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.

 

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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/ 

Catching up with last year’s summer Intensives participants

Falmouth School of Art is currently accepting applications for its summer Intensives – 5-day studio-based courses for artists and art educators. We’re always bowled over by feedback from participants at the end of their week with us, but we have just caught up with some of 2016’s participants to ask them to reflect on their experience nine months on…

Burgundys in project space – Gwenyth Fugard

Abstract Painting participant Gwenyth Fugard highlighted the benefit she had felt of being among a group of artists for the week, having worked alone for three years since graduating in Fine Art from Central St. Martins. She also experienced a development in her way of working, as a result of the environment and structure of the course: ‘Though my own practice does not respond to abstracting from life, I found the projects set were hugely beneficial. I was taken away from my usual methodologies and the studio spaces provided were fantastic [and] enabled new approaches and ideas to develop quite quickly’. After finishing the Intensive last summer, Gwyneth successfully applied for a place on an MA at City & Guilds London Arts School.

Oversized Raincoat, by Karina Barrett

Wales-based artist Karina Barrett, who took the Figure Painting course, similarly valued the experience of community that shaped the Intensive week: “I enjoyed working in a studio with other artists – something I have not done since graduating” Within that context, she recalls, ‘I found the tuition to be of the highest standard and incredibly informative. As a professional, working, painter, I gained a lot from the advice given to me by both Jesse [Leroy Smith] and Ashley [Hold]’. Figure Painting participants also commented that the opportunity to work from a model for whole week was something that they couldn’t easily replicate as part of their day to day routine.

Amanda Jackson chose the Abstract Painting Intensive in order to develop her mostly figurative practice in a more abstract direction, and the course made such an impression that she will be joining us again this year. She observes, ‘The course gave me many ideas and processes, through tuition, critique and lectures, to set this development in motion’. In addition to this, she too cites working alongside other artists as an important benefit to her: “…the great experience of spending a week with other artists, to explore my own ideas but have others’ input and critique and discuss work and network with artists, some of whom I am [still] in contact with via social media’.

Amanda has continued with her practice, and has found the influence of the Intensive staying with her in her work, “Almost a year on, I have continued the work started in Falmouth, enjoying pushing my work ever further into abstraction. I have found that since the course, my work is much looser; I spend more time developing the work through direct painting – that is, exploring ideas on the canvas and seeing where it might lead – rather than planning and replicating.

Her week at Falmouth has resonated in her subsequent studio practice, as well as in the work she has produced since last summer: ‘I am more focused on my work, spending longer in the studio, so the course has given me discipline as well as inspiration…The back drop of the garden and grounds at Falmouth, which was used as a starting point for abstract paintings on the course, has led to a body of work that will be shown this summer as part of Leigh Art Trail’s 20th Anniversary show’.

For many, the Intensives have provided the opportunity to work differently than they would in their own home or studio environment, with learning and experiences that have lingered and resonated in their continued studio practice. For London-based Val Coumant, ‘[it] was exactly what it said on the label – intensive. I haven’t worked so hard since my Psychotherapy training in the 1980’s. Or with such absorption and excitement’. But for Val, ‘the greatest insight was how the pieces I liked best were fortuitous rather than planned. It was like the Zen story about learning to paint bamboo: you go and live in a bamboo grove, and watch the bamboo in spring, summer, autumn and winter; in the morning, at noon, in the evening and in the moonlight; in mist, rain snow and sunlight, year after year. And then you go away and forget about bamboo. That’s when the painting starts’.

2016 Intensives participants relax in the walled garden with a cream tea.

The lasting impact of the week of focused creative activity is something we hear repeatedly. Karina noted, ‘I find that the advice of my tutors still echoes in my head, while I work…along with the memories of a truly fantastic week’.

For more information or to make an application to Falmouth School of Art’s Intensives – this year offered in Abstract Painting, Figure Painting and Observational Drawing, see our website:

www.falmouth.ac.uk/fsaintensivesThe application deadline is 28 April.

Jessica Warboys, Falmouth alumna – talk at Falmouth and solo exhibition at Tate St. Ives

Hill of Dreams 2016, Performer Oliver Baggott, Video, High Definition, colour, sound; 11 minutes
© Jessica Warboys and 1857

Jessica Warboys,
Sea Painting, Dunwich, October, 2015
canvas, mineral pigments
Courtesy the artist & Gaudel de Stampa, Paris.

In association with Tate St. Ives, artist Jessica Warboys, who graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art at Falmouth in 2001, joins us for a talk on 29 March, to mark her first solo show at a UK national gallery, at Tate St. Ives this Spring.

Warboys works across painting, performance, film and sculpture; her work is informed by personal or collective memories – historical, mythical or fictional. In her Sea Paintings, Warboys explores the connection between painting and performance, submerging damp, folded canvas scattered with coloured pigments into the sea, and allowing the movement of the waves to ‘paint’ the canvas.  The show at Tate St. Ives will feature films, sculptures and paintings, including two specially commissioned works:

Sea Painting, Zennor 2015, was made on the Zennor coast near St Ives.

Hill of Dreams 2016, is a new film that draws from Welsh fantasy writer Arthur Machen’s book of the same name, that relives his memories of rural Gwent, where Warboys was born a century later. Hill of Dreams has been commissioned by Tate St Ives, Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno, Italy and Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway and will tour to each of these venues throughout 2016−17.

