A not so brief portfolio reflection

Since finishing college 4 months early due to Covid-19, I have been doing a lot of reflection about my time there- on my projects, pieces and the evolution of my practice. So I decided I wanted to have all my thoughts down in one place (here) in an attempt to hold some reverence for my time spent there and also to help me evaluate what I learnt and how I can continue to create things moving forward into the real world.

In the September of 2018, I had no idea that I would have ended up where I ended up and having achieved all the things I’ve achieved. I initially enrolled at xaverian college, choosing to pursue a-levels in art, textiles and English. Thinking practically about all the things people had said to be prior to my final decision about keeping options open, broadening skill set and preparing for employment. But, after just a couple of days I knew it wasn’t right for me. I felt boxed in by a choice made out of fear opposed to real investment.

Thats when I contacted a friend who told me about the course she’d just enrolled on; being the UAL Visual art and design course at the Shena Simon campus, Manchester City centre. (which I’d never even heard of). But that same day I went to check it out, and enrolled on the spot.

The course was a full time art course, which may not be ideal if you are still very unsure as to what you’d like to peruse, as it may limit your options. However I was sure- and as any creative knows, the label isn’t what matters. Weather its A-level, B-tec, Diploma or some other random course you’ve found. Its all about portfolio; which is why a full time course is so successful. As it allows time to be spent purely on your practice & projects…the most successful way to develop your portfolio. It also creates a very lovely sense of belonging and community with such small groups- spending two years together: working on projects together, spending time in the studio together and watching each other grow and evolve.

I’d say my decision to enrolled on the course was the absolute best decision I could have made and I am so happy I ignored all of the fear around me. I followed my intuition and prioritised what I enjoyed- which is always a good start.

On the course I met my best friends, made my best work and had the most brilliant times.

Now knowing I will not go back there to learn again, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my experience as a learner but also as a person over the past 18 months, as I know all of my friends have.

The course has been absolutely life changing for me. Both socially and artistically. I have had The Manchester art gallery co-produce & sell a zine I was involved in creating, had my work on billboards around Manchester, proposed and organised a pop up exhibition in a massive institutional art gallery, made my very own zine and discovered photoshop for the very first time. All of these things for me have been incredible. But besides from those major achievements, I have also learnt the fundamental basics of my preferences as a creative. I have developed a style, a practice and a skill set that has allowed me to create work reflective of that. All of those things being priceless.

Something I definitely took for granted was the studio space we had in college & the facilities at hand. When enrolling on the course (2 weeks late) I was told repeatedly that the facilities were by no means top of the range but what the college and course in general did have was freedom, guidance and full access to all that they could offer. This really couldn’t have been closer to the truth- and over the next 18 months there it was one of the most charming aspects to my little college and something that has assisted me in creating the work that I am most proud of.

The guidance given on the course was also something I’d like to speak on as even though I moaned my fair share (as we have all done) about what could be better- our tutors were amazing. We were provided so much freedom and given a lot of trust by our tutors which has been pivotal in the development of our work. The course is very independently driven- but overall I think thats one of the greatest opportunities I’ve been given whilst at college. The space to be self interested and independent.

Anyway… ramble over.

The rest of this blog post will be a small portfolio tour and also a timeline of the things I’ve achieved over the past 18 months/ 2 years.

GURLZ Zine

‘Gurlz Gurlz Gurlz’ is the zine me and two other people on my course were approached about creating by The Manchester Art Gallery, in conjunction with a project they were doing with our college called ‘Future Creatives’. They gave us a very brief project idea which was essentially creating a zine. Everything else was essentially up to us. This project was created with the intention of giving young female creatives a space to exhibit there work and their voice. We took to social media to advertise entries and after a few weeks, our little team of three had a meeting, deciding which works we wanted to include.

From then on, we decided on a layout, colour palette, a name and all the extra little tweaks. One of the two other girls involved in the project was the only one of us with decent photoshop skills, so she headed the project. Creating every page individually and checking in with me and Georgia every so often to run her queries/ ask for our opinions.

