NUFA16

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Tyler Coop

I can remember being in my first year of uni and looking up to the third years thinking it was impossible that one day I would be putting on a show. I’ve always kind of felt that when I looked up to older students even at school; I remember wondering how people sat exams, how people traveled by themselves, how people had the confidence to drive cars, etc etc. All these thoughts feel silly and irrelevant now looking back, because of course you learn and grow and change. I didn’t realise however quite how much an art course would change me. I never imagined I would go down the route of performance art, if anything I’ve always been someone who shied away from the stage and was instead content painting background scenery and doing backstage make-up. Yet during the time on this course I have experimented with mediums I never planned to work with such as sculpture, print, photography, video, projection, all sorts. I’ve really pushed the boat out in ways I never imagined or expected.

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Woon Prize Nominee Sheyda Porter 

I think that’s what’s so wonderful about embarking on a course as practical and creative as this. Not only are you exploring your artistic potentials, but you are also exploring the tools which allow you to realise your ideas. You’re learning so much theory too, with all the seminars, Art History lectures  and of course extensive research and reading meaning my knowledge of the artworld has grown so much. As has my coffee table collection of artist books which are now looking to require a bookshelf…

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Saman Ahmadzadeh

That’s partially the exciting thing however, the fact that my bookshelf keeps expanding. The fact that despite finishing this course, I am nowhere near finished. There’s so much more to explore, there’s so much more to experiment with. Despite all of the nostalgia I am currently feeling, I am also feeling incredibly inspired. Seeing everybody’s work come together in this way is amazing not only because there are some incredibly strong and thought-provoking works, but also because we have witnessed one another’s artistic journeys. We’ve seen experiments in the studio go horribly wrong, or moments where tubes of purple paint explode everywhere (yes, it had to be all over me), moments where you walk into the studio to find your studio floor has been taken over by glitter, glue and sprinkles (I have the best studio pal – we are the messiest bunch together and it’s been great!)

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Rebecca Gavigan & Victoria McDermott

So seeing everything reduced to this clean cut and perfectly executed Show is almost overwhelming. I suppose it must be kind of like being a director and finally watching your own Broadway Show. You’ve had moments where everyone is yelling backstage, costume changes haven’t worked, scripts haven’t been learnt, people are stressing and scrabbling around. Yet on the night it all flows smoothly and could not be more perfect. And in that moment you have a feeling of pride in how it has all came together, in how the stress and tears of backstage have dissolved as the characters dominate the stage. I suppose it’s kind of like that, just instead of one director, there are seventy-eight emerging artists.

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Joseph Crookall

Seventy-eight of us whose work could not differ more greatly from the other. I will always remember local artist Narbi Price saying in one of his talks at Vane Gallery, that the more artwork that is made, the more there is a burden on artists to come. This has stuck with me because it is so very true. A lot of people dispel history and say it’s in the past, it doesn’t matter. Yet in being an artist and making artwork it is absolutely critical you know your history, you have to be so aware of what came before you. I have found this particularly vital in looking at the female body in Performance Art, because the 1960s really shaped a lot of things today in that realm and no one can ignore that. So when Narbi said that, it really hit home and seeing such a broad range of work in the Degree Show alone, it’s resonating with me more than ever and making me excited to push things even further.

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Alexandra Karyn

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Panic Attack Series

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Being a creative person is the best thing in times of trauma, sadness and general unhappiness. Being creative provides you with an outlet that may not otherwise exist; a space to release all the inner burdens. I had a series of panic attacks last year as a result of some emotional baggage and initially they were out of control and horrific. They are very physical events that consume your entire body. I’d never experienced anything like them before so it was something entirely new and very unpleasant. However, as usual art came to my rescue and I found refuge in it as an expressive tool. Having experienced the physicality of the panic attacks, it seemed natural to translate this kinetic experience into the art-making process. Consequently I created a series of works, what I call my ‘Panic Attack Series’. 

