Merzbarn Residency

Merzbarn Residency

I recently returned from the Lake District after a short yet blissful retreat at the iconic Merzbarn in the quaint village of Elterwater.  My colleague, Sarah Tew, received a travel grant form Slade and invited me, Jazmin Donaldson and Choe One to spend a few days learning and working in the countryside.

I didn’t realise at first how much I needed the solitude. As much as I do work alone, I always have constraints.  My time is divided between myself and my family and almost every decision I make is influenced by the needs, wants and wills of others. So for the first time, in I don’t know how long, I found myself free.  Free to roam, free to play, free to do whatever I wanted for a few days.

Aside from this initial reaction, I fell in love with this little corner of the world. The air was so crisp and fresh, I couldn’t seem to take enough deep breaths. It is also impossible to turn a corner or climb a hill without stumbling into another perfectly picturesque landscape. One cannot take enough pictures. However, as euphoric as it was, and with as much gratitude and joy, there was a melancholy with the reminder of loss that Merzbarn represents. Merzbarn is the unfinished creation of Kurt Schwitters who died before getting the chance to finish it. The original work that once stood in the barn has been moved to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle for preservation. The barn now sits as a memorial to his life and legacy to which many artists have claimed inspiration from. The incompleteness of the Merzbarn speaks to the tragedy of his life. His original Merzbau in Hanover was destroyed in WWII by Allied bombings and while living in exile in Norway, he created a second Merzbau which was destroyed in a fire.

Kurt Schwitters had to also flee Norway when the Nazis invaded and he came to Scotland as a refugee; an “enemy alien”. He was moved between internment camps in Scotland and England, eventually landing on the Isle of Man among many other German and Austrian artists and writers.  Upon release from this internment, Schwitters moved to London and eventually to the Lake District.  He received a $1,000 fellowship from MOMA in New York to create a new Merzbau installation at Cylinders Farm in Elterwater. With the help of his partner Edith Thomas and Langdale gardner Jack Cook, Schwitters worked on the installation every day except when illness kept him home. On 7 January 1948, he received news that he had been granted British citizenship. The following day, on 8 January, Schwitters died from acute pulmonary edema and myocarditis, in nearby Kendal Hospital.

It’s a tragic story, but Kurt Schwitters never gave up hope and persevered through the darkest of times to continue his work, bringing forth revolutionary ideas in art- the idea that art never ends; it merges into life and thats what his merzbau were all about- an ambiguity; a blurring between art and life; the interconnectedness of all things and the validation of experimentation and performance.  Due to the nature of their existence and sub-sequential destruction; the merzbau were never finished works of art, they existed always on the precipice of becoming, which is a point of interest for me.  Dr Sarah Wilson, professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Courtauld Institute says that the Merzbarn is a “celebration of an achieved love, as well as of life itself and the will to survive.”

Now the property is managed by Ian Andrew Hunter and Celia Ruth Mary Marner.  They are gracious hosts who work tirelessly to keep the venue open and accessible to artists and the community.

During my time at Merzbarn, I spent a few days learning and making. I took inspiration from and worked in collaboration with the surrounding environment.  The following is a documentation of these experiments and observations.

Liquitex White Walls Collaboration

Liquitex White Walls Collaboration

My intention with this mural was to create a wall that changes each day; to be always on the verge of becoming something else. I am interested in the blending of natural and “unnatural” space and capturing that which is on the verge of renewal. I knew I wanted to incorporate paper forms that would interact with the mural. Whether the forms were attached to the wall or free-standing in the space, they would inevitably create a depth, in which one would have to walk around to take in the full and various perspectives.

I began with the idea that the back sides of the paper forms would be painted and the fronts would be white and I would play with “positive and negative” with the blurring of natural and illusory space. However, I was also wary of making too many rules on myself as then I become restricted, so it was important to allow drips, mistakes and incident- it is always about dealing with the unexpected and finding new paths and connections. With this reminder, I became very relaxed with ripping and cutting into the paper forms and collaging the scraps elsewhere. There almost always comes a point in my process where I am scared I’ve lost it and won’t find my way out. (I’m always finding analogies with life…) But this anxiety feeds my process and pushes me to find resolutions. In the end, I’m quite happy with my mural. I was consistent with my brainstorms and initial idea whilst allowing freedom in change and incident.

