Endings……

I am making a final post on this blog as I have now completed my degree and at the beginning of December I received news of my final assessment and that I have managed to achieve a 1st Class BA (Hons) Degree in Painting. I can’t quite believe my study with the OCA has come to an end, but so pleased to end on a positive note.

What now?!.. I have created a new blog to continue recording the journey as I work to develop my practice, along with reading, research, inspirations and reflections.

The blog is –  being with willow

My website is – sue-gilmore.com

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Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016

On Tuesday evening this week (13/9/16) I went up to London for the Private View of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016 that includes my selected work- ‘Trace Drawing – Salix Candida’. The prize winners were to be announced during the evening. I experienced a huge mix of emotions that ranged from excitement to fear – not knowing quite what to expect, wondering how my work would look, wondering how I might react – all those things that are thrown up when you face some thing new and unknown.

The exhibition is at The Jerwood Space, London, and as people arrived, the anticipation grew, it was very exciting. I found my work, which now appeared quite modest placed next to a drawing of huge proportions- this didn’t seem to matter though.  It was so interesting to see the great diversity in work, both in scale and mediums, and that included 3D and video works. I feel very privileged just to have been selected and excited at the prospect of the exhibition touring to a further 3 locations well into 2017.

Details of the prize winners and photographs of the exhibition can be seen at-

Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016.

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Reflections on Tutor Report for Assignment 5.

D’s feedback is of an overwhelmingly positive nature that goes some way to affirm my ability as creative practitioner to produce work that demonstrates a clear visual language and has culminated in an ambitious and focused body of work to exhibition standard.

Through my blog, which D describes as ‘self-reflective and honest’ , I have documented the planning and execution of exhibiting this body of work which I hope also reflects my own personal and professional development, of which D has commented, ‘You certainly have not gone down the easy route and instead found your own voice for your own work to have its own stance in your chosen space.’ The technical and practical skills to enable this have been enhanced through contextual research and critical thinking that ‘has led to alternative but cohesive curation.’

You have chosen a suitable space for the work to fit’

It is ideal for the emotional but evolving nature of your work’

‘The balance (of work)…….has made viewers stop and find out about the work’

‘The thought and execution behind the supporting visual and information is professional.’

You have thought about all the details and gone beyond the expected requirements’

I take these comments to attest to my ability to make sound artistic and professional judgements in relation to the selection of works and an appropriate venue for exhibiting.

In points to take forward D encourages me to think about other aspects of enticing people in to an exhibition, particularly in a rural location, how to get more ‘passers-bys. I did advertise extensively locally, as I have documented, and did have a poster in the gallery window. Donna, the gallery owner, did say some artists do hang banners outside, but at the time it felt like it would constitute an additional cost. Clearly, having discovered I totally over ordered on flyers, next time I would re-evaluate and considered in a more informed manner how and what to prioritise in my publicity.

D also talks about the space and how it may have impacted on the work. She poses the question of how it would look in an opposing space. I am trying to imagine what this ‘opposing space’ might look like, and The Jerwood Space in London springs to mind. I have a work that was included in my exhibition selected for The Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition 2016 which begins next week (14 Sept – 23 Oct). I will be going for the Private View next Tuesday – I imagine this will be quite an exciting, daunting and interesting experience; the opportunity to see my work alongside that of 54 artists from across the UK. It will be interesting to gauge to reaction to my work.

In bringing my exhibition to a focused conclusion some work with video that I had been experimenting with was put on the ‘back- burner’, D adds encouragement to go back and re-visit these, along with the ideas around alternative ways of curation. These are things that I have in my mind to do as I go forwards.

D’s final reminder is to read the ‘guidelines for submission for assessment. She has written ‘from what you have sent, everything is in place, organised, labelled clearly and the presentation is sophisticated and substantial.’ With a view to the final selection of paintings for exhibition and accompanying artist statement – a significant proportion of works were included in my submission for Major Project, and of the more recent works, ‘Trace drawing – Salix Candida’ will be in the Jerwood Show. The other works are all framed and I continue to look for further opportunities to exhibit these. The willow sculptures continue to grow and the time is approaching where I will be working much more intensely with them. All the works I selected have been included in the photographic documentation of my exhibition, which includes their details, and I have created an album of photographic prints that I hope is complementary to this. My artist statement can be found on my website.

Overall I am very pleased with the feedback D has given and this will feed my confidence as I move forwards.

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Some things still to mention…..

As I have been pulling things together in preparation for my final tutorial, sorting out files, having photographs printed, etc, every now and then something pops into my mind and I think ‘I must remember to mention that’. So here are the bits I have thought of for now, but it’s possible that others may crop up later.

Certificates of Authenticity.

 It was back when I was researching the buying and selling of work, on the Artquest  website, that I came across the notion of ‘Certificate of Authenticity’, in their article ‘Making the most of your degree show’. It acts not only as a receipt for money but also as documentary evidence of the sale. It was something that I don’t think I was aware of before, but the idea seemed to make sense. On the same site in another article ‘Selling is easy’ they outline some of the important details to include. When I actually made a number of sales this idea came back to me, particularly as I hadn’t signed any of my works. The lack of a signature on the work was a conscious decision because of the monochromatic and minimal nature of many of the works, I felt that any additional mark would distract for the work itself. So when I delivered the works I had sold, I included a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ for each. I shall include copies of these with my final submission.

