Beth Pinner graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art in 2017. Toward the end of her studies, she applied for and was awarded the Groundwork Field Trip Residency; a five-day field trip visiting granite quarries in the south west as part of a team of academics and artists, led by Dr. David Paton. The residency was part of the Groundwork project and Beth’s place was funded by Falmouth School of Art. Beth shares her experience of the residency…
‘The opportunity to take part in David Paton’s field trip, ‘Tracing Granite – In search of a White Cross’, arose when I was completing my studies of Fine Art at Falmouth University earlier this year.
My art practice had developed alongside an interest and very basic knowledge on geology in Cornwall. Heavily influenced by the surrounding coastal landscape, I became fascinated by the dramatic textures and formations found in the open rock faces where the land met the sea. I was fixated on the notion of an entirely wild landscape, sculpted by nature, and made sculpture and print work surrounding these themes.
It was this (slightly obsessive) interest in rock that led me to gain a place on the 4-day residential field trip, alongside geologists, stone masons, archeologists, artists, writers – an eclectic mix of people from across the country who met, mostly for the first time, at a National Trust bunk house near Helston. With the bunk house as base for the next three nights we undertook a tour of granite quarries across Cornwall, moving to a second bunk house for the final two nights to extend the reach of the trip. Over the duration, our group fluctuated in size as people joined at various stages and quarries to share their own accounts of living and working with granite. Hearing their stories gave a more personal sense of place and insight into how granite in the south west has shaped and influenced individuals lives for generations.
Out of the eight that we visited, only two of the quarries were still in use. The six others were disused and at various stages of reclaim by nature, some so far overwhelmed that, to someone with little knowledge of quarrying like myself, any previous narrative of human interference was hard to comprehend at first. There weren’t any clear differences between the man-made rock face and the naturally formed rock face that I thought I might see. On reflection, however, the quarried sites have become increasingly obvious as man-made. If these rock faces were at the coast one wouldn’t think twice about them being naturally sculpted, but here, in land, they felt out of place, and purposeful.
Having never visited a granite quarry (or any quarry) before becoming involved with this trip, I had no idea what to expect from the four days. Everybody’s enthusiasm to share knowledge fueled a want to learn more, and I have come away feeling truly inspired. Not only by the awe-inspiring places that we visited, but by all of the people that have been involved.
At the time of applying back in June, I hadn’t imagined how helpful this opportunity would prove to be in re-inspiring a desire to move forward with an art practice after university, and by connecting me to some amazing people who I now look forward to working with more in the near future. There are some great things to come from ‘Tracing Granite – In search of a white cross’ and I for one can’t wait to see them all unfold.’
Katie Sims graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art at Falmouth in 2010. Since then she has pursued her art, enjoyed competition and exhibition success and had a spell teaching. She reflects on her time at Falmouth, and talks to us about her life as a professional artist…
Describe your life since graduating back in 2010…
Things kicked off for me when I was selected for Saatchi’s New Sensations and the Midas Award, two competitions that afforded critical exposure and led to further opportunities to show and collaborate with curators and galleries. The Midas Award provided tremendous professional support during that daunting first year with the prize at that time including a solo exhibition, materials grant and yearlong mentorship programme through Falmouth University. None of this would have happened had I not entered those, proving it’s worth putting yourself forward for things.
That led me to establish a working relationship with Hoxton Art Gallery (2011-13). At the time, Hoxton was a new venture and I made work for their launch show. We grew together; things went well and they asked me to be one of their represented artists. We were a good fit and shared a similar ethos so I accepted. The gallery acted as my agents, taking care of all sales, promoting my work, providing exhibiting opportunities and inclusion in key art fairs and events whilst I was able to concentrate solely on painting. For that privilege I promised exclusivity to them, and they would take a commission on all sales. One of the highlights was my solo show, Opening Gambit. I spent 9 months working toward this exhibition and to see the work in situ and how the public responded was moving. It completed the whole cycle for me.
One of the biggest challenges has been trying to create freely whilst feeling the pressure of deadlines and accountability.
I started teaching art to sixth form students in 2013 in order to have more social contact and a regular income alongside painting. Three years later, with a PGCE now done and a ton of experience and newfound knowledge about my work, and myself, I’m shifting the emphasis back to painting. My experience of teaching was brilliant, but I struggled to balance both careers with equal intensity. I still want to teach though; perhaps as an artist that delivers workshops in schools. I loved working with my students.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new body of paintings to exhibit. I’ve also been archiving my work and recently launched a new website – www.katiesims.co.uk. Revisiting ten years worth of work has been cathartic and essential, allowing me to notice which pictures resonate most with me now. For example, I made a painting whilst at Falmouth called Fleeting Agony, the first picture that was discovered through the process of painting. It remains a monument to what I’m trying to do now – taking on my historic influences, memories and experiences as they affect me now. Trying to fix the quiddity of that impression rather than objective reality.
