I have been the resident artist at Sheffield’s Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, which is an industrial museum, since April (and will be until Oct), working on site for 2-3 days a week, creating 14 paintings evoking understanding of what the site was like 120 years ago. These works will be exhibitied in Nov/Dec (date to be finalised). The residency is a voluntary one; I approached the museum with a proposal which they were able to faciliate. My motivation for taking this approach was to present myself with a challenge, both creativily and in terms of output/deadlines.
My main body of work has all been studio created. It occupies the uneasy area between representation and abstraction, wandering between the two as I believe the language of art is not as important as what I say with it. Deadlines for me have been having a sufficient body of relevant work to show in one of my themed exhibitions, and artistic development has been driven more by what I am trying to evoke than the landscape I am using to speak through. Whilst I have been working effectively in this manner, and the work has been well recieved, it has not really provided the sort of challenges I need to develop my creative approach.
The residency has effectively overturned both of these problems, I have a decent but ultimately limited time to produce 14 paintings, and these have a specific end which itself places limitations on how far I can drift from representation. The challenges have been in responding to just one site, understanding how it looked, felt and was used in it’s heyday, and how I can convey all that through works that are recognisably drawn from indivdual elements of the site. In responding, I have been going back to basics, drawing and paint sketching, and working outdoors in all weathers. I have conducted extensive research, both through records and reading peoples experiences of industrial work at the time. I’m 7 paintings into my goal, and have another 3 planned.
Painting outdoors is great fun, the ever changing light presents an interesting challenge, and of course I’m constantly in the public gaze. The reponse from visitors to the site has been encouraging, with many people watching, asking questions, and expressing interest in seeing the completed body of work. It is a fantastic experience, and I feel that my work and practice has developed as a result. I would recommend a residency as part of creative development, and would love to hear from others about their experiences.
‘End of the day’ is my latest piece from the site (70 x 62cm acrylic). Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading 🙂