Access to Galleries.

 Now this is one that I beat myself up a bit about at the time. The week before my exhibition I had an enquiry about the accessibility of the gallery from a friend of my husbands who was very keen to visit. The gallery I had chosen is up a narrow flight of stairs in an old build, where there has been no room to install a stair lift – so, essentially it is impossible to access for a person, who is a wheelchair user and unable to climb stairs. I felt so bad. I phoned and spoke with him, apologising profusely, and offered to send him images of the exhibition from my blog, knowing that wouldn’t be the same, the whole point being ‘going to the exhibition’. He described how interested he would have been to see the work, and I would have loved him to be able to go, knowing him as very thoughtful person who has been a good friend to our family on a number of occasions. Equally difficult for me was the felling that ‘I should have known’. As someone who has previously worked in healthcare and has extensive experience of working with people who have complex, including mobility, needs, I should have known. For me it highlighted how we can all get so wrapped up in our own thing, that we can become blinkered to other important things and need to be reminded from time to time.

The last thing he said to me was, ‘next time you have an exhibition, make it accessible’. I hope I can live up to this.

Over ordering flyers.

When I think of this now it makes me laugh. Having finalised dates for my exhibition and starting to think about publicity, the question arose as to how many flyers you might need. As I hadn’t done this before I asked D. how many she would normally order for a similar project – I’m sure she said 5000! It seemed a lot, but I was happy to go with this as I felt she knew better. As I set about distributing them, which involved driving backwards and forwards across Somerset, even venturing into Dorset, on a number of occasions. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a challenge to distribute all of them, despite becoming good at spotting opportunities to unload some more – lots of people seemed to be reluctant to take too many at one go. Since the exhibition I have only spoken to one couple who came solely as a result of seeing a flyer- and that was from one of the most remote locations that I left some! Trying to make sense of what happened here I did a count of how many I have left, and it seems I got through about half. So, If D. meant 500 instead of 5000, then actually I think I did quite well in getting them ‘out there’. I have been too embarrassed to ask her about it as yet, but perhaps I will in time. Something else that came up in conversation with one gallery owner who was happy to have flyers, was that many artists will approach her via phone asking if she is happy to have flyers, but then putting them in the post. That’s seems like a great idea, especially living in a rural area, as I’m sure I must have spent quite a lot on petrol over those weeks. So, quite a learning curve…..

And…..

 I have had a work selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize Exhibition 2016. I can’t quite believe it. I’ve known a few weeks now but haven’t really told many people because it doesn’t seem true. I keep going back to check the email, and it definitely says, ‘I am delighted to inform you that the work below has been selected for exhibition’. And this week I collected the other 2 that weren’t selected, so they definitely have kept that one. I have also sent the requested mini-biography and statement for the catalogue, along with an image. So, it seems it must be true, though I have to admit to still finding it a bit unreal.

Posted in Being with Willow- developing practice, Exhibitions and Events, professional development, Reading and Research, working towards assignment 5 | 2 Comments

Exhibition and Talk: Herbarium

Herbarium was commissioned by Somerset Art Works and curated by Yvonna Demczynska of Flow Gallery London in the gardens of the National Trust Property, Lytes Cary. The focus of the exhibition is craft based work inspired by the Niewe Herbal – an early manual of herbal remedies translated by the owner Henry Lyte.

Although I enjoyed the work, which did include some work by Annemarie O’Sullivan in Willow, my main purpose for the visit was to attend an afternoon of talks organised by SAW that intended to give an overview and insights into the marketing and selling of work. Although the focus was on craft- based work I felt that it was an opportunity where I might still glean some clues/ideas that I could apply to the promotion of my own work.

Yvonna spoke about how to approach a gallery. She emphasised the importance of previously researching a gallery before approaching them, to make sure your work ‘fits’ with the sort of work they normally market. She spoke about the importance of developing a good working relationship and gave some examples of how they had found some of the artists they now represent. It seems that ‘that network’ you have developed is important here – being introduced through other people. She also spoke about galleries that may have links to other galleries or partner spaces through which you could create opportunities. She highlighted too the reciprocal benefits of working with partners – like marketing the garden through an exhibition. It could potentially encourage additional visitors to the garden for the National Trust whilst also bringing their attention to Flow Gallery and their artists. Social media got a mention too – in her experience, particularly the younger generation, are using Instagram as a means of locating what they like and will subsequently visit the gallery.

Alison Crowther is an artist who works with oak. She spoke about commissioning and the role of marketing for an artist. What really stood for me was that it took her 10yrs from graduating from the Royal College of Art before she was able to work self-employed as an artist, and a further 6yrs before most of her work was commissioned. She spoke about various commissions she had had, how they had come about and how they evolved. She spoke about being creative in who you approach, not confining yourself just to galleries. She emphasised the importance of having work ‘out there’ and building your profile- one of her projects came about through someone who’d seen a small sculpture of hers and this developed into a project that lasted 3-4 years. Along with her suggestions for sources of commissions it does seem that serendipity is also a player.

