'RAW' at Cast Studios, Helston

 

27 & 28th May

 A show of multi disciplinary works from 6 female artists of Bath School of Art and Design. Our practices are in flux, in transition and in the inception of something tangible and significant. This show is a discussion of techniques, processes and themes that are being tested and explored in this raw stage of our practice. 

This exhibition was a very different type of experience for me as I was asked in on this exhibition after the initial conception rather than organising. The six of us who were involved; myself, Catherine Lewin, Elicia Ridley, Sophie Danby, Kate Jupe and Georgina Oxnard are all based in the South West, with four of us based in Cornwall itself. This is what initially brought us together as well as the discovery that Bath Spa University actually rent a space down in Helston in Cornwall at a studio complex called CAST. 

Cast is the Cornubian Arts & Science Trust and is an educational charity. It was established in 2012 and has developed out of a series of contemporary art events organised in Cornwall since 2010.

CAST aims to promote participation, appreciation and learning in the visual arts and to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration across the arts and sciences. It is committed to the pursuit of excellence. CAST is dedicated to enriching cultural life in Cornwall and the South West and encouraging national and international connection and exchange.  CAST’s activities receive support from a wide range of local, regional, national and international organisations and funding bodies.CAST works with artists, curators, writers and specialists from other fields, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, to develop professional expertise and exchange, to present examples of outstanding creative practice, and to create opportunities for audiences of all ages to experience groundbreaking cultural activity.

-information taken from their website. 

The building is incredibly different to our studios at University and this is what attracted us to using the space as an experimental environment in which we could try different ways and compositions of curating our different practices together. We decided against doing the superficial decorating as we didn't want to make the room into a white wall space which we are all too familiar with. There was a lack of large expanses of wall space so we had to prioritise reasonably early on, who and what works needed the specific places on the wall. For example, my painting was the largest piece and therefore needed to be on one of the two large wall areas. The shelves at first were also an issue however rather than try and cover them up we decided to use them to display preparatory work such as photographs, sketchbooks and smaller pieces.  We also ended up creating an installation space in the middle with Elicia's hanging works and sculptural floor pieces. This is something I have never been involved in before and was a really interesting way of opening up the room.

As six artists, our work is very different and ranges in its subject matter from the coast line to the subconscious. However, we did find, as we got together for meetings, that there was a linking thread throughout and that was the way we are currently approaching our practices. We really are in a very 'raw' stage of our processes, trying new things, taking risks, re-evaluating everything.This was how we came to the name 'Raw' and the identity of what we wanted this show to be. 

Hanging the show was incredibly successful, in what we thought was going to be a really difficult space to compromise with. We didn't know exactly what work each other was bringing however the work became a cohesive body not only within our respective practices but as a unified show. This was partly to do with materiality and colour, with many of using paint and tactile materials as well as a muted natural palette. 

Unbeknown to us whilst organising this event, the 27 and 28th of May was Open Cast, their open studio event. We were fortunate therefore with our timing and were lucky enough to be placed on the map and promotional material that was distributed.


 

 

 

 

This meant we felt really involved and welcomed by both the organisers as well as the artists. This was supported by most of the 16 artists at one point or another coming to see our show and staying to discuss work, art theory, life after university, how to rent studio space. This was almost the most important part of this experience. The dialogue we shared with artists was an eye opener to the idea that to exist as a practicing artist after graduation is much more feasible than we originally thought. Also, the discussions were encouraging and uplifting as well as honest. Explanations of the relationship between the commercial and the creative that you have to balance precariously as a contemporary artist was invaluable. 

 

A lot of the discussions with both artists and visitors that I had were difficult as I was talking about an old piece of work and my practice has moved on so much since producing it. However, it was interesting that when recalling the conception and production of this painting, how valid and still relevant the though processes and technical processes are even now in my practice. Discussing the paintings references to the coastlines and the idea of terrain and the liminal was successful and seemed to resonate with the dynamic of the visitors. This has made me realise that I dismiss things far too quickly in my practice, I think of myself as moved on from something and it gets removed completely from my perspective. However, through these dialogues I have realised the shortcomings of this. It ties in with feedback I received from my Bath Contemporary placement, I need to slow down my creative decision making, give things a little more time and sit with things for longer rather than quickly moving on. 

As all South West based artists, this was an invaluable experience to gather links and relationships that could potentially further our opportunities in the future. By making ourselves known and exploring the building and the set up of CAST we managed to build foundational communication with people not just at CAST but in other studio spaces over Cornwall. 

© 2019 Holly Nicholls