Axisweb in Wales: Out and Beyond 2012-13
Shaun James's studio interior
Following Axisweb's Out and Beyond programme for graduating artists, we spoke to the participants about their experience of the project and how it has influenced their practice.
Making the transition from the art school environment to the wider art community can be a challenge for those graduating from MA and MFA courses. As part of our programme of activity in Wales, Axisweb, supported by the Arts Council of Wales, ran Out and Beyond, a programme of tailored development and mentoring for five artists at this critical stage in their careers.
The formal elements of the Out and Beyond programme consisted of:
- one-to-one mentoring in the form of studio visits
- peer critique sessions
- field trips to London and the Liverpool Biennial led by an Axisweb Associate
- a symposium at the Cardiff School of Art & Design exploring ‘what to do next after graduation?’
Five artists were selected to take part in the programme: Freddy Griffiths and Phil Lambert (both MA Photography: Contemporary Dialogues, Swansea Metropolitan University); Shaun James and Ian Wilkins (both MFA, Cardiff School of Art & Design), and Megan Wyatt (MA in Art Practice, Gyndwr University, Wrexham).
The selected artists were mentored by: Steffan Jones-Hughes, Arts Manager at Wrexham County Borough Council; Amanda Roderick, Director at Mission Gallery; David Drake, Director at Ffotogallery; Alex Boyd-Jones, Curator at Oriel Davies Gallery and Chris Brown, co-director at g39.
Shaun James, who is currently working towards showing his work in an experimental space at Mission Gallery, found that the programme provided “much needed professional development” and the knowledge and support with which to “get to grips with what it takes to sustain and grow your artistic practice beyond university.” Amongst other things, Shaun’s mentor, Amanda Roderick, provided him with guidance on applying for a research and development grant from the Arts Council of Wales. Shaun considered this and the other elements of the project extremely valuable: “Out and Beyond has greatly affected my practice as it has expanded the scope and scale of my projects, which might otherwise have been limited by financial and material restraints.”
Shaun James, Untitled - Mark 1 (2012). Courtesy the artist.
As part of the scheme, in September 2012, the group attended the preview of the Liverpool Biennial 2012 and spent time with commercial gallery owners in London, an experience that connected Phil Lambert with the “real world of art galleries and markets in a way that was completely overlooked by my degree.” As well as facilitating the development of ideas and, more specifically, identifying exhibition and funding opportunities, Phil found the process gave him a “general sense of confidence and self-knowledge” of how to take the next steps in moving his career forward.
Phil Lambert, Colour Construct - Snakes and Ladders Sprechspiel (2012). Image courtesy the artist.
Freddy Griffiths, whose work is concerned with the spatial concept of photography, says that the interaction with industry professionals was invaluable and highlighted the importance of meeting like-minded artists at similar points in their careers, a point also made by Megan Wyatt. Ian Wilkins, who has recently been the Artist-in-Residence at Marlborough College (Wiltshire, UK), found the programme allowed him to “gain a much clearer understanding of the work curators do and how artists fit into the gallery context” as well as “demystifying the commercial sector – an area that is negated and often shrouded in art schooling.”
Freddy Griffiths, research with the preliminary title: photographies spatially situated (things on other coloured things), 2012. Image courtesy the artist.
It was not only the artists who benefited from the programme. Mentor Amanda Roderick felt it to be a “mutually beneficial” experience, specifically the way in which it gave her access to artists’ work that she would not have necessarily come across otherwise. Alex Boyd-Jones, who worked with Megan, appreciated the breathing space provided by the opportunity to make repeated studio visits without the pressure of a specific outcome such as an exhibition, commenting that “this is a really valuable opportunity for both parties. Formalising mentoring through a specific (but still creative) scheme keeps focus and commitment.”
Contributed by Bethany Rex
Bethany is a PhD student at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University. Her work seeks to examine the Localism Act (2011) and how it relates to the museum sector in the UK.