Reflections on a Venice Research-Steward Fellowship…

Abbie Hunt, graduate of BA(Hons) Fine Art and recipient of a 2017 Venice Fellowship, funded by the British Council and Falmouth School of Art, reflects on her experience of one month living in Venice as part of the British Council’s Research Stewardship Programme at the 57th Biennale Arte

 

‘I don’t think I knew what to expect until my first day on the job, but that was the exciting part. Stewarding is hard work; I never anticipated the endurance of standing in a corner of a room, observing the visitors, observing the work. It’s mentally draining to be with your thoughts for so long. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t stop, so for my job role to suddenly be so stationary was a shock.

Furthermore, I never realised how little the ideas surrounding art fell away when you become a Steward. You spend such an unnatural amount time with a piece of work that you have phrases of being grossly interested and unexpectedly numb towards it. I spent lull periods scribbling personal observations down, but when it came to discussing the artwork with a visitor, it was as if I was reciting a script. People wanted a 3-minute summary of the work before they moved onto the next pavilion, there was no time for contemplation and it was strange to be so detached.

 

Entwining my research project with my stewarding duties made my experience so insightful. I focused on observing visitors’ reactions and opinions surrounding Phyllida Barlow’s Folly. I was already well versed in Barlow’s career, therefore the experience contributed to my work as a form of practical research.

What I gained from the Venice Fellowship was an intense period of learning about myself. I have never traveled alone before and it completely changed my perspective on how I acted. I didn’t feel like a tourist but neither a local, and it was strange limbo I endured whilst discovering things about me as a person that I have never noticed before. It was an emotional roller-coaster, but I think I’ve gained a greater understanding of who I am.

Overall, I think I gained confidence and independence. Talking to strangers on a daily basis and having the knowledge to pass on to others was a good feeling because I’ve never had the opportunity to do so before. Giving people an insight or starting point to lead them through the maze of art within the Biennale was satisfying. I’d see their face light up with understanding and know I’d made a difference to their experience.

Similarly, confidence fed into my research project. It was an opportunity to collate research and write about my findings without the baring of education. Research is a guilty pleasure and it was strange to realise I still had the motivation to learn without the bounds of getting a grade at the end of it.

The biennale has a hub of social activity on throughout the time it is open; other countries create events so stewards can mingle, and are very appreciative when you make the effort to join in. Reflecting on the experience would be incomplete without mentioning my extended family of my October Fellows. Our intense company definitely kept us all going and I honestly wouldn’t have been able to get through my experience without them. We’ve already met in London since being home before Christmas. Our unexpected bond of being in the same bizarre situation has gave us all such a strong friendship.

Of course the art was memorable; I’ve never been so immersed in an abundance of artwork to observe and it definitely made me speechless on many occasions. My favourite was the Intuition Exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny. I also felt we were the luckiest of months out of the Fellowship scheme as I actually got to meet Phyllida Barlow herself! It was a huge moment for me. Just days before we were set to go back to reality, Barlow visited the Biennale with her family and hadn’t seen her own work since the opening in May. I fangirled hard and was pretty star struck. You read so much about an artist, they inspire your practice and you empathise with their work…I thought spending time with her sculptures was gratification enough but seeing her next to them in the flesh was the cherry on the top. It’s a moment I’ll never forget and just seemed like the perfect present, a personal nod to keep going after three years of my degree.

From my experience as a steward, I’ve realised that the public face of the artwork is not who I want to be; but the gallery still remains my focus. I am ideally looking towards a technical position within a gallery, since the install and de-install of Phyllida Barlow’s work was a continuous consideration. Being hands-on and retaining that essence of practice is my ideal route.’

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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.

Gillian Wylde – (Re)volting Data – research panel in Hong Kong

BA(Hons) Fine Art Senior Lecturer and first year Course Coordinator Gillian Wylde will be among the contributors to Data Germs Session (Re)voting data, A research panel at ISEA 2016, Hong Kong.

Jane Prophet, City U HK; Helen Pritchard, Goldsmiths, University of London; Gillian Wylde, Falmouth University; Jaden J. A. Hastings, University of Melbourne; Tarsh Bates, The University of Western Australia

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http://www.isea2016.info . Read the (RE)volting Data abstract here

Falmouth Illustration students visit agencies in New York

NY 2016

 

It’s that time of year again – our third year BA(Hons) Illustration students are currently in New York, showing their portfolios. 48 students have a breathtaking schedule of 30 visits underway, including to The New York Times, Penguin Books, Harper Collins and The Wall Street Journal, which has commissioned a number of Falmouth students and graduates in recent years.