The project was finally accepted, printed and launched in March 2019, and sold in the Manchester Art gallery gift shop over the moths following.

This project was my first experience working on anything artistically outside of the college environment and it certainly taught me lots of things. From asking the correct questions to understanding the process behind a project of the sort. This was such an exciting moment for me as a young woman and I am so grateful to the Manchester art gallery, the two other girls on the project with me and all of the people who came down to our launch event.

FIRST COLLEGE EXHIBITION & SELF DIRECTED PROJECT

This is my exhibition space. Which consisted of multiple different pieces. The project was about my experience completely offline, without a phone for a month. I did this to evaluate how the internet (or lack of it) affected different parts of my life.

The project or the work was essentially how I recorded the process and how I responded to my findings.

I responded in multiple mediums. During the month I worked on an archive book (pictured below) which was essentially a visual diary. Containing dairy entries, letters received, notes made and pictures taken during the sabbatical. I’d say this is the first piece of work that I am still very proud of and enjoy looking through again and again. For me this is where I began making better work and finding my own style.

I also wrote a long analysis of different aspects of my life and how I’d found being offline affected those. This was exhibited on the wall. From anxiety levels to my dream cycle, this document was very thorough and helped me feel very consolidated and accomplished in how I’d used my project to inform and educate me.

The final aspect of this body of work was a short sensory video I’d made. Recording all of the things I’d created space to recognise without the distraction of my phone. With beautiful scenes from nature, sounds around us in the city and small moments with friends; the video piece was a lovely little slice of my month prior.

This book feels very nostalgic and cinematic when I look back through it. Which is exactly what I hoped to capture. It is a beautiful time capsule.

Manchester Art Gallery project 2020

This year we were lucky enough to be invited to work alongside The Manchester Art gallery again on yet another ‘Future Creatives’ project. For this project we were given a brief to make work about how we feel as creatives in the city. The brief was all about Manchester. After we had all created work, we would hand it into the gallery on the deadline and they would further shortlist people and decide who would be offered on opportunity to be featured in their ‘publication’.

For this brief, I had pretty much decided to work as if we didn’t have a brief because thats how I work best. So I began exploring lots of different mediums, and it was in this brief that I began to discover a whole new process and a whole new medium, that I have now taken through with me to my most recent project and coined as my ‘thing’.

This consisted of me taking images of my friends, buildings and scenes in Manchester- creating collages with them (on paper)& scanning those collages in. Experimenting with the printer in inverting colours, messing around printing on acetate & photocopying different colours/ sections ontop of each eachother.

This was essentially some very basic, DIY photoshop as my skills were next to none and this is how I created all of my pieces for this project. Which looking back is very impressive to me.

Very surprisingly, I was picked by MAG to have my work in the publication. Which meant the image chosen by them would be featured in there 30+ page broadsheet which was designed to enable the work to be used as posters, up on billboards around the city and available to purchase in their gift shop. Again- another really exciting project.

These were my original images created for the brief.

This was the final product.

I was also lucky enough be able to takeover the Manchester Art Gallery instagram page, documenting the exciting events leading up to the launch of our billboards/ the newspaper and then do a speech at the launch event. All very crazy.

Supporting our friends who helped curate a show at The Whitworth art gallery

Two of our friends were involved in the young contemporaries group at The Whitworth Art Gallery and spent months helping curate an exhibition there called ‘utopia’. So one of my favourite moments has to be supporting my friends who were involved in this. It was a beautiful show and I was so proud of them.

Creating my very own zine & learning photoshop!

The last project I was able to do in college (before covid) was fortunately my favourite so far. In this project I was inspired to uncover some of the hidden history of women within the arts; after reading the book ‘invisible women’ which had been gifted to me several months before, and bringing into focus my favourite painting in The Manchester Art gallery- ‘Sappho’ by Augustine Mengin. The reason that painting inspired me to begin my project was because after admiring her form I realised that Sappho was more than a nude painted by a man. After doing some research into Sappho, I began to learn who she was and the ground breaking things she had done.

I wanted to explore these women and share there lives.

