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