Phew ......that certainly was a busy but thoroughly enjoyable few weeks. The MA final show's curation, invigilation and artist talk are behind me........now is the time for reflection.
Curating the show along with the curating team Catriona McAra & Matthew Wheeldon at Leeds Arts University and my fellow MA students Mel Dewey, Sue Wright, Ann Barrass & Paula Hickey has been such a rewarding experience. Taking a week off work to concentrate on this task enabled me to be hands on and available for the many tasks involved in putting the show together as well as sorting my own work out.
Accommodating 17 exhibiting artists in such challenging spaces was quite a big task. The main gallery, the rotunda and the lecture theatre gallery were the main exhibiting spaces all spread in different directions throughout the college. The placing of the exhibiting spaces were not ideal and did cause logistical problems after the opening night. (Invigilating meant we had to accompany visitors to the other spaces away from the main gallery leaving this space unattended. There were occasions when two of us were invigilating which worked better.)
The key aspect for me was to use the spaces to their advantage, harnessing their presentation of shape and structure in order to enhance the work displayed within them. Places such as the rotunda with its curved wall and off set plain wall and framed inset worked well with Sue Wright and Anne Barrass's work. Both embraced their spaces using them to the their advantage. Sue used the curve in the wall to highlight the 3D sculptural aspect of her printed hand made paper. Ann made advantage of the plain wall and adjacent alcove by painting the walls dark grey enhancing her perfected minute black and white etchings to great effect. Mel also used her placing in the main corridor as one of the major features of the show. Along with Sue and Ann the overall strategy was to paint the walls in block colours. This immediately made big statements and ultimately benefited each individuals work.
The week of installation highlighted to me how many people had not realized the importance of the presentation and placing of their work; how analytical and in depth the job of curating is. Critical analysis and an eye for detail is paramount in the way work is displayed. The correct background, placing, framing/not framing, materials used to hang, what work to use and the amount of work displayed has to be carefully considered in order to show work at its best and appropriate. All these aspects effect the way the work is seen and perceived. The importance of prep and trying things out before installation cannot be undervalued. The more ideas you have the more likely you are to solve problems and challenges at the time of installation. In this context; a final MA show, important key points to consider are a) have plenty of work; you may or may not use & remember less is more b) be open to suggestions, alternative ways of showing work c) take time out to install work and d)realize that the show is not 'your' show but a show involving other cohorts. With limited space individuals work had to be placed with much thought as to how they sat aesthetically and ethically with each other. There was a tendency for individuals to want to show too much work. My involvement in curating has ever more established the old saying 'less is more' Showing a single strong representation of your work and practice is far more powerful than lots of pieces.
The feedback was extremely positive in the way to show was curated. One issue was the vinyl naming which we had placed on the floor. We decided on this placing so it didn't intrude on peoples work. On reflection it didn't work all that well. Visitors were unable to find them as they blended into the floor space. Had they been placed on a white background they would have been far more visible. Overall the show went down a storm and many people visited after the opening night.
Opening night Re:Mastered,
The opening night was a great success with hundreds of visitors through the doors. My own work; an installation of a time lapse film of Ice Form melt (a result of a collaboration with Mel Dewey Artist Photographer) and three Ice Forms placed in acrylic cubes left to melt were extremely successful, I was overwhelmed with the response and feedback. Although exhibiting Ice Forms has been a major challenge the hard work paid off. My original plan of replacing the ice forms every day did not happen each day as logistically it was impossible for me to get there and back from Leeds to Harrogate in time to start work! The Ice Forms were replaced approximately 3-4 times a week over the two week period. However the few days without fresh Ice Forms enabled the installation to take on another dimension which turned out to be extremely successful. The melt water, organic matter and monofilament, left from previous ice forms presented more interest for the viewer sparking new threads of thought, intrigue and reflection. The work continued to develop and surprise throughout the whole two week of the exhibition. Murky melt water presented such beautiful visions of underwater mystery and fascination. A personal reflection of childhood wild water swimming and play in streams and rivers were an immediate consideration.
I think the contrasts created through the showing of the time lapse film and the ephemeral, transient melting of the ice forms created a juxtaposition that worked extremely well forming a relationship between the two pieces. If the work was being viewed at the stages of complete melt the film provided an insight and narrative to what had once existed within the cubes.
Showing the ephemeral and transient work within the 'white cube' space has highlighted to me how important it is for these sorts of works to be shown out of their context (an outdoor landscape) in order for the viewer to appreciate their beauty. In a 'white cube' environment the work is strong, attention is brought directly to the work as it is an alien environment for it to sit and be part of. The viewer is able to 'loose' themselves in the work; there is nothing else around them to complicate or intrude on their view. Less is more . By containing a small representation of pure ephemeral delicateness and fragility out of its elemental environment it is highly emphasized assisting the viewer to 'look closer' and think deeper at what they are seeing.
There were members of staff who visited the work on a daily basis to see what was in the cubes each day, and many visitors were struck at how beautiful the ice forms were. People were intrigued.
The positioning of my piece next to Paula Hickey's worked better than we had expected. Our practices although different are strongly linked through our association with the landscape and how we represent its materiality. On an aesthetical level (and without discussion beforehand) our pieces naturally came together extremely well. Paula's large square Japanese paper canvases with circular planetary moon like drawings complimented my rounded Ice Forms within the square Perspex cubes.
Our joint artist talk was well attended. Feedback from this was very positive. It was a great opportunity to engage an audience and educate people about what motivates me and drives my practice. A particular reference/question that was put to me at this event was about the aesthetical value of my work and how important that was to me? I responded in saying that it was highly important, I want to produce work that has a beauty and delicacy. I have achieved this in the work I have developed through my time on the MA.
Immediately there is a need to personally regenerate and sort things out in the studio; go through work produced to try and pull in some much needed cash! I have produced a mountain of work that needs to be framed and presented for purchasing.
My practice will continue daily. The Ice Form project has so much more potential. Ideas of scaling up and producing larger work is something I am considering. A time lapse film made during the MA Exhibition is being edited and there maybe potential to use this as a promotional tool to kick start other opportunities. As a close group, myself and creative friends from the MA are committed to keeping our practices current and vibrant by planning projects and exhibiting opportunities together. We are all of the same thinking and value having a creative, critical bond and friendship to generate future work and opportunities.
MA Creative Practice