teacher was whilst taking some of my EFL students out on a couple art trips (no health or safety forms needed!) and watching them draw cactus trees on the island and finding it a beautiful, fascinating and rewarding experience. I still have one of their drawings.
 Are your students aware that you are a practising artist and does this inspire them? 

 I would sometimes tell students usually as I got to know them, so maybe in the 2nd year of the course, and depending on the group.
Last year I organised, with another fellow artist/Art & Photography school teacher/friend an education event at our group show Jam Tomorrow at A.P.T. Gallery in Deptford. We both selected some students from our college and school and took them to the exhibition for the day, doing some critical studies activities and then practical collage work responding to the work of the artists, feeding this work into their AS and A level exam preparation. This was one of the best days of my whole teaching experience do far; it was wonderful sharing the show with some of our students, very strange at moments when we watched them look closely at our own work on the walls. Both my friend and I noticed how much they and their work and ideas benefited from the day.
In hindsight I should have showed my work to perhaps more groups in previous years as some students respond really well. However it wasn’t always appropriate, some students with not perhaps as much love for their art couldn’t understand a teacher teaching art all day, let alone making it and visiting exhibitions! ‘Get a life, Miss.’ was a comment once when I once explained what I did on my days off!

 Do you think that art teachers teaching older pupils should be practising artists as well? 

Ideally yes.
I was very fortunate that the Exmouth branch of Plymouth University PGCE was an excellent and very practice led course run superbly by a husband and wife team who were passionate about the idea of teachers being practising artists too. Seeing their views on the website was the main reason I applied to this particular PGCE course.
At interviews for both my NQT year post and then the 6th form post it was clear that I was fortunate in that the fellow teachers and heads of department were genuinely interested to know and see evidence of my own practice and art background. Both departments were enthusiastically supportive of any member of the department’s art practice and sharing skills and good practice amongst all teachers were intrinsic in the ethos of the Art Departments.
It is though difficult I believe to practise a great deal when full time teaching in secondary and 6th form. Some real art practice work can be achieved through the holidays, especially in the Summer break, but I found during term time (when full time) it was difficult to find the energy to get a decent amount of work done, not impossible, but tough.
I was very fortunate that having answered an advert for 0.6 contract, the opportunity of full time came up during my first term, financially it was essential that I took it, being in only my 2nd year on the pay scale and having just moved to London. But two years later, following a request in a letter, really wanting more time for practice and on finding a new studio space, my head of department and college principal supported me in going part time and stepping down from a 2ic position, (the department timetable changes luckily fitting in with the request). Firstly I went to a 0.8 contract and then for the last two years 0.6, during which I really starting making work properly again.
 What are the pros and cons in working in art education and being an artist? 

When answering this question, it seemed very difficult to isolate from a general pros and cons of my teaching experience too. 
·         huge sense of reward during the high moments in the classroom, for example when all students are really enjoying and lost in what they are doing, a great group discussion/crit, all are achieving well, or when they are really inspired by an artist link you have given them, or when taking in and assessing great quality work
·         helping and witnessing young people progress and achieve and providing pastoral support
·         being inspired by the students, the laughs and the surprising things that students sometimes say
·         learning about people (and in the case of inner London – learning about other cultures, languages, backgrounds)
·         using lots of resources and learning new knowledge and techniques
·         idea exchange - having ideas for the students’ work whilst in the studio, and having ideas for my work whilst in the class room
·         The students final exhibition and private view (as described above)
·         Working with a great Art department team

·         I found marking time tough in 2nd half of the summer term, especially at a 6th form college, all courses are exam groups. Art teachers mark each student’s entire year’s work, so assessment at the end of the year is part of the job, and essential, but certainly takes away studio time, even if part time. I used to avoid being involved with my own art things, exhibitions, private views and so on during this period.
·         Admin involved, particularly in my experience with the BTEC courses, and the emphasis on the teacher, not the exam board, to produce what can be an overwhelming amount of paperwork. The admin gets particularly annoying if you feel it takes away from the quality teaching time with students.
·         The huge amount of energy that you give and need to do a good job (especially if you’re an unfortunate perfectionist as is the case with many artists!) can be unhealthy
·         On a general education note; Some of the politics of government (such as the proposed curriculum changes as above, changes to pensions, increase of tuition fees impacting on students etc) and occasional negativity that the education/teaching profession gets in the media.

