Degree show! Grays 2019
Well it's nearly a YEAR late but I thought it was about time I share some thoughts about my degree show and how it affected my trajectory into a masters degree.
Like every other artist in my class - in any 4th year class - I was incredibly worried about degree show. I worried about the hang, the heights and logistics but more than these elements, I worried about discussing my work. I feared being backed into a corner by some business shark and pacing my space like a caged animal trying to explain my thought process.
I am glad to say - this didn't ever happen, or at least I never paced. The hang happened in the blink of an eye and I found myself with extra time. I wish I'd used this to go and photograph the building. To document everything, the dents in walls, the thick dirt behind the movable walls, the birds that never stopped squawking above my studio, the thick crusty paint on my overalls, my dilapidated studio slippers.
The lecturers that saw me through a really difficult 4 years, losing family, friends and struggling in my personal life with various issues which now feel like old tapes - made for a player I no longer have.They were there to celebrate heights too. Assisting in 23834920 drafts of applications, advising me not to undercharge my work, not to underestimate my efforts, to evaluate and criticise but never self doubt. I can never repay the education I was given by Keith, Lyndsey, Derrick, Julie-ann, Peter, David Andy and Didi. Or by the ladies at the shop, the canteen, the cleaners and the workshop staff.
What I can do is move toward teaching with the intention to uphold the amazing standard of teaching I received at Grays. If I can provide half of what these people did, I'll be more than satisfied.
I thought I'd wish to offer some advice about degree show to upcoming students but a year on, I realise that what I would have offered is nothing on experiencing it on your own, with no stabilisers. You just have to go into it in a fog of exhaustion and excitement and see what happens.
I didn't win all the awards I'd have hoped to, or sell out the show like each students thinks, in fragile dreams, they might. For that I am grateful. I learned to value the ones that didn't sell as much as those that did. I miss the small studies that flew out the door in hands and pockets thin like my own, but I'm glad to know they reside somewhere I'll likely never seen them.
Sold paintings feel like friends made on summer caravan holidays, we had our time together and promised to keep in touch but soon we were apart and while I know not how to find them again, I hope they are happy and wish them all the best.
As for how this experience prepared me for a masters - It did and it did not. I went into my masters floating on the confidence of 4 years of happiness and trial, I knew myself, my style, my interests and my strengths. I knew art schools to be places of support and guidance. I never expected what GSA brought. Confusion, lack of contact and little more than I would have received in my own home studio. Gray's couldn't prepare me for that, but it prepared me in resilience, in a headstrong and openhearted work ethic. It showed me a standard that I WILL hold other schools to. It showed me what a a school can do for a student.
I only hope to be able to do this for my own students some day.