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Given the process it took in creating them, they could be considered Action Paintings. Action Painting first came into being in the late 1940s and early 50s with pioneering artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning leading the way. Action Painting is a loose and fluid mode of art making in which the paint is dripped or smeared onto the canvas. In this instance I was smearing it on, using my forearm as a brush which given the friction between the paint and paper was painful at times. Yet this pain became part of the piece. Working large scale was necessary as I required the breathing space to expel my negative energy. The works are far from perfect, but I think my vitality comes across especially given the unconscious circular motions I ended up working in. I was surprised to find I visualised my panic attacks as circles and this meant that they went from being a nightmarish experience to a visual object which I think aided my healing process. I was not surprised by the fact black felt like the only suitable colour; darkness and the heaviness of my emotions was encapsulated perfectly in this palette. 

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I also did some smaller charcoal renditions which looked almost like circular sound waves (top right of the above photo). I think the need to get messy was an instinctive impulse I had in these expressive works. Sitting tidily working in a sketchbook would not have had the same impact. I needed to immerse myself physically as well as mentally in the work to be truly unburdened. 

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And it definitely worked. The creation of these pieces was incredibly liberating and I literally felt like a weight had been lifted. My shoulders felt lighter and my head felt clearer. It was as if by creating these works I had expelled this mass of black energy from my system and I was free to start again. 

Studio Fun

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Sometimes it’s really refreshing to step away from all the thinking and the books and just work with a material. I had these foam polystyrene pieces (the kind you put in packing boxes) that I decided to paper-mache into limb-like forms. I didn’t really have a plan or know what I was doing, I just wanted to get my hands dirty. I had to wrap them up in cling film first to create a more solid framework for the paper-mache to sit on and this was a very fiddly and frustrating process. 

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Despite this, it was great to be back in a boiler suit and sat in my studio making mess. So much of my work this year has been film, photography or performance documentation; essentially all digitally based, so it was a relief to make some physical objects and hold these items in my hands. I’ve enjoyed working in this way this year as Performance Art has been the direction my work has naturally taken. I never planned to go down the route of performance, but my will to push personal boundaries and explore the human body in ways I haven’t before has resulted in me drifting into the realm of performance.  

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These limb-like objects eventually ended up being used in a performance piece. Initially this was not the plan, I had no idea where or what these would become. These days I always tend to have a rough notion of where an idea is going to go or how it will work out. It’s never perfect of course but having a rough outline gives me something to work towards. So in this case it was strange just making with no outcome in mind, yet it was also quite liberating. 

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This liberation eventually turned into frustration however. These objects were so time consuming to make, especially with the drying time factored in, that I eventually lost interest. I think this was mostly due to the fact I had no direction and no idea to follow, so the objects became dormant. They ended up sat clustered in my studio for ages and eventually I started to develop a kind of resentful relationship towards them. Recently I had the impulse to use them as I couldn’t handle the idea of all those hours of labour going to waste. So I decided to incooperate them into a drawing-based performance. I was really glad it worked out this way, as it was interesting to go through such a journey with these objects. At first I was excited to create them, then the making process evolved from being therapeutic to a chore and finally I got fed up and found them to be useless. This period of uselessness lasted for ages, so it was incredibly satisfying to draw them back into another piece and find them to finally be useful and exciting again. 

Take a look at my Performance Art post to see how I eventually used the objects: www.themindofmilla.com

John Virtue

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I was looking through some old work when I came across these images of my First Year studio. This was probably the one and only time my choice of topic deviated from Body Art and instead focused on the natural landscape. I think I surprised even myself in this shift as there was no real explanation for it apart from my discovery of oil paint. I think I felt that abstract landscapes were a better means of exploring this medium, as opposed to again working with the female body which I was already so familiar with. This shift was also due to the fact I discovered the work of John Virtue (see below).

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‘Landscape No. 707’, 2003-4, image sourced from The National Gallery website.

I fell in love with his whimsical monochrome depictions; how they were abstract yet figurative simultaneously. How he combined nature with industry. The blend of such intense darkness against the stark white also lends a satisfying balance to his work I found. This equilibrium allows the eye to shift peacefully across the page, taking the time to absorb intricate aspects such as texture which are so imbued with the studio aesthetic.