Warboys currently lives and works in Suffolk and Berlin and has enjoyed wide international exhibition success, including solo exhibitions. After graduating from Falmouth she completed a Masters of Fine Art at Slade School of Art in 2004. Her work was recently included in British Art Show 8.

Register Here for Jessica Warboys’ talk on 29 March, 6pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Falmouth Campus. Please note the later than usual start time.

Jessica Warboys at Tate St. Ives runs from 31 March to 3 September 2017.

Reflections on first year BA(Hons) Fine Art exhibition

img_0384At the start of this term, the end of their first study block, BA(Hons) Fine Art students worked together towards an exhibition in their studio buildings. The exhibited work demonstrated experimentation and showed the development of work throughout the first ten weeks of the course. The range of practices and approaches reflected the diversity and individuality of first year students.

Exhibiting student Charlie Ash, said, ‘The exhibition provided an opportunity for students to display work in an open and informal setting; with multiple first year spaces across the campus being organised and curated among studio groups. The exhibition confirmed how much I value being on a Fine Art course which supports a wide variety of art practices – there is something exciting about seeing painting, drawing, sculpture, performative and time-based work (and everything else) occupying the same space. I think a self-organised open studio exhibition is a good format for first year students as there is no pressure to include fully finished work, but it is an insight into the practices which everyone is engaged in – beneficial both as a participating artist and a viewer’.

 

 

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Fine Art students from other years, and staff from the course and across the university joined exhibitors for a well-attended opening event. The project was the first of many opportunities for students to share and exhibit their work for peers and more public audiences as they progress through the course.

Student Olivia Brelsford-Massey shared her experience of being involved in this exhibition: ‘The first year exhibition – although most of us felt like we didn’t know what to do – turned out to be a success! I found it helpful, as it’s easy to crawl into hole as an art student (that hole being the studio space), and bringing our work into the larger context of an exhibition made it easier see what everyone had been making this past term, and opened up conversations about our work and ideas. The opening night was a lot of fun, some of the students had put together food and drink and posters and invited their pals/significant others to have a look around – all of this was organised in a short space of time so kudos to everyone. All in all, putting together the exhibition as well as the work itself felt like a vital part of being an art student and I’m looking forward to the next one!’

Painter Chantal Joffe to talk at Falmouth

Chantal Joffe, Self-Portrait with Esme, 2009; Oil on linen; 213.5x152.5cm; Courtesy the Artist & Victoria Miro, London © Chantal Joffe

Chantal Joffe, Self-Portrait with Esme, 2009; Oil on linen; 213.5×152.5cm; Courtesy the Artist & Victoria Miro, London
© Chantal Joffe

Falmouth School of Art will welcome artist Chantal Joffe on 15 February, for an ‘In Conversation With’, with the School’s Director, Dr. Ginny Button.

Chantal Joffe’s figurative paintings – both large and small scale – usually depict women or girls, from catwalk models, porn actresses and literary heroines to mothers, children and loved ones. A 2016 Telegraph interview quoted her as saying, ‘I don’t find men very interesting to look at’. Her paintings question expectations of what a feminist art might be, often pointing to how appearances are constructed – whether in a fashion magazine or the family album – and to the choreography of display. Sometimes shown in groups but recently in iconic portraits, her images of women draw loosely on a range of sources such as photographs, magazines and even reflections in the mirror, using distortion to make her subjects seem more real.

Mindful of the seductive power of paint to engage and hold our attention, her fluid, seemingly casual brushstrokes work in tandem with the image to achieve a psychological and emotional force, prompting reflection on ever-changing human relations and the endless complexity of looking.

Joffe has been represented by Victoria Miro since soon after her inclusion in the 1996 New Contemporaries exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery. She was born in Vermont in 1969, and lives and works in London. She studied Painting at Glasgow School of Art (1988–91) and gained an MA from the Royal College of Art in 1994. Joffe has exhibited widely nationally and internationally from London, Margate, Middlesborough and Glasgow to Venice, Oslo, Paris and New York with recent shows at the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavík in 2016, and at the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Jewish Museum, New York and the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings in 2015. She was awarded the Royal Academy’s prestigious Woollaston Prize in 2006, elected to the Royal Academy in 2013.

Click here to register for this event, which takes place 5pm Wednesday 15 February 2017.

Read more:

Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and Anne Sexton Inspire Chantal Joffe’s New Confessional Paintings – Artsy interview, January 2016.

‘I don’t find men very interesting to look at’ – Telegraph interview, January 2016

Chantal Joffe: Me and My Mentors – RA feature, Spring 2015

I Paint to Think – Independent interview, 2014

Interview with BA(Hons) Fine Art alumna, Zoe Spowage – Young Artists in Conversation

Zoe Spowage graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art at Falmouth in 2013. Born in Long Eaton, she now lives and works in Leeds; her studio is based at Assembly House. Since graduating, she has worked as a freelance scenic artist and won the Nottingham Castle Open Main Prize in 2016 and the Surface Gallery Prize Residency and Exhibition in 2017.

Zoe describes her work as ‘furnished with loose narrative, I play with the decorative motif and the female form to create scenery. I am attracted to bold and direct visual language’.

Young Artists in Conversation have featured Zoe in an interview by Yasmin Rix –http://youngartistsinconversation.co.uk/Zoe-Spowage , in which she talks about her work and working process, and her forthcoming exhibition with Rufus Newell following their month-long residency in Com Peung, Thailand.

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Get Me Bodied, from I’m in Love with Rococo Exhibition in It’s All Tropical, Leeds, 2015

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A Bleaching Madden – mural detail