What is a typical day for you?
Studio, studio, studio. I need to be here and cut off from life outside in order to focus. Large parts of my day are spent thinking rather than physically painting. When I do pluck up the courage, I have a window of a few hours to get something down. It’s always been that way, even as a student. The process itself is full of risk and I’ve watched many paintings close down from overworking or overthinking them, but sometimes you have to sacrifice things in order to potentially realise something greater. I’m always learning and each painting proposes a new challenge, leading me on to the next. As I’ve matured I’ve learnt creative down time and play is as important as production, otherwise you burn out. You need to keep nourishing yourself as an artist to remain fresh and engaged. I love to walk and go off exploring new places. These trips feed my work and keep the days varied.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to kit out a van and create a portable studio to travel around Spain. I’ve returned to the country each year since winning The Ford Award in 2012 (a travel bursary to study at the Prado in Madrid) – it’s my second home. As time goes on there is something about the landscape, the people, and the light that is of interest and speaks directly to me. I have a collection of drawings, some from life, some from memory which I intend to re-familiarise myself with and work into paintings too.
Why did you choose to study at Falmouth?
I needed a supportive environment where I could really focus on exploring my ideas with fewer distractions. Falmouth instantly felt right. As students we were spoilt – top facilities, resources and tutors available to us. Such accessibility and personal relationships with staff are rare to come by. It’s what makes it unique. I knew I would be a person here and not a statistic.
What is your favourite memory from studying at Falmouth?
There are so many, and the most precious for me seem to be in the everyday stuff. I remember walking the tree-lined passage to the Falmouth Campus at Woodlane from my home in Falmouth each day. The light present in my studio building, the buzz surrounding the campus, everyone doing something different – it was a remarkable, concentrated moment in my life. I look back with fondness. They all stay with me.
How did Falmouth influence your career?
Falmouth gave me the space required to find my own language. Its strength as a university is in encouraging each student to have the confidence to do this. I left with a definite sense of who I am and the type of work I want to make.
I also gained a remarkable set of friends, which continues to stand the test of time. Anyone that studies here is part of something bigger, akin to family. When you meet a former Falmouth student, regardless of age or course, you share an instant connection.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a new Falmouth student, what would it be?
Studying at Falmouth is a brilliant opportunity in a truly inspiring place, make every moment count and experience it to the fullest.
First year students from BA(Hons) Drawing enjoyed a memorable week on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, as guests of Lucy and Robert Dorrien-Smith.
The week started with Hurricane Ophelia and ended with Storm Brian, so air and sea travel was exciting. The students made drawings in the Abbey Gardens, did a project in the Five Islands School and enjoyed the hospitality of Gallery Tresco at the private view of Drawing Show, an exhibition of work by Falmouth BA(Hons) Drawing students who have previously visited the Island. You can view the brochure for Drawing Show online here.
Once again the magic of Scilly was inspirational, and students can’t wait to return.
Falmouth School of Art has regularly made the Venice Biennale a study visit destination. This week a group of students from BA(Hons) Fine Art and BA(Hons) Drawing are travelling together to spend four days at the 57th Biennale, staying in the heart of the city…
Falmouth has other connections at this year’s event – our Visiting Professor of Fine Art, Hew Locke and fellow Falmouth alumna Libita Clayton are both exhibiting work at this year’s Diaspora Pavilion.
2017 Falmouth graduate Abbie Hunt, who was supported by Falmouth School of Art and the British Council to undertake a British Council Venice Fellowship, has been in touch with current students to make recommendations to the group, based on her experience of working at the Biennale for a month.
The Venice study visit is one of a number of optional overseas trips offered to undergraduate students of Falmouth School of Art during their studies. BA(Hons) Drawing have also in recent years visited Amsterdam, and BA(Hons) Fine Art have previously visited Berlin.
Drawing students were invited to attend to record the event by making a series of drawings exhibited live as the event unfolded. Following the event these drawings were also exhibited on the event organisers digital platforms.
The Festival, now in its fifth year, is a wonderful four days of literature, music and workshops and takes place in the unique setting of St Endellion on the beautiful North Cornwall coast.