 Finally, is there any advice you would give to artists interested in going into education? 

I don’t have experience of HE and degree course teaching, and I imagine the demands are different in different ways.
For those that are interested in going into secondary/6th form; To be aware that if doing the secondary PGCE route, from my experience the course is an intense year and followed by a demanding NQT year, but that once those 2 years are achieved things definitely start getting easier as you grow in confidence and begin to do the admin type things quicker.

That organisation counts for an awful lot. The analogy of plate spinning is a good one given to me by one of my mentors during the PGCE, as you’re trying to keep several different teaching groups and planning going at the same time. Flexibility and a sense of humour are also priceless.

To always keep making work outside of teaching, even if it is a small amount here and there. And at work, (even when you don’t have time outside of teaching) to be as practical and hands on as possible, make things during lessons and demonstration work to show students.

Gemma Cossey is exhibiting in Motorcade/FlashParade's National Open Competition which opens on Friday 7th December 2012

To find out more about Gemma Cossey's work take a look at her website:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Twitterview with Caitlin Griffiths

Caitlin Griffiths 'A Million Tiny Failures' Acrylic and ink on postcards (2011)

Caitlin Griffiths is an artist, curator and writer based in the West Midlands. Her own work experiments with stealing other peoples stories and representing her self as others - something she calls 'the cuckoo effect.' She has exhibited widely in the UK and Europe. 

Her other projects include Lamb White which takes advantage of technological advances in the difficult current financial climate to sell contemporary art in a fresh and innovative way. 

@BuffyDismorr 1st your practice you talk about 'the cuckoo approach'. What exactly does this mean? 

@BusyCaitlin I ask people to tell me their memories - and then I write them with me in, instead. It's not quite as brutal as that!

@BuffyDismorr I see, so like a 'cuckoo stealing nests' so to speak? 

@BusyCaitlin Absolutely! I guess it's a way of me to work out who I am and who I'm not by putting myself in other people's (nests) shoes. 

@BuffyDismorr What projects are you currently working on? 

@Busy Caitlin I'm working on new paintings for a new exhib in Sweden and I also run @LambWhiteLtd 

@BuffyDismorr can you tell me a bit about @LambWhiteLtd? I think that the internet, ie social media & websites can be v beneficial 2 artists! 

@BusyCaitlin @LambWhiteLtd's a mechanism for new ways of curating, commissioning, distributing, selling the best new art, using technology

@BuffyDismorr I definately agree that technology (with our constant use of the internet, iphones etc) can help artists distribute and promote work! 

@BuffyDismorr I really like the look of your postcard project 'A Million Tiny Failures' - what inspired you to set up the project? 

@BusyCaitlin That was actually inspired by quite a raw emotional period in my life - I was suffering from depression though I didn't know it...

@Busy Caitlin ...and was looking back to people and times in my life when I thought things had been 'better'...

@BusyCaitlin...people have since pointed out that the pin pricks are like a 'safe' form of self harm and it's a motif I've continued with

@BuffyDismorr I can see that - I wish I had seen the show @TROVEart. I know the Midlands has a vibrant art scene...

@BuffyDismorr I don't know that area of the country well. Which art spaces would you recommend I visit? 

@BusyCaitlin There's a lot going on up here! @FRAME_brum launches this month, @TROVEart of course and the AMAZING @supersonicfest in Oct

@BusyCaitlin then there's the big institutions @Ikongallery @BM_AG and slightly out town @mac_birmingham and @_the_public

@BuffyDismorr Can you tell me if there is a practioner whose work you often return to for inspiration?

