Highlights of a visit to the Venice Biennale

 

Venice Biennale, Hew Locke – photo: Richard Christensen

BA(Hons) Fine Art and BA(Hons) Drawing students recently returned from a study visit to the Venice Biennale.

The visit gave students from the two courses an opportunity to spend time with those on a different course at Falmouth, and the group fit much into their time. 2017 graduate Abbie Hunt, who was supported by Falmouth School of Art and the British Council to undertake a British Council Venice Fellowship, had been in touch with the students to make recommendations based on her experience of working at the Biennale for a month. And exhibiting in this year’s  Diaspora Pavilion were Falmouth Visiting Professor of Fine Art, Hew Locke and fellow Falmouth alumna Libita Clayton.

BA(Hons) Fine Art student Richard Christensen provided his response to some of the highlights, and some great images of the visit:

Venice Arsenale, photo: Richard Christensen

‘Our arrival in Venice was inauspicious, late on Monday evening with a biting wind which made for an uncomfortable ride in the vaporetto to San Marco.  The wind continued into Tuesday, together with plenty of rain, and found its way into the exhibition spaces of the Arsenale, where there were few warm spots for retreat.  But by Wednesday the wind had gone, and for the rest of our stay the city was pleasantly autumnal.

Much of the Arsenale site consists of a long series of halls which must once have been the dockyard workshops.  The exhibitions here were organised into loosely defined themes (‘the Common’, ‘the Earth’, etc)…the openness of the themed pavilions created both variety and dynamism, with a multitude of thought-provoking and visually arresting works in all media.

Venice, British Pavilion, Phyllida Barlow – photo: Richard Christensen

The British pavilion had a painting-sculptural installation by Phyllida Barlow called ‘folly’.  Energetic, exuberant, more than filling its space and spilling outside the building, it was certainly not lacking in ambition.

An area of undoubted strength at the Biennale was the consistently high standard of video art.  Video is now clearly in an age of maturity, with professional production values and themes which speak to their audiences with clarity.  Several works at Venice are operating at the boundary with cinema in terms of the scope of their ambition and their technical standards.

Although there was little live performance art at the Biennale, the one piece which I saw was remarkable for its power and intensity.  The German pavilion was an almost empty space apart from a raised glass floor and glass panels separating some of the rooms.  The audience, on entering the building, hardly knew what to expect.  The four performers, initially positioned around the main exhibition hall, moved together and then separated in successive bursts of energy and slow deliberation, in a loosely structured narrative of encounters and separations.

Venice, German Pavilion, photo: Richard Christensen

At times there was intimacy, at others the threat of violence.  Even though much of the performance took place in and among the audience, at no time was there any interaction with it.  And despite the intensity of the piece the expressions of the performers were impassive throughout – indeed, this impassivity was what gave it much of its power.  And at the end, when the four performers disappeared, their wordless drama, maintained over an hour and a quarter, left the audience exhausted by what they had seen and experienced.

Two and a half days in Venice could never provide much more than a taster of what the Biennale had to offer.  I could easily have spent a whole week or more there taking in the art.  And as for the city… I’m sure I could devote a whole year there just to exploring its endless maze of alleyways and canals.’

 

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.

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Tracing Granite – In Search of a White Cross

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…

Image courtesy of Beth Pinner

‘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.

Image courtesy of Beth Pinner

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.

Image courtesy of Beth Pinner

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.’

Catching up with Katie Sims, Falmouth Fine Art alumna

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…

Katie Sims

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.

Trinity After Ribera and Portal (Opening Gambit, Hoxton Art Gallery, London, 2010), Image courtesy of Hoxton Art Gallery

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?

Fleeting Agony, oil on panel, 24x30cm (2010)

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.

Osmosis, oil on panel, 24x30cm (2017)

 

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.

Trinity after Ribera, oil on panel, 30x24cm (2012) Image courtesy of Hoxton Art Gallery.

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.

 

Off to Venice!…

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…

Folly, by Phyllida Barlow at the British Pavilion, Venice, 2017. Photo: Ruth Clark © British Council. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

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.