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What I found particularly interesting about Virtue’s work was his ritualistic aspect of his art making. Every day without fail he would walk to the same location to sketch. This of course resulted in an excess of drawings, but the dedication this required fascinated me. So for a while I chose to copy this method of working and walked to a park everyday. It was quite out of my way and in some cases an inconvenience to all of the other daily necessities occuring in my life. However, having this task and this escape also gave me the best kind of zehn I could have wished for. I had an excuse to leave behind the rush and pace of daily life to focus fully on ritual-based art making. 

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I also tried to employ Virtue’s use of the monochrome palette by removing colour from my work. Depicting landscapes and working with oil paint was a time where I was using really vibrant and sunset-based hues, so this removal was a real challenge for me. It forced me to think a lot more critically about texture, shape, scale and all of the other elements that could compensate for lack of colour. I poked needle-thin holes through paper, I worked with impasto and modelling paste, I used charcoal and inks to create that messy studio look. I tried everything and had great fun experimenting, but of course I gradually began bringing colour back into my work. I also sadly had to stop my daily excursions to the park given all my other commitments, but I may some day start that again for a brief period at least. Employing the working methods of another artist was a really interesting and liberating experience for me, as I was giving up all sense of control that I had over my work and instead completely yielding myself to working in a certain way. It was an incredibly enjoyable experiment and is something I think I’ll definitely go back to at some point!

Empty Walls

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For me presentation of work has become a slight struggle. When I was a painter it was simple, easy. Grab a nail, grab a hammer, make sure your canvas is straight and voila! The piece is hung, the piece looks perfect. With photographs you need to put a lot more thought into it. I was debating for ages about how to hang these works. I didn’t want to frame them as it made them seem too much like a final work, whereas my practice is still very much in the experimental stage. I didn’t just want to stick them to the wall either however, as I felt that was too flat and took away from the movement depicted in the image. 

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So then I started contemplating material such as foam board. If I were to spray glue the images onto that, they would then stand approximately a centimeter off the wall. Again however, it felt too fixed, too held in place. So then I came up with my final mode of presentation; using bull dog clips to hang the photos from nails. This worked well because it allowed the photos to protrude from the wall meaning that when anyone walked past the photos fluttered and danced as a result of human movement. 

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I really like this aspect, the fact that the photos moved in sync with the viewer. It ties in nicely with my concepts of the body and its relations in space. Someone also pointed out to me that this method of hanging reverts back to old analogue photos and how they were hung in the dark room.  I thought this was a very interesting reading and one I had not even considered myself. Quite careless of me if you think about it, yet I was simply fixated on this idea of moving instead of static images. It’s interesting when someone notices something completely different in your work. 

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In fact that is one of my favourite things about making art; when someone takes something of yours and re-interprets it on their own. When they draw their own conclusions and interpretations, which sometimes are the furthest thing from the concept I was working on! Yet there’s nothing more exciting than someone coming to me and talking about how they’ve seen or read something in my pieces and I get to say back to them “I hadn’t even thought of that!” It brings in a whole new dimension for me to consider as I continue on with my experiments.

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After all the debate that surrounded the hanging of these images, it’s nice to have empty walls again! Not for long however as I am completely buzzing with ideas to the point that I can’t create or write them up fast enough! I have been so busy the past week making and editing work that I haven’t even had time to reflect on it all properly! 

Studio

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Every year Northumbria University holds a Fine Art Auction to raise money for our Degree Show. Normally, this takes place in March, however this year we are holding it in December. I am part of the team organising the auction and my role within that team is to gather artwork. This means getting in touch with not only local galleries but also with individual artists themselves. And trust me, there are a lot in this city! It has been very time consuming, but also very rewarding. Normally if the artists are willing to contribute an artwork, I go and meet them to collect it. This involves visiting a lot of artist’s studios, particularly the ones at Newbridge Street. This was where Alexandra Searle held her exhibition (you can see my post about that by clicking here) It’s really interesting to see an artist’s portfolio online and formulate an idea of them and their work in your head and then to actually meet them in person. It’s even better seeing their studios where all the magic happens! So I thought it would be interesting to show you some images of what is currently going on in my studio.