@BusyCaitlin There's a huge legacy of women artists interested in remaking existing work - or re-presenting themselves as others...

@BusyCaitlin...Catherine Sullivan, Gillian Wearing (of course!), Oreet Ashery and @Miranda_July

@BusyCaitlin I could go on! 

@BuffyDismorr Ha! I will look them up. Last question....

@BuffyDismorr ...If you could be remembered as one thing would it be either as an artist, curator, or a writer? And why? 

@BusyCaitlin That's a really hard one! Maybe as none of them - maybe as a singerdanceractressmodel:

Thank you to Caitlin for taking the time to take part in my twitterview - I really enjoyed it! 

You can find out more about Caitlins work by looking at her website here

Thursday, 13 September 2012

My Work at Motorcade/FlashParade


Motorcade/FlashParade is an artist run space in Bedminster and I  have been volunteering there since January. I spent every Monday in the office there, working on the Marketing (sending press releases, social media, organising the website) and it is something that I really enjoy doing. There are only three of us who work there and we all do it voluntarily. Any money made in the gallery (such as from our national open) goes straight back into the gallery and, therefore, helps supports the artists who exhibited there. 

Obviously I get a lot out of being part of the team. Not only am I building useful skills that I wouldn't have gained otherwise, but I really feel like the space is a wonderful place for the artistic community in Bristol, and adds to the already vibrant artistic scene. One thing I sometimes find difficult as an artist is sometimes being told that 'London is the place to be'. I find this a little depressing, as I think that there is some really excellent art being shown outside of London in smaller cities and towns. I sometimes get the feeling that cities outside London which display art are viewed as provincial backwaters, when in fact there are some really exciting shows going on. Therefore, it excites me when I know that some of the shows put on at M/FP are of  high quality and are helping to build upon Bristols reputation as a place where innovative art is being produced and shown. 

The big thing which I am helping to work on at the moment is Motorcades National Open. The deadline is not until the 21st of October, but already a lot of work has gone into publicising it. Some (often large, established galleries) charge a lot of money for open competitions. The £15 charge (for up to three works and six images) will go straight back into the gallery space and not into some big void. As a gallery we also really want to build relationships who show are selected for the National Open. The 1st prize includes a solo show at the space (as well as £500). 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Fingers in first two months out of the MA

I thought I'd write a post on what I have been doing since I finished the MA in June. It has been an interesting couple of months! 

I felt pretty exhausted after the MA final show. It had been a pretty intense few of months, with writing the dissertation and then sorting the publicity for the show, then putting the show on. It was strange afterwards to have no work to do. Finishing uni coincided with my job at the Bower Ashton Campus cafe and bar ending, which meant I was immediately unemployed, and for almost a month I couldn't find a job so I signed up to job seekers which was a great relief, but felt strange for me to do as I was earning more money a week than I had earnt at the uni cafe! I was very lucky to then find a job at a lovely cafe (The Sourdough Cafe) in St Nicks market in the old part of the city, and I am now working there two or three shifts a week. 

Since I finished the MA I spend every Monday working at Motorcade/FlashParade, which is an artist run gallery in Bedminster. I am really passionate about the gallery as it is completely a not for profit, artist run space. I organise the marketing and fundraising side of things, which is something I find really interesting. At the moment we are organising our National Open, which I am really excited about! 

One thing I am really trying to gain more experience in is community arts, and arts education. (which is extremely hard to get into!) I spent a morning running a felt making class at the Southville Centre Monday Club for Older People. I have run felt making classes for older people before, and it is something I really love doing and find extremely rewarding. 
Some felt flower patches made in the session.

And finally - I have also been doing some of my own work too! I am lucky enough to be in an exhibition at Bletchley Park called 'Ghost Station' organised by ArtHertz. Its been good for me to get back to doing some painting, although I have to say that it's a very strange (and rather freeing) sensation knowing that it is not going to be placed under scrutiny in an MA critique! 

