Our Graduates are now half way through their residencies with us. Here, reflecting on the past 6 months, they’ve given us a frank insight into where they are currently at with their artistic practice, and the challenges artists can face in their career development.
Access Denied//Access Granted by Helen Kilby-Nelson
The 18th April marked the halfway point of the residency with Artspace. I considered writing a blog about ‘Time’ and my relationship with it through my art practice, a carefully considered, researched and executed piece of writing. Instead I have chosen to share an excerpt of my art journal. I got into the habit of keeping a journal during my studies and I still find it incredibly valuable. A journal is private, I am not writing it in the knowledge that anybody else will read it, I feel less restricted than when I sit down to write my monthly graduate blog. The first year after graduating is particularly difficult and it would be a disservice to suggest otherwise. There are so many elements that need to slot perfectly into place and, of course, life just isn’t like that. So here I share with you where I was at earlier this month.
“I have no idea what I am doing and often wonder whether I should give up this being an artist malarky. Without the support of my peers I think I would have done so already. It is my peers who remind me why I keep doing what I do, who give insightful and valuable advice, who inspire me and, at times, speak frankly. It is also the physical sickening feeling of no longer making art that grips me when these doubts plague me.
I left college feeling confident, driven with a strong belief that I could do this. I found a part-time job to earn some money but wanted to allow for a large portion of my time to be spent on progressing my practice. I hadn’t allowed myself to consider that I may not have the funds to facilitate this, or how hard it would be to be successful in my submissions for funding. Was this ego or naivety?
It was naivety and hope and yes probably a bit of ego. I thought I knew, from speaking to fellow artists, that there are more rejections than there are successes, but I had hoped that the few successes would carry me through. I hadn’t allowed for the lack of paid opportunities or the sheer volume of applicants for funding opportunities. I had told myself this first year since graduating was the year I would know/decide whether there were the opportunities for me to truly establish myself.
It has been 9 months since I graduated and I have had one paid opportunity. I have had to face the reality that working two days a week is only going to result in bailiffs knocking on my door, not opportunities. This is the real world, this is the art world for the non-privileged. I can no longer afford the cost of travelling regularly to my residencies. I feel guilty about that.
A deluge of rejections, even those I expected have impacted on my mindset. I push myself to continue working on my current project. I jot down the light-bulb moments for potential future projects. I analyse, edit back, reassess how I can reach a resolved body of work with no funding. I know it can be done, I’ll have to compromise without losing the essence of who I am and what I am doing. Remind myself that each body of work I produce is another step forward which strengthens my chances for future opportunities.”
Halfway House by Adam Neal
April roughly marks the halfway point of the residency at Coventry Artspace, and this last 6 months has been the steepest learning curve of my life. During this 6-month period I’ve questioned every aspect of myself, my practice, and a tangible career within the arts. If in all honesty I had no idea what success or tangibility looked like within the arts outside of education. I naively thought I could work a full-time job in Birmingham whilst functioning as an artist’ within the whole of the Midlands successfully. Obviously I couldn’t maintain this for too long.
I’m not proclaiming to have figured anything out at this point either, far from it, I’m still flapping around and as clueless as ever. The difference at this point is I’ve done more relevant things, and actually I’ve realised how 90% of formal arts education is utterly useless. Outside of this, I’ve created more engaging and critical work (at least I think) than I did within it. Some would say that shows that university did its job, however I’m not totally convinced.
My practice has progressed and developed, only slightly, and I’ve started to question and realise new things. Operating amongst art organisations and with new people has really probed my practice in a considered way. I’ve started to consider the real life applications my practice can have, and perhaps my own perspectives and interpretations of the social world are too limited and linear. Moving forward within the remainder of the residency, these considerations will be probed further.
Considering the length of this residency I’m curious to see how this will manifest itself into a solo exhibition of my work. Due to university I’m used to creating work at a high-rate, and I still have done this within this residency too. However I’ve now taken a step back and at this point I am attempting to consolidate all of my work in order to present it within a solo exhibition. It’s never really hit me how long it takes artists to actually produce work, so I think I’m entitled to take a step back at this point.
Time is your most valuable asset, and I truly believe that. Now that I’m back working part time and attempting to freelance too I’ve realised how little time I’ve had to spend on my practice. Again, another learning curve I suppose.
This residency thus far has allowed me to develop my own personal and professional abilities, and I am increasingly looking forward to creating my own exhibition. Equally, I am exciting to see how Helen’s show manifests itself, it’s always beneficial to have a peer to bounce ideas things off, and Helen has helped me tremendously with that.
I’m hoping the next 6 months is as challenging, eye-opening and progressive, even though I have no clue what is going to happen.