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To be honest, I don’t really know what’s going on in there half the time! I don’t tend to plan things. Yes, I am an organised person but when it comes to art for me there is nothing organised about that. Art is entirely about what is felt. And some days I go in and I just don’t feel it, I don’t feel anything. I practically start to question the point of it all! But then the next day I might come in and have the biggest creative explosion that leaves me as excited as a child at Christmas time! It’s very unpredictable. And I have a love/hate relationship with that fact. I love that you sometimes stumble upon something really unexpected and exciting just by chance. But I hate the days where you are completely dried of inspiration and feel as useless as a chocolate teapot! It’s all just very hap-hazard. But overall it is a very enjoyable experience. It is a whirlwind, it is exciting, it is experimental. 

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I am doing things I never thought I would do with my art. I am discovering artists whose work I have such an affinity with I feel like the book I’m reading is talking directly to me. It’s fantastic and definitely a time I am going to remember. It’s not just the creative explorations you have yourself, it’s the creative energy you have by being surrounded by like-minded people. The studio is never dead. Yes, it’s often empty, but by simply wondering around and looking at everyone else’s work, you can be inspired. Or by running into someone in the corridor, you could have the most simple exchange, but it leaves you reeling with new ideas you feel compelled to instantly scribble down in your notebook. 

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I really don’t know what I would do with my life if I wasn’t creative. Having a pen and a notebook in my handbag is as natural as carrying a purse and mobile phone to me. It can be draining at times to have so much creativity, so many ideas and thoughts swimming round your head, but that’s also the best thing ever. In that moment where you put pen to paper and start to really express yourself, that’s the best moment for me.

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If you fancy checking out our auction website, it’s: http://nuartauction.tumblr.com/

Inner Conflict

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I’ve been thinking about my work a lot recently. Well, I think about my work all the time but at the moment I’ve been thinking about it in a far more transitional sense. I am conflicted. My entire life has been a mess of paint. Brushes in my handbags, batik ink on my fingers and shoes, acrylic works drying on my window sills. Up until this point I have always defined myself as a painter. My work has meant I produce canvases and sketchbooks filled with paintings. Now I can no longer say that! And I feel slightly lost because of this. I lie, I feel very lost. Completely unconsciously I have shifted from this physical means of production. The journey was not at all intentional, purely incidental! I came in this year to make paintings and one day just went ‘this isn’t working!’ Instead I have surprised myself by entering the realm of moving image and photographic based work. I feel it gives me more of a language to express myself and my ideas orientating on the body. Painting at the moment feels too limiting. Last year I dabbled a bit in sculpture. That was fine; to me that was just an extension of painting. However, I have currently embarked on a route whereby painting does not come into play. And it’s so strange! My studio is pretty tidy. There are no coffee cups filled with water and ink. There are no paint brushes left to rot (yes, I am one of those people that does not take good care of them…) And it is very very strange. I’ve hardly known what to do with myself!

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Yesterday however, I made a breakthrough. I was projecting my film work onto objects and then filming what was occurring as a result. Doing that made me realise what it is that can tie everything together. Layers! I can use projection as a metaphor for my layers of paint. I can still think about things in the painterly sense. I can still apply all my painterly ideologies, I just need to translate them. Up until this point I had felt uncertain. Where was I going? What was I doing? Why had I lost this will to paint? It was scary and it was a place of complete loss for me. Now however I feel alright about my studio no longer consisting of spilled ink and drying oils. I think it was wandering through other people’s studios today that made me miss the physicality of working with paint. For me working digitally is so strange as it’s everything is on my computer and I have no physical object. In using projection however I am enabling myself to shift more easily from this state of physicality into the digital realm. And now that I’ve begun to feel comfortable in this new world, I am excited again.

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