To read about the visit, follow the courses’s blog, – https://falmouthillustrationblog.com – where posts are being added throughout the week.

GAFA, China/Falmouth University International Collaboration

Lucy邀请函电子版RGBMy visit to China this time was a little different. I was invited to participate in a 3-week international teaching and artist residency collaborative project between Falmouth University and the International Art Program (AIP) at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art (GAFA), South China. (Funded by Falmouth University and GAFA)

In partnership with Fanfan Yang, a dynamic young designer, fine artist and teacher on AIP we devised a short 3-week course for 2nd year students. This involved asking students to select a group of objects that had meaning to them (no mobile phones allowed) and getting them to abstract a number of different ideas and outcomes from one starting point. We taught the students what it meant to ‘abstract’ starting points from looking at selected objects in new ways. The students participated in a number of drawing games and took their one theme through a number of outcomes in sculpture, painting and fashion design. We encouraged continual reflection and sketchbook work.

As well as teaching  I focused on developing a new body of work for a solo exhibition in the schools gallery space; a vibrant and trendy contemporary art gallery in the Redtory district of Guangzhou. The ‘Redtory’ area consists of wonderful old soviet style red brick factories that have architecturally designed and converted into studio spaces, galleries and cafes.

The gallery space  enabled me to develop a new body of work based on drawings and research started earlier in the year whilst in Iceland. The environment couldn’t be more different, yet within the dust and ruins similar themes emerge. For this exhibition and residency I have drawn directly onto the gallery walls, made a short animation and soundscape using sound sampled from the NASA website. And there is dust, a lot of it collected from a demolition site nearby. Piles of dust and debris are common in China making it in some ways a perfect location to show the kind of transient ephemeral work that I make. The Chinese easily relate to the themes within my work as they live amongst transitory ruins all the time. Old China is disappearing at an alarming rate. I have created an environment that reflects the feeling of a pause, and ‘interlude’. It is left open and ambiguous.

Processed with Rookie Cam

Processed with Rookie Cam

This is my 5th visit to AIP GAFA in South China. I have been working with the AIP students since 2013 running portfolio workshops and interviewing for a range of courses at Falmouth University. The students spend 3 years learning English intensively alongside an art foundation program. It is a progressive and experimental course enabling the students to study creative subjects at university in the UK. It is a relaxed and messy environment; unlike the traditional Chinese art education they would otherwise receive. The students are a delight. They are eager to take on new ideas and concepts, which must be challenging given the fact that their education prior to this has been entirely traditional. I am surprised and enjoy the pace in which they have embraced it.

I have particularly enjoyed conversations with the artists and teachers here. Positive working relationships have been formed paving way for future international collaborative projects to take place between staff at Falmouth University and AIP GAFA. Despite the huge cultural differences it is interesting to explore common ground. The academics were particularly interested in how Chinese fine art influences could be interpreted from a contemporary Western perspective.

Whilst there I immersed myself fully in the cultural experience. I was lucky enough to be invited by Fanfan’s family ‘tomb sweeping’ a public holiday for remembering one’s ancestors. This consisted of thousands of families attending the cemetery at the same time, lighting firecrackers to scare away any unwanted ghosts and burning a lot of paper money and gold for the dead relative. It was a fascinating yet rather smoky and noisy affair! I was also taken to a Cantonese opera by one of the student’s families- another unforgettable experience. I find the Chinese people kind and gracious. They are willing to go out of their way to make sure you experience the best of their culture- which I most definitely have.

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Student award leads to exploration of Italy’s contemporary art scene

View from Torre Giunigi in Lucca, Tuscany

View from Torre Giunigi in Lucca, Tuscany

Camilla Laing-Tate, a BA(Hons) Fine Art student won last year’s Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Travel to Italy award.  Below is a summary from Camilla about her experience travelling through Italy and exploring the Italian contemporary art scene.

Words and images by Camilla Laing Tate

Known world-wide for its Renaissance art and architecture, Italy is definitely a regularly visited place when it comes to historic creativity. However, that’s not what I went searching for when I set off to Tuscany in September. My aim was to find out what the contemporary art scene in Italy has to offer and whether work being made today is as valued and influential as work made hundreds of years ago. After travelling through Tuscany, Umbria, Rome and Turin, I can safely say that it is!