Utopia and dystopia at Kestle Barton

Students from BA(Hons) Fine Art, BA(Hons) Architecture and BA(Hons) Creative Writing came together for a 1 day collaborative project at Kestle Barton, a rural centre for contemporary art on Frenchman’s Creek in Cornwall.

Students explored themes of utopia and dystopia in the current show Kestle Barton exhibition, Togetherness: Notes on Outrage. Curator Ben James opened up questions for debate relating to a post industrial landscape; students discussed the themes in small groups before setting out into the landscape of Kestle Barton and its beautiful gardens to make artworks in response to place.

Students took a documentary approach, walking though the landscape gathering a sense of the environment, generating fiction and narrative about Kestle Barton. In small, mixed discipline teams, recording the soundscape of place with high-tech sound equipment that picked up frequencies within the earth, students walked, talked, made drawings, collected sound and film footage which informed their discussions about their relationship to place and site. BA(Hons) Fine Art Senior Lecturer Lucy Willow, said ‘The warm autumn day provided the perfect opportunity for students to explore the possibilities of working off campus, away from the studio, with students from different creative subjects, finding common ground within their practice’.

BA(Hons) Fine Art student Alex Maclachlan shared some thoughts about the day…

‘Kestle Barton was a very refreshing experience for me, and I am very grateful to have gone. The idea that we would be exploring the theme of Utopia/Dystopia throughout is what drew my initial interest in the trip and yet the day turned out to have many more advantages than just aiding me in my current practice. For some time I’ve been eager to partner up with students on other courses at Falmouth, and [this study visit] extended me the opportunity to do just that…By the end of the day, some really interesting collaborative work had been produced among creative writers, architects and fine artists. We were exceedingly lucky with the weather, and the gentle conversation among students, tutors and Kestle Barton staff was all the more effortless because of it. We talked as we walked about the gardens in the sun, enjoyed the homemade lunch provided, all on top of the time dedicated to serious discussion…it was lovely to indulge in casual debate away from the elevated pressure you might find on campus or perhaps the more serious atmosphere you may find in the studio. This was an experience that I would happily participate in again’.

On at Kestle Barton until 4 November 2017, Togetherness: Notes on Outrage celebrates the pioneering work of the architecture critic Ian Nairn, whose 1955 edition of Architectural Review, entitled Outrage, revolutionised architectural criticism. For Outrage, Nairn traveled across England observing and documenting the urban sprawl and ubiquitous civic architecture. Broken into 25-mile segments, Outrage proposes an audit of every facet of subtopian aesthetics, covering subjects ranging from wire fencing, telegraph poles and street lights, to military installations and power stations, culminating in a manifesto and checklist of planning malpractices.

National Open Art success for Falmouth Fine Artist

We’re delighted to congratulate second year BA(Hons) Fine Art student Edward Spencer, whose painting has made it to the final of the 21st National Open Art competition, from around 4000 entries.

Edward grew up in East Kent, and before joining Falmouth School of Art, completed a Foundation year at the Royal Drawing School in London, where he won the End of Year Exhibition Award. He told us, ‘I entered my painting, Untitled, to various art prizes before the summer; I’d never done it before and thought I’d give it a go. I’m very glad it’s being recognised, and it’s exciting to see a painting I produced in my small mezzanine first year studio engaging and interacting within a much wider context than my course here in Falmouth’.

Of Untitled, Edward says, ‘I work very intuitively, very rarely planning my paintings, but allow them to form themselves through the making. However, with this particular work, I started with a gridded structure, separating land/sea and sky, with the horizon at the centre. Moving to Falmouth from my year in London, I was struck by the presence of such a defined and wide horizon, the open spaces, and the way in which the community engages with its natural surroundings. And yet there is this disjunct I experience and I believe many of my generation experience, and that’s the way technology has such a dominant presence in my life, and so there’s an unsettling, post-natural feeling I want to capture in my work – I want to experience the world but yet it feels less and less authentic. Absorbing myself within virtual spaces and realities seems to be preventing me from truly being able to experience the real reality, the physical, the human. That I believe is at the core of this work’.

