In The Studio
A year ago, the Mall Galleries was initiating a new project “inspired by the model of Art Societies, equipping emerging talent with the tools, ideas and experiences to form their own collaborative art group”. We were 22, aged between 18 and 26, to meet on the 31st of October, and I’m not sure we really knew what this experience would be about.
And that was probably the key to its success: the In The Studio adventure grew from our conversations, our curiosities, inputs and needs.
(you can click the keywords bellow ↓ )
It was an opportunity to learn about the Federation of British Artists and Societies; to meet artists and see the many ways they developed their practice; and to work towards a group exhibition in August ;
The Federation and Societies of Artists seem to be quite something here in the UK and when I first heard of them fair to say I felt a bit overwhelmed! Thanks to open conversations with members, being able to attend hanging days, PVs and the Xmas party, each opportunity lead me to feel that such societies could be a point of support and reference for those who resonate with them. Not a mandatory door to go through. Not a cold and foreign place either. Simultaneously established and remodelling themselves. Not quite easy to define but worth keeping an open-mind about; in our fast-changing times who knows which role they’ll continue to play for artists?
Throughout the past 10 months, we received opportunities to meet artists in their studio. The ones I was lucky to attend lead me to: a rented space with Tim Benson; an artists complex with Tina Jenkins and Mark Nader; a barn in the magical garden of Alex Hirtzel; or even on a tube-sketching-trip with Adebanji Alade.
Everyone happened to be incredibly generous, sharing their journey, honest truths on difficulties artists face and simultaneously useful tips and welcomed encouragement for the journey ahead. I was also the most fortunate to be part of a session of tutorials with the artist Andrew James. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone that gave us some of their time (and the meet-ups I wasn’t able to attend: Ben Johnson, Philip James, Ken Howard, James Bland).
What a privilege! I can’t believe this project culminated in a group exhibition. I was really impressed by everyone’s work, and the curation was brilliantly done: everything felt coherent yet each individuality was welcomed.
Beyond the show itself, it has been a wonderful opportunity to understand better timings of such projects: when and how to go about the press release, catalogue, invite, possible merchandising.
By having to present myself differently, Ialso learned to perceive myself differently. The year before I was really happy to only be ‘a first year student’, but more recently I pushed myself to use a few big words like ‘artist’ ‘painter’ or ‘emerging’.
I’m not the kind to take myself too seriously, but for sure I do what I do seriously: I’m the happiest for being able to do so, and so grateful for the opportunities I am given. I definitely want to make the most out of it.
Creating my artist profile for the Mall Galleries website, making a habit of writing content for the blog, daring to submit to Open Calls (and having 3 gouaches exhibited at the RI annual exhibition!) have been so many important steps that encouraged me to believe a bit more in myself and my development.
Completing the above, was the opportunity to propose and run our own public event and workshop. The Mall Galleries gave us the gallery for space, their resources for marketing, and most importantly trust and enthusiasm in our ideas!
The first was on the 13th of January, where I was ‘doing what I usually do’: inviting visitors to take a seat so we could sketch each other.
More ambitiously, during the exhibition, Paulina and I ran a 3 hour-long free workshop to demystify how to paint a Portrait in Watercolours (for this workshop I designed a hand-out, feel free to have a look and download it here ; I’d love to hear your feedback!)
There’s so much to learn from peers! This was once again proven. And probably the point of this project: by building relationships with artists of similar development, we’re experiencing directly how the idea of societies can grow from such opportunities of support and friendships. The diversity of our backgrounds (not everyone was an art student, not everyone was using the same words for the same ideas, nor the same ideas for the same words) felt incredibly inspiring and freeing. A proof that there’s no one way to go about art making, and that even when we’re only at the beginning, passion and dedication is already easy to identify.
I’m genuinely so thankful for this experience that went beyond what I could have imagined, and quite thankful to myself who ‘dared’ sending my application a year ago. As soon as I know how and when a second group can apply, be sure I’ll share the details.
If there’s one thing I’ve been waiting to do as I started writing this page, was to thank Elli Koumousi for having imagined and transformed into a reality this wonderful and important project ♥. And everyone at the Mall Galleries who helped.
( if a caption is needed: this is me being happy, happy, happy → )