So that what I have been up to. The job market is extremely hard for artists (and pretty much everybody) at the moment, and it is disheartening to apply for jobs that you know you are more than capable of doing, only to not get an interview, or even a reply from the application! However, despite this, I believe so far I am going down the right track in terms of gaining experience, and also having time to develop and continue my own practice. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

5th in the series ' 1st Year Out of Uni' Interview with Casper White

Casper White - Self -Portrait,Water-colour on and within ice (2011)

Casper White graduated with an MA in Contemporary Dialogues from Swansea Metropolitan University in 2011. He was one of Axis's MAstars in 2011, and has exhibited widely in Wales and in London.  Based in Cardiff, his practice involves painting directly upon blocks of ice, letting layers freeze before adding another section. Once the work is completed the piece is filmed defrosting. The whole process is looped and presented on a screen alongside one of the real ice paintings which defrosts in front of the audience.

   Elizabeth Dismorr     What do you miss (if anything) about being in an educational environment?
Casper White I miss the access to various library resources.  However in general I feel freer now than I did in university.  In university I found myself trying to over contextualize my work, often to a fault. Often I would show a weaker piece as it “fitted”.  Saying that, I now have different constraints, e.g. trying to make pieces that will sell, making work that is a transportable size, etc.

  ED Do you feel that you have managed to balance earning enough money to live with practicing as an artist?
  CW No.  Although I have had a few years where I feel I have done very well, realistically they amount to below minimum wage and by no means compare to a traditional vocation. There are many positives but the system I am part of has very small amounts of money spread quite thinly.

  ED Have you taken part in any unpaid work experience/internships/volunteering? Do you think these will stand you in good stead to finding a job?
  CW  have volunteered many times over the past ten years.  Volunteering has connected me with people who share similar interests to me and are often in a similar position as me, work-wise.  Some shows often involve volunteering, whether that be through hanging the work or performing other roles within the gallery space.  If you also consider the cost of producing the work that is exhibited, often for no monetary return, then you could consider it a form of unpaid volunteering.

  ED  How has your practice evolved in the last year?
  CW I have become aware of a dip in the quality of my work since leaving university.  Although I have been consistently producing lots of work, the quality has been missing.  One reason for this was that I was justifying my practise through applications for residencies, competitions and awards.  These applications took precedence and I found myself unconsciously twisting my work to fit various things it shouldn’t have.  Recently I have started to consciously counteract this by not applying to many things.  Over the last year most applications have led to rejections but a few have had positive results.  Although interesting and great to be involved in, I have realized that the residency/awards system is not healthy for my practice.  My studio practice has become increasingly important.   Although not public, I feel it has become more of a practice space than a place of production of works.

  ED    Have managed to participate in many exhibitions/events in the year since you have graduated?
  CW Quite a few - a few group shows and a larger solo presentation of current paintings.  These have been hit and miss and my work is often shown in commercial galleries which at the moment are feeling the cutbacks/depression like us all.  Sadly in Wales I feel that the gallery I am showing with rarely engages me with people who don’t already know my practice.

ED   What do you hope to achieve in terms of your practice and career as an artist?
CW Currently I can see my practice as some sort of training.  I feel like I have been leading up to engaging in a real practice.  What that is I am slightly unsure of, but I have been practising and things have started to come to a point that I hope to find interesting and that others will also enjoy.  I feel dialogue is part of this practise, but I am currently unsure how to utilise this.

  ED    Many British artists are drawn to moving to London after they have graduated. Have you felt this pull?
  CW No.  The evidence I have of peers and friends is that it is not conducive to making which is something I feel I have more mileage with.  Also a 2-hour train ride is not too far to travel, so if there’s something I feel I need to see, I can just get on a train.