I enjoy where the mural interacts with my colleagues’ (Jack Sutherland and Araminta Blue) and where it begins to collide with the floor- as it reiterates Jean Arp and Kurt Schwitter’s concepts of art merging with life and environment.

 

TFAC Residency at Griffin Gallery

TFAC Residency at Griffin Gallery

During the Easter break, I did a two week residency at Griffin Gallery located in the ColArt headquarters in London.  The Fine Art Collective (TFAC) is home to a collective of art material brands such as Windsor & Newton and Liquitex and it was fun to see chemists at work while I painted with their creations. This residency offered a platform to explore materials. I delved into ink, acrylics and really became interested in working with paper- pushing the material to the brink of it capabilities by warping, painting, constructing and deconstructing. I was quite satisfied with the results and realized that giving myself boundaries is useful in my work. With the time limitation of two weeks and limiting my materials to paper, acrylic and ink- it gave me a structure which guided my process. Because I tend to incorporate so many different elements- it was actually quite satisfying to realize how much I can do with acrylic media and that it can be a means to an end. This first year of my mfa I’ve been so eager to try everything, that it was sort of a relief to simplify my materials.

Speaking of simplifying- probably the most exciting discovery was warping one large sheet of arches watercolour paper. I almost felt guilty to do such a simple thing with an expensive piece of paper- but in the end- the simple act of curling it was the most exciting thing. I am really intrigued with its form and rigidity, I hope to do more with paper in that way. Overall, it was a great experience which gives the freedom to explore materials without the pressure of resolving anything or worrying about the idea of preciousness in a piece.

Here are a few highlights from my residency:

 

The Field at ASC Gallery

The Field at ASC Gallery

I had a great time at the PV/ opening party of our first group show of the year, organised by Sarah Tew.  We managed to get a piece of work by every first year MFA student at Slade and fit it comfortably in the gallery.  It was a great turnout, and really refreshing to see our work in a new space and new context. Exhibition will be up until 2 Feb 2018.

 

 

 

 

MFA- First Term Summary

MFA- First Term Summary

As we wrap up for winter break, here’s a little look back at my first term at grad school. I’ve never been great at keeping a sketchbook. Rather, I’ve got bookmarks, word docs, and powerpoints; a notebook here, a sketchbook there.  I’ve got articles, photos and found objects stashed, taped, and folded up…  I get ideas and write them down. I make a plan, order supplies, then get to the studio and just start working with what’s there; I forget about that last idea as I merge into another. I get feedback from tutors, critique groups and peers. I go to the library and check out books; photograph, scan and print.  I try to go to all the staff talks and art lectures (but I’ll catch up on youtube, the ones that I’ve I missed.) I am familiarising myself with London galleries and museums, French philosophers and theorists; trying to make up for the 12 years I haven’t been in art school. I’m not terribly organised or much of a planner.  I go with the flow, until I take action. I am open but anxious; realistically optimistic; fantastically fatalistic; completely sure, yet totally insecure.  And that about summarises term one.

Art exhibition at Thuyskamer

Art exhibition at Thuyskamer

Hilde Atalanta and Monica Perez Vega

Opening party: June 25th 16.00 – 19.00

I’ll have six new pieces showing at Thuyskamer alongside artist, Hilde Atalanta from 25 June- 25 November 2017.

Thuyskamer is a gorgeous little concept shop and cafe in the heart of Amsterdam. Located at Nieuwe Nieuwstraat 26, it is just steps away from Dam square.

At the opening party, we’ll also have a ‘Make Scene’ stamping corner, where guests are invited to make a postcard with the Amsterdam Make a Scene stamp kit. Should be a lot of fun.

Slade School of Fine Art

Slade School of Fine Art

Thrilled to finally pursue my MFA beginning September 2017.

“At the Slade School of Fine Art we approach the practice of contemporary art and the history and theories that inform it in an experimental, research-oriented and imaginative way. An art school with a world leading reputation, the Slade makes a significant contribution to the field of contemporary art both nationally and internationally.”

I feel very lucky to have found a home to explore all my crazy ideas.  I look forward to learning, playing and building my community here in London.

http://eepurl.com/cF7jRr