The project consisted of a lot of documenting, all of my research was followed up by a piece and informed by what I’d discovered. A type of visual research. This really helped me to continue generating ideas and prevented me from becoming stagnant in my practical work.

At the end of the project, I had a lot of work but didn’t want to create a single final piece as such because my exploration into the topic was by no means over. I still felt very passionately towards my project and didn’t feel comfortable concluding it yet.

This is when I decided to create a zine. It was the perfect way to document my process and exhibit all of my favourite pieces without having to seal the project shut. However- creating a zine required me to use photoshop and In-design to create it digitally. So it could be sent to print (for 50+ copies).

I had no idea how to use photoshop let alone in-design, however with the help of my friends and youtube, somehow (I still have no idea how) I managed to create the whole thing digitally. Scanning in my collages at a high resolution, editing them and then creating my zine- page by page. This is one of my biggest achievements because when I started college one of my goals was to learn how to use photoshop and it was getting to the point that I didn’t think it would ever happen. Now I realise I just needed to challenge myself and I could have done it all along. That taught me a lot about reaching goals and stretching out of my comfort zone in order to expand my skill set.

These were a few of my original collages.

These are a few of my In- design pages whilst the zine was in the final stages of creation.

This was the final outcome. My zine in print.

Pop Up Exhibition at The Manchester Art Gallery

In early January, me and a friend approached The Manchester Art gallery proposing that they allow a small group of us college students to host a pop-up exhibition in one of their spaces. Due to the fact we’d been getting to know the team at MAG for just under two years and had both worked with them closley before on multiple projects- they said yes.

They proposed that we use the front, ground floor gallery space, that was under refurbishment and waiting for its next exhibition to be installed. So after we’d worked out dates and time, concepts and basic arraignments; I was invited in to look at the gallery space. The space was huge, light and fairly intimidating- but exciting at the same time.

This was the space.

As you can see there are big windows towards the front which was very exciting and also ALOT of space. We began talking about how we’d go about using the space and Emma took us through certain rules the gallery had regarding what and how we used it. Firstly, we were not allowed to put anything on the walls. Which made complete sense but also posed a fair few challenges for us to overcome as a group. Secondly, untested electricals were not permitted/ insured to be used inside the gallery. Again, absolutely makes sense. However, did call for some problem solving on our behalf.

After coming back and having a group meeting, we decided we would make our own structures to exhibit the work and began planning with Cynthia what they would look like and how they would be made. We then organised the class into days over the holidays that we could come in and work on them.

Unfortunately as I started to discover happens a fair bit when organising these things, lots of people failed to show and it was left to the select few to hold fort and pull through.

This we did and over a 2 week period, in a mad rush just before the show- we designed, constructed and painted all of our structures (with so much help from our technician) 🙂 (thank you Cynthia)

After making them, all was ready to be brought over to the gallery, which is luckily less that 5 minuets away by car from our city centre campus.

We loaded the van full and headed straight over to the gallery to set up.

Setting up took a long time, and as only I and maybe two others had seen the space- there was a lot of changing plans upon arrival. However, it did all work out in the end after hours of touching up the paint, rearranging work and assessing the entire layout of our exhibit.

We were finally done and all we had left was to attend the event the next day.

This was our final exhibition and it was amazing. I was so proud of all of our work and how many people came and loved it.

Little did we know that this would be one of the last times we were all together before covid. So I feel very grateful that we were able to do this all together as a group and that The Manchester Art gallery were kind enough to let us. This was the final show we didn’t get to have and it felt like a real celebration of us.

I feel so lucky when reading back through all of the projects I’ve worked on and things that I’ve accomplished over the past two years.

These for me have been the highlights of being a young creative and my first experience really pursuing art. It has made me so happy to be around such creative and loving people whist doing it. I wish I’d been aware of this possibility in school.

So thank you to The Manchester College & our tutors for being the foundation and The Manchester Art Gallery a catalyst. And to all the people I’ve become friends with along the way that continuously inspire, support and encourage me.

If you’ve made it all the way down this long ramble- thank you for reading 🙂

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