  ED    And finally – what advice would you give to any artists who have just graduated in 2012 and are keen to make it as an artist?
  CW If you are not doing it for yourself you may need to reconsider, as being painter is often a thankless task.  Like that of a gardener, no matter how many hours one puts in, more can be spent to produce a form or a glimpse of something fleeting. 

You can find out more about Casper Whites work at:

Thursday, 2 August 2012

4th in the series - '1st Year Out of Uni' Interview with Zanne Andrea

Zanne Andrea 'It's the sorting that make the times, not the times that make the sorting', 2012

The artist Zanne Andrea graduated from The University of the West of England in 2011 with a degree in Fine Art and has exhibited extensively in Bristol. Her work explores the manner in which our popular understandings of history are often shaped into  fictional treatments of the past through constant reproduction of images and scenarios. Andrea explores these themes through sculptural installations. She is currently exhibiting in Beaten Black Blue, Red, Green & Gold in Cardiff until the 12th August. 

Elizabeth Dismorr What do you miss (if anything) about being in an educational environment?

Zanne Andrea I miss the crits, tutorials and the community you’re automatically surrounded by, and in general the discussions and ideas that naturally develop from those. Once you’re out in the real world it can be much harder to navigate conversations surrounding your work. I threw myself into projects and exhibitions once graduating mainly just to get experience, make connections and get over my initial self consciousness! However it was also liberating when during my first project after graduating, I realised I wouldn’t have to automatically explain every single decision that had been made. I suppose the first year, for me, was all about trying to find a balance between the two.

ED Do you feel that you have managed to balance earning enough money to live, with practising as an artist?

ZA It has been difficult at times. Luckily, I was able to go back to my old job working 3 days a week at an art materials shop. It’s a great place to work because I am still surrounded by practicing artists, both as customers and colleagues, but finding time for work, family and an art practice is really difficult. I’ve definitely had to juggle money and bills, some months more successfully than others. I find that I’ve had to really plan ahead and save money so that I have some available when I need to make new work or might be short on studio rent one month. I call it my art fund. Although it has been recently depleted, haha. Time to start over!

ED  Have you done any unpaid work experience/internships/volunteering since university? Have they been useful to you?

ZA  I was a studio assistant for Beth Carter for two years, while studying and just after graduating. It was a brilliant experience to have, and she has inspired me in a lot of ways. There really is nothing like immersing yourself in the world of a full time artist in order to see what really happens behind the scenes. It’s phenomenal how much work goes into sustaining and building relationships, pursuing opportunities and doing administrative tasks such as mailing lists, website maintenance, making publications, marketing, sourcing suppliers and art handlers, etc! I learned quickly that all of that is just as much a part of an artist’s practice and that it needs to be given just as much attention as making the work itself! 
  I also did some voluntary invigilating at a few galleries around town and delivered printmaking and ceramics workshops for primary school children. I have given talks to 3rd year Fine Art students about my own previous university projects. I felt it was useful to try different things and gain various kinds of experience while studying. I knew that once I graduated working for free wouldn’t be sustainable for me because I have a family. I just can’t do it at the moment, there are not enough hours in the day or enough money in the bank! 

ED Have you managed to participate in many exhibitions/events in the year since you have graduated? 

ZA I have been involved in quite a few actually, and luckily have somehow managed to keep pretty busy! I have done a collaborative residency and exhibition, been selected and won a prize in an open submission, participated in a few local group shows, was invited to participate in a group show/project in Cardiff, and was invited to submit a proposal for a small solo exhibition at a Bristol gallery. That show will be called “Two Minutes to Midnight” and is coming up in October at Here Gallery. 
A few months after graduating I also submitted a proposal for a small solo show at a gallery in my home town Indianapolis, in America. They emailed me back that they liked my work but didn’t have room in that year’s schedule. Just recently I received an email from them asking me if I would like to have a solo show in August 2013, so it just goes to show that an unsuccessful application can often lead to a future opportunity. I’ll be visiting the gallery this summer when I go back to visit my family, and I plan to take photos of the space and chat with the director while I’m there.
   I felt fairly confidant and happy with where my practice was at when graduating and so I really tried to hit the ground running. I had a lot of work made and was eager to show it. I was constantly applying for things that seemed relevant to me and what I was doing, and when opportunities arose I took them. More opportunities naturally came off the back of those things too. The exhibitions and opportunities I have had so far have mostly come from my own initiative, applying for things, writing proposals, or networking. I think in the beginning of a career having a “Do it Yourself” attitude can be really helpful in propelling you forward. I really feel that the more you are involved in creating opportunities for yourself, the more opportunities will come to you. You have to be visible in the first place in order to be seen and remembered. It’s been a pretty good year.