‘Untitled’, by Edward Spencer, Oil on canvas, 41x51x2cm

Edward’s painting, Untitled, will be exhibited 17-26 November at Bargehouse (Oxo Tower Wharf, Southbank), London, where he will join other selected artists at the private view. National Open Art is open to professional and amateur artists aged 15 and over, and – with each entry judged anonymously, and no ‘invited’ artists – is considered to be one of the most democratic in the UK and Ireland.

You can view more of Edward’s work at his website: https://edwardspencerblog.wordpress.com/ 

FOMO – Introducing Falmouth’s first Art Publishing Fair

F O M O – the first ever Falmouth Art Publishing Fair – opens at 4pm on Friday 29 September for a weekend of talks, workshops, screenings, artists’ book works, performances, zines and comics and readings.   

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Organised by Falmouth School of Art’s Senior Lecturers Neil Chapman, Gillian Wylde and Carolyn Shapiro and Associate Lecturer Maria Christoforidou, F O M O will take place at Falmouth Art Gallery and the Library of the Municipal Buildings, The Moor, Falmouth, and brings together Falmouth School of Art staff and students with local participating institutions including: Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth Library, Tate St Ives, Stranger Collective, Urbanomic, Atlantic Press, Burning House Books, BLNT Collective, Keiken and Krowji. 

F O M O will include contributions from academic and research colleagues from: Royal  Holloway University, Cambridge University, West Dean College, Aarhus University, Plymouth University, Goldsmiths University of London, Research Center for Material Culture Netherlands and from across Departments at Falmouth University.

Generously supported by Falmouth Art Gallery, the event has grown out of discussion between colleagues across different departments at Falmouth University. From meetings as a Research Forum, finding common ground between their varied interests, the group started to consider joint research and how best to team up for that work. One of the organisers, Neil Chapman, reflects on the development of the event, and what we can look forward to over the weekend…

‘As a research group, we share a commitment to collective work. That’s both a pragmatic interest and a critical position too. Most often, when people work together it’s so that a workload can be shared. But collective work is unpredictable and inefficient too and these are values that might tend to be lost in the current climate. There is a lot of emphasis in the contemporary workplace on individuals’ success and the competition that results can be destructive. Our title for the event – Fear of Missing Out – is on some level an ironic allusion to these issues.

We are all of us, in different ways, committed to discursive work, to the climate of ideas that surrounds ‘making’ in our different disciplines. And that’s a foundation for the publication fair too, reflected in the many talks, screenings, readings and performances scheduled over the weekend. F O M O provides an opportunity for us to invite our colleagues and friends to Cornwall. It’s good for the cultures of creative practice here in Falmouth. F O M O will bring lots of people into contact who might not have met otherwise. We’re excited to imagine the new partnerships and the new work that might result.

The aim has been to inaugurate the kind of event that we would want to go to ourselves, also the kind of event that students would be excited about. Henrietta Boex, Director of Falmouth Art Gallery, has been extremely supportive. We’ve made all kinds of demands on her and she seems never to say no to anything; the Gallery’s Glyn Winchester has also been a great support. The independence of the project is a way of underscoring our own priorities, which are evident in all kinds of ways through the framing of the event: the name, the graphics, the publicity, the choice of which artists, writers and publishers to invite. There are many Art Publishing Fairs in the UK and abroad and we have had an eye on some of those. But in another sense this Fair has been invented from scratch. And for that reason it will work well as a foundation for bigger and more varied research initiatives to come. We’re talking about a future peer-reviewed journal, discursive gatherings – dream dinner date/fantasy football team type things with exciting living people—maybe some dead folk too, ghosts. No zombies. Digital Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida . . .

It’s particularly good to be working with current students and recent Falmouth University graduates. As part of FOMO, Graham Taylor who studied Fine Art and who graduated in 2015 is curating an exhibition entitled Practically Outside, involving a dozen or more Falmouth alumni. His contribution makes a direct engagement with the FOMO ethos, looking critically at what it means to be an ‘emerging artist’, engaging in the most thoughtful way with different platforms of exhibition and print publication.’

F O M O also includes contributions from writers, artists, poets, publishers, activists, hackers, Falmouth University alumni and musicians both national and international.

F O M O is an inaugural event, bringing a new art research collective into being, which, over forthcoming months will stage events in different forms and at different locations, connecting diverse networks.

https://falmouthartpublishingfair.wordpress.com/