Pointers I gleaned from the other speakers was how a positive attitude could carry you forward- embracing the challenges could take somewhere exciting. The idea of development awards/grants was raised as a means of taking your practice forwards whilst also introducing new opportunities. Again social media as emphasised- facebook, twitter and instagram.

It was a really useful afternoon. Many of the things they spoke about were things that you think, ‘well, yes of course’, but I found it really useful to have these things pointed out again- like the importance of researching a gallery before approaching them. The fact that Yvonna is the owner of an established London gallery with an international market, and has an extensive history of working in the arts, adds weight to what she was talking about. Although I have created my own website so that I have a web presence, I haven’t as yet embraced facebook, twitter or instagram, but this talk has got me thinking about this again.

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Suggested reading – ‘Measuring Success’.

In ‘Measuring Success’, Weintraub considers how success as an artist might be felt or measured. She acknowledges that it could mean quite different things to different people, dependant on their aspirations and possibly also the intentions in their work. She highlights that whilst we often associate success with positive outcomes, success of one sort may bring with it some negative aspects- ‘success can be a constant challenge to integrity’. She also points out that perhaps whilst our culture has adopted rulers of what it means to be successful- ‘wealth, power, and eminence’, it is within the power of the individual to ‘construct their own professional destinations’.

It has been useful to read this now as I approach the time to look back over the unit and consider my outcomes; I can see that there is a balance to be struck. It has been interesting that since my exhibition when I have spoken to people about it I have heard the enquiry, ‘How many did you sell?’ It is as if this is the ‘accepted’ measure of how successful it was. When I have tried to say that wasn’t the main purpose of the exhibition, I have been met with puzzled looks, as if to say ‘why else would you do it’. Having said that, I did sell some pieces and it did make me feel good and enhance the sense of worth in my work.

What was important for me was the feedback I received about the integrity of the work, but it becomes apparent that to keep making work and pursue the road of a professional artist, you do need to work out a means (financial or otherwise) to make it happen. I can see that what ever success might be, it is likely to be different things at different stages of your career. Weintrub lists possible measures of success- it’s definitely not ‘dinner at the white house’ or ‘the size of my bank account’, but I must admit to becoming a little obsessed with checking the ‘hits on my website’ via the stats tool and really excited by the results-

The best day on my blog had 143 hits, with 349 during the first week of my exhibition, and the best day on my website had 218 hits, with 514 hits during the first week of the exhibition. Overall the website has had more than 2000 hits, which in terms of people seeing my work feels huge.

As I start to review my progression through all 5 parts of this unit I shall try to bear in mind the many ways of considering success.

Weintraub, L (2003) Making contemporary Art: How Todays Artists Think and Work. Thames and Hudson, London (p352 – 401)

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Suggested reading- ‘Dissenting Spaces’.

Dissent as described in the dictionary-

‘hold or express opinions that are at variance with those commonly or officially held’.

So, as the word suggests, Barry in her piece is considering examples of how exhibition designers (curators) have historically re- considered the spaces in which they have made exhibitions. She cites El Lissitsky as someone who related his function as an exhibition designer to his artistic practice and his desire to establish an ‘interchange station between painting and architecture’, and through an approach that sought to create ‘by means of design’ an active participation rather than a passive viewing.

Barry talks of the development of ‘this practice to be something other than just a way to move the eye through space, but to make the spectator actually in habit the space’ and ‘the exhibition becomes a set for a play with objects described various possible positions and making the viewer spatially as well as visually aware’.

From these words there is a sense of her trying to emphasise the ‘experience’ over just the view; an experience that takes into account both the space and the objects within that space. In terms of my own exhibition, I can see that the selection of venue, along with the selection of works will have impacted on how it was experienced. I have come to reading this piece after my exhibition, but not sure it would have impacted differently on the decisions I made. I clearly had limitations of location, costs, etc. In terms of reaction to the exhibition I got the sense that something of an overall experience was achieved. One of the comments in my visitor book read-

Truly a coherent body of work and the whole space with exhibits = an art work’

And another visitor wrote-

As soon as I reached the top of the stairs there was a magical quality to the gallery space. Having the living willow sculptures on display created an atmosphere of serenity within the space that was further enhanced by the art works on the wall’.

Another visitor at the ‘meet the artist’ event also mentioned how she had enjoyed entering the space coming up the stairs and the first things she saw was the 3 small willow sculptures, and how they had for her in some way ‘set the scene’.

I was fortunate to get some very positive feedback. It has been interesting that a number of visitors mentioned this atmosphere of ‘serenity’ and ‘calm’- I’m not sure how much I consciously thought about this before, but reflecting on this now, the work I have made and the time I have spent with willow have come out of a time that was as far from serenity and calm as you could possibly get, but in many ways I suppose that is what I have been unconsciously seeking. The process has certainly set in motion thoughts about how to take this forward and possibilities for exhibiting in the future.

Barry, Judith. ‘Dissecting Spaces’ in Greenberg, R et al (1996) Thinking about Exhibitions. Routledge, London. (pp218-21)

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