ED How has your practice evolved since you left university? 

ZA I have become much more aware of my practice as a whole this year from all the exhibiting. I’m still interested in the same themes and ideas, but I have noticed certain aspects of those themes developing more than others recently. There are definitely newer interests starting to creep in that will hopefully add some interesting layers to my practice. For the first half of the year after graduating I didn’t really do any research at all, I just focused on showing work I already had made, while slowly making new pieces here and there, trying to see how it all worked in different contexts, finding opportunities, etc. I am researching quite a lot at the moment. As soon as I am back from holiday I will be making a lot of new work, so I suppose it will be more apparent then!

ED What do you hope to achieve in the next year in terms of your practice and career as an artist? 

ZA I will be starting an MFA in Fine Art in October, so I will be focusing on that and the opportunities I have planned already, plus whatever else might crop up. It will be amazing to have a whole year dedicated to making work and developing my practice without the distractions of working! We’ll see where it takes me.

ED Do you think you’ll stay in Bristol? 

ZA I have to stay based in Bristol because of family, and that’s fine with me.

ED What advice would you give to anyone about to graduate in an arts related subject and keen to make it as an artist? 

ZA It’s a little generic, but everybody is different and needs or wants different things. 
I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Create opportunities for yourself and your friends if none have come your way. People won’t be aware of your work if they can’t see it. Try to branch out, get involved and get to know other people doing things you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things, keep applying for things that look relevant to your practice, and be as professional as you can in everything you pursue.The more serious you are about what you do, the more people will take you seriously.

To find out more about Zanne's work take a look at her website

Thursday, 19 July 2012

3rd in the series '1st Year Out of Uni' Interview with Sophie Victoria Elliott

Collage and pen drawing, A3, 2012

The third artist I have interviewed as part of this series is Sophie Victoria Elliott. Elliott graduated from Swansea Metropolitan University last year after completing a degree in Fine Art. Her practice explores her fascination with the geological landscape, which she explores through a wide variety of mediums. 

Sophie Victoria Elliott is based between Cardiff and West Yorkshire.

Elizabeth Dismorr: What do you miss (if anything) about being in an educational environment?

Sophie Victoria Elliott:      
 *The access to equipment
*Lectures from both lecturers from the university and visiting lecturers.
 *Feeling of a critical support network from fellow students and our tutors (the loss of critical support was the biggest difference as within 2 months of leaving University I was living in Yorkshire alone, having moved from Swansea, in a studio on my own working in a school). However, once I stepped back from University I saw that this support network is equally as damaging as supportive i.e. friends and fellow class mates were rarely brutal.

ED: Do you feel that you have managed to balance earning enough money to live with practicing as an artist?

SVE: I was fortunate to get a position as an Artist in Residence at Ackworth School, Pontefract and knew this in the March 2011 before I had even completed my degree. This has allowed me to work part-time as a teacher and concentrate on my practice the rest of the time. However, I know how fortunate I am to have the balance of money and time for the moment as most fellow graduates are not in this position.

ED:Have you taken part in any unpaid work experience/internships/volunteering? Do you think these will stand you in good stead to finding a job?

