‘Memory’ show flyer designed by Penny Watson, image courtesy of Sue Jones
About nine months ago I was offered some space in the permanent art-space at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford, there is space for a considerable number of prints – depending on size and orientation, and whilst I have more than enough prints to fill the space I very quickly came to the conclusion that it be a largely worthless pursuit simply to fill it with old prints, or maybe even new ones.
I wondered how I might develop the opportunity into an exercise that would supplement my studies and soon two ideas developed: firstly that as the OCA is a virtual establishment working with another student might help to develop ideas of collaboration which are required possibly more so with distance learning, but haven’t really been addressed by the college to date. And secondly, the idea of curating a show and attempting to apply professional rigour to the process of staging a thematically structured, multi-artist show, with a view to achieve the highest standards possible.
I have known fellow student Penny Watson – Marmalade – for longer than anyone on the course. I approached her via the college administration before I enrolled in level one to ask her opinion and for guidance and she was very helpful, very supportive and keen to provide straight forward advice. And whilst we have met a few times the fact that she lives a long way away from me ensures that we had to find virtual ways of collaboration, which didn’t entail social activities in the student bar. The decision to ask Penny to collaborate with me has meant that, not only will the show go on, but that it will be of a standard much higher than I would have managed on my own.
Memory became an idea because of it’s openness to interpretation – all photographs are of the past, by default, determined to be a record of sorts amongst many other things, of what was before and which is no longer present. Expressions of interest were requested of the level three students via the OCA last year and a timescale was developed leading up to the hanging on May 2nd.
We wanted to have work that provided the possibility for the artist to present a short narrative and so we decided that seven images in 20 inch X 16 inch frames would be appropriate, which limited the number of artists to seven. In the end we compromised on one artist who wanted 20 inches X 20 inches and one who only wanted to hang 6 images. We also had more expressions of interest than we had spaces for, and whilst it was a difficult job to inform those who didn’t make the ‘cut’ the down-selected artists decision was one that we agreed on without a great deal of discussion.
We took advice from Helen Warburton, who at the time was working as an Exhibitions Officer at the ffotogallery in Newport as well as an OCA tutor; her advice was rich in detail and experience, as well as extremely valuable to our thought processes.
A primary concern was to develop a show that looked like a show and not the collection of disparate students that we are. The benefit of a student year show at a conventional university is the collaborative element is taken for granted. I appreciate that there are difficulties in dealing with all the student’s egos et cetera, but the ready and available real time negotiation just isn’t an option for distance learners. So we planned to develop consistency into the project by nominating the framing policy, the frame size and style that will hopefully introduce a collective note to the works on show. The means by which the prints are hung at the site is via a fully professional hanging system, which means that obtaining consistent heights for the prints should not be an issue. We also determined the mount board type – although didn’t specify that board had to be used. In the event only one student eschewed mount board and had prints made to fit the frame on stiff board. At the time of writing this, i.e. pre hanging, the framed prints are waiting the date and transport to go to the show, and look very consistent – although the hung exhibition may prove to be another prospect.
There will be no private view (pv), there is no place to hold one within the hospital confines and so we may organize a ‘study visit’ to allow as many of the student artists to meet at one time. We have enlisted the help of Keith Greenough – one of the downselected artists – to help with the PR which will get into swing a week before the show is open to the public, OCA are also involved with the PR alongside Keith. A copy of the brochure that Penny designed is attached below as well as her guide and I shall come back to this subject after the exhibition has opened to relay my thoughts and add some images of the exhibition. We are hopeful for a study visit type of event, but haven’t organised anything yet – two months to go!