Within only a couple of days of arriving, I reached a beautiful Tuscan town called San Gimignano and was surrounded by contemporary art wherever I looked. Here, they have developed a programme called ‘Arte All’ Arte,’ which involves scattering permanent site-specific installations around the town; the philosophy being to put them anywhere and everywhere: in tunnels, in churches and in fountains. The motivation behind this programme is to continue the municipality’s traditional commitment to art by bridging the old with the new. I felt like I was going on an Easter egg hunt but rather than finding chocolate, I came across works by the likes of Anish Kapoor and the influential Italian artist Jannis Kounellis. It was fascinating to see how the different works responded directly to their environments, depending upon them for both aesthetic and conceptual reasons. It was a definite highlight of my trip and laid the ground for what was to come.

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Installation by Luciano Fabro entitled ‘Italia all’Asta’ in Palazza Duomo of San Gimignano, Tuscany

On to Umbria and the art-oozing town of Citta di Castello, the birthplace of contemporary Informale artist Alberto Burri, whose work was incredibly influential during the 21st Century.  In celebration of him, two large Foundations (one of which is an enormous ex-tobacco factory painted entirely black upon the artist’s request) have been dedicated to exhibiting works which span his entire career. Everyday materials, holes, tears and sacks form his textural canvases, whilst his use of fire as a paintbrush and plastic as a surface challenge preconceived ideas of what can be defined as painting or sculpture. The sense of movement and energy that exudes from both his works and the galleries themselves creates a unique atmosphere in the spaces and shows the fascinating development of over 40 years’ worth of his work. Breaking boundaries and challenging our preconceptions proved to be a recurring theme in this town and was something clearly evident in a ceramics exhibition I came across. Set in a fresco-covered villa, the ceramic works here (including two by Lucio Fontana) were driven as much by ideas as by appearance and so dissolved any distinction between them and Fine Art, whilst also highlighting the huge potential and versatility of the medium.

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A piece by Michaelangelo Pistoletto in Galleria delle Arti, Citta di Castello, Umbria

Rome was the only place I had any pre-conceived ideas about when it came to contemporary art galleries and my expectations were quite high. Whilst I won’t say I was disappointed (perhaps I’d been spoilt by what I’d already seen!), I didn’t find the work in the main galleries as interesting as I thought I would. So I’m actually going to talk about the contemporary exhibition I stumbled across in the Vatican of all places, which was curated by none other than the Pope himself! Safe to say I wasn’t expecting to see such a range of brilliant work here and perhaps this element of surprise contributed to why I enjoyed it so much. Commissioned as part of an effort to build a ‘bridge’ between old and new art with religion as the binding connection, this impressive display contained work by Kandinsky, Dali, Henry Moore and of course, the ever-present Alberto Burri who is undoubtedly the seminal artist of Central Italy. I have to admit that I found some of the choices quite funny and at points ironic, especially when I saw Francis Bacon’s painting of the Pope. It was as though the true meaning behind the work hadn’t been fully understood but because it appeared to be religious, it had been included anyway. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see these works in this context and displayed only a few hundred metres from Michelangelo’s astounding Sistine Chapel. ‘Bridges’ don’t get much smaller than that!

Through the fountains at the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, just outside of Rome

Through the fountains at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, just outside of Rome

My interest in the Arte Povera movement was a main part of why I was so excited to go to Italy. Upon arriving in Turin, where the movement was founded, I was amazed by the number of galleries dedicated not only to Arte Povera, but to contemporary art across the board. From a ‘Living Art Park’ to a contemporary gallery housed inside a castle just outside of the city, Turin was the perfect way to end my trip. I was lucky enough to see work after work by some of my favourite artists, such as Mario Merz and Giovanni Anselmo, all set within extraordinary surroundings and located throughout the city itself. The art section in my guide booklet told me to: ‘look upwards when walking around Turin,’ which proved to be wise advice and I was rewarded by discovering art everywhere.

'Igloo Fontana' by Mario Merz in the city of Turin

‘Igloo Fontana’ by Mario Merz in the city of Turin

After six weeks of travelling, it was the abundant, active and diverse nature of contemporary art in Italy which led me to the conclusion that it is undoubtedly an important part of today’s culture and furthermore, integral to the identity of the country as a whole.