SVE: I have volunteered as:
BEEP Wales’ International Painting Prize – helping hang the show
‘Inside’ Exhibition, Blankspace, Manchester - Artist assistant for Philip Cheater
Elysium Gallery – taking show down ready and paint for next show
g39 archivist and library assistant
'Future Memory in Place' arts project, Swansea – teacher

The above volunteer positions offer me the opportunity to network, understand the workings of different galleries and organisations and I believe will help develop skills that make me more employable. I also enjoy the opportunity to learn how to hang a show, support an artist, archive etc.

ED: How has your practice evolved in the last year?

SVE:Being away from the university environment was initially daunting, but I experienced a freedom not felt since Foundation. Not having to adhere to box ticking and ‘final pieces’ released me and I began to explore far further and have since begun 3 collaboration projects with other artists, something I would never have been encouraged to do at university.  Engaging in collaborations can offer a critical support for all involved and as your making work together there is a brutal honesty as your potential reputation is at stake. The new location, Yorkshire, also instigated a new avenue of work.  I would say that my working methods have not changed but, instead, I regained the confidence that University caused me to momentarily lose.

  ED: Have managed to participate in many exhibitions/events in the year since you have graduated?


Solo Exhibitions
'Cyclical Culminations' 12th July - Milkwood Gallery, Roath, Cardiff 
'A Landscape Interpretation' Ackworth School Summer Exhibition 7th July - Solo Show, Yorkshire

Group Exhibitions
REIMAGINE WREXHAM 9th June - 18th July - Group Show/ Interventions, Wrexham [How Far Is Home? performance 11th July]
Citizen III – tactileBosch, Cardiff 
Art.Spoke.Soul. – Print Haus, Cardiff
IlluminARTy: The Gift - Swansea

Red Door 44 Grand Opening Exhibition - Red Door 44, Swansea
JOY - Exe One Zero, Monkey Café, Swansea
Graduate Show Reel - Mission Gallery, Swansea

Forthcoming Exhibitions
BEEP: Wales International Painting Prize, Volcano, Swansea
Disruption2 – 'How Far Is Home?' Performance, Swansea
Pre-paper: Post-card - group exhibition, Red Door 44, Swansea
Solo Exhibition – South Square Gallery, Thornton, Yorkshire
Made In Roath 2012 - Cardiff 

2012 - present
How Far is Home? Project
Collaboration Project – DIS / location
Red Door 44 – Co-founder, collective member and website and social media developer

Forthcoming Projects & Other Experiences
Pushing Too Many Pencils – contribution to quarterly zine
Collaboration Project with Beccie Evans and Emily Baines
Collaboration Project with Jason and Becky

Co-curated ‘Sophie Jacobsen: Prints’ – Osaka-ko,  Japan

ED:   What do you hope to achieve in terms of your practice and career as an artist?

SVE: To develop and refine my visual dialogue; to be able to communicate to others the instigation and inspiration of the work. I also wish to be able to create educational packages/workshops for students to engage and be inspired by the artworks, and most importantly, not feel ostracised by it.

     EDMany British artists are drawn to moving to London after they have graduated. Have you felt this pull?

SVE:Landscape inspires and drives my work so travelling to many different locations is at the heart of my practice. I imagine I will want to move from West Yorkshire next year but London does have a natural gravitational pull but I am aware the promises of success aren’t as simple as merely moving to London. To be able to be involved in the London Arts scene for a small but intense period appeals to me but so does the Glaswegian arts scene, Bristolian and Mancunian among many others. However, the Swansea and Cardiff arts scene are brilliantly saturated and inspiring with collaborations and opportunities available to create at the moment.

  ED: And finally – what advice would you give to any artists who have just graduated in 2012 and are keen to make it as an artist?

SVE:Don’t treat your graduate show as a full stop and a ‘final piece’. It is merely the beginning and though there may be a fear about the loss of your support network as the university studios disband, allow this to offer you a new freedom and either search out a new critical forum or even set up your own.

Your can find out more about Sophie by looking at her website and blog.

To find out more about Red Door 44, the artist collective she help set up and run click here