As an art student, you spend three years working towards your degree show. The drop off from structure and an environment of critical thinking is steep; new pressures arise in the absence of student loans and maintaining your practice becomes an achievement in itself. In light of this post-graduate dilemma, what can organisations do to help artists, and what opportunities are most valuable to their professional development?
The issues most artists come across is finding a balance between time, space and money. Self-initiated exhibitions are expensive, particularly when you account for venue hire, printing costs and administration which pull resources away from making the work. Networking becomes tricky as ‘spare time’ depletes with the need to earn a living in London. One piece of advice from established studio artist Elizabeth Murton was ‘to apply for opportunities which give support, rather than just funding, support is invaluable, money is temporary’.
There are plenty of artist opportunities in London, the problem with most of these open calls is that they don’t offer support. Many, in fact, charge a submission or hanging fee which (depending on the organisation) negates the positives of being selected in the first place. Hereafter was the first graduate show organised by Bow Arts, with the intension of providing critical feedback, a free exhibition space with installation support and marketing costs covered. The open call was pushed out alongside several talks on How to Professionalise Your Practice; a presentation compiled of pieces of advice for emerging artists from our most established studio members.
Overwhelmed by the submission responses, it was a difficult task to choose selected artists to participate in the show. Hereafter showcased artists presenting a wide range of media exploring the topics and concerns of the next generation of artists. From perceptions of place to representing the void, these artists are delving into abstract concerns with clear communication – not an easy achievement for those at the beginning of their career. The selection was intended to bring together a group whose work is different in media and style but when brought together, brings new conversations to the table.
After a two week exhibition in our Project Space we held a closing event, with talks from each of the participating artists. Amongst visits from the public and from our studio members, these graduates presented their work with incredible professionalism, and a clear openness for critical feedback and new interpretation. It is clear that organisations need to make a commitment to support artists further than a one-off exhibition. By creating fertile ground for critical debate, we hoped to bring together a talented group of creatives who may continue to support each other in the future. We will certainly be keeping track of what they do next in the hope that we can support them further.
Many thanks for the feedback. Sounds very encouraging and constructive points!... Also thanks again for curating the exhibition and all your help and support during the set up and the show!
Thank you so much for all the work you put in to making the exhibition such a success. I really enjoyed last Saturday. It is such a valuable experience to be able to discuss the work and gain a deeper insight into the artists' practices.
Untitled Squares II
Kaveh Ossia is an artist working with colour as a material. His starting point originates from a loaded statement from Goethe on colour and class: ‘uncivilized nations, uneducated people and children have a great fondness for colours in their utmost brightness’. Ossia’s work could be seen to humour this statement, or to criticise it, depending on where you are standing. Ideas around class and refinement are a well-explored plain field within contemporary art when you take into consideration the assumed status of high culture that this industry has.
The use of a ‘domestic’ and ‘established’ colour palette within the exhibition space which is more often than not a white cube further plays on this idea, whilst subtly tapping into our perception of colour and how it is entirely dependent on light and context. The viewer is in a position of moving closer and then back in a perpetual mission to contemplate the tones and the installation overall.
Karen Loader’s work was installed in conversation with Ossia’s as it wrapped around a protruding corner covered with pebble dash. In total contrast to Untitled Squares II, Klaw showcases industrial materials in a format which references the ever-changing cityscape of London. Loader’s work focuses on our perception of place, taking starting points from walks around London looking at the vast range of architecture in the city. Within her artist talk she defined the difference between place and space as one of parallels between being and perception. Her installation Klaw (walk spelt backwards) plays with our understanding as her sheets of graphite resemble a much sturdier material; metal.
The grid as a starting point brings to mind the view we all know so well of towering buildings in the city, which look like they are made almost entirely out of glass, reflecting the buildings opposite them and giving us a confusing view of architecture upon architecture. The paintings on plywood establish a pattern with subtle breaks, hinting at our need for order and a break from it. Attached with scaffolding poles, the distance between the wall and the plywood replicates the facades we know so well across London when building works are taking place.
Omer Even-Paz’s Speaking in Tongues brings together several specific references; the book Good Old Neon by David Foster Wallace and the practice of glossolalia; the fluid vocalising of speech-like syllables that lack any comprehendible meaning, often part of religious practices. Even-Paz welcomes new readings of the work, and in the talk he gave there was much to be discussed on the instance that the viewer may not recognise these specific associations when viewing the piece.
This piece was another which dealt with ideas of common practice within art institutions and the idea that the work must be viewed with a certain hierarchy because of its context within a gallery. The light on a stand has dual purpose; it both ridicules ways of display and becomes another viewer. A light shining on a light gives no necessary elevation to the piece, but in this case it acts as a discussion point for these kinds of practices within exhibition display. The imitation of a neon light as a sound element furthers this idea.
Speaking in Tongues
Coral Brookes’ piece Clop Clop on Spaghetti Junction considers the industrial landscape as a playground visionary. Taking reference points from Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham, Brookes looks at how our infrastructures for play and function can sometimes overlap and result in a cartoon-like reality. The onomatopoeic language used in naming the piece immediately compliments the nature of the jesmonite, slate filler and marble dust sculpture. The curly handles of the trolley give the idea of motion but also impracticability, relating back to a contradicting indications of function and play.
Placing this piece in front of the listed brick walls of the Rum Factory building in the exhibition created an intersection between Loader’s industrial Klaw and the colourful works which your eye followed around the room. The area is bursting with redevelopment, and units all along Pennington Street all have a similar brickwork aesthetic.
Clop Clop on Spaghetti Junction
Above and Below collective continued this cartoon-aesthetic to a certain extent, presenting a kinetic sculpture involving digital overlays to deal with our consumer-desire for variety. The negative space inbuilt into their custom made plinth is a perfect metaphor for our society’s need to consume. Taking a starting point from excessive waste and compulsive consumerism, they created digital overlays for a sustainable cup as a blue print for how we could deal with these issues.
In their interactive talking workshop we discussed how digital overlays and virtual reality could help solve our waste and over-consumption problems. Activism in art is not new, but it is refreshing to see a suggested solution to a problem, when we usually just experience artists giving platform to an issue which needs addressing.
You can keep up to date with how each of these artists are doing by clicking their websites below: