Artist Frank Bowling donates two new scholarships to MA Fine Art at Chelsea

Frank Bowling at home © Gavin Freeborn.

Frank Bowling at home © Gavin Freeborn.

Two MA Fine Art students from the UK and Europe will have the opportunity to apply for their course fees to be fully paid this year, thanks to a kind donation from artist and Chelsea alumnus Frank Bowling OBE, RA. 

To celebrate the launch of these new scholarships, which will support ten students over the next five years, we visited him at his home a stone’s throw from Chelsea’s Millbank site to talk about his long career as a successful painter on both sides of the Atlantic and what inspired him to want to support the artists of tomorrow.

Frank Bowling became an artist in 1956 after completing his National Service which saw him employed as a clerk in the RAF. On meeting the artist Keith Critchlow and sitting for a portrait by him, he says he got a feeling suddenly, out of the blue, that “poetry was the best way to talk to myself, about myself” and began to write. Now known for his painting, he first picked up a paintbrush while looking for a more physically-involving form of self-expression. “What inspired me to make the move was that I felt, on being introduced to painting particularly, that I was using more of myself – I was using my body – to deliver the material onto the surface of the canvas.  It seemed to me more all encompassing than sitting at a desk with a blank piece of paper trying to deliver what you’re feeling and thinking.”

He hasn’t given up on language entirely, however. “A blank canvas is much more inviting to me than a blank page. Though I’m constantly scribbling this, that and the other. I play with words in my titling using riddles and hints, because the paintings are there to deliver their own message and if you can open a door to the content of the stuff on the surface, all the better. Just yesterday someone was asking me about one of my titles!”

Having decided he wanted to study visual art, he joined Chelsea before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1959. At the RCA, his fellow students included David Hockney to whom he lost out on the gold medal when they both graduated in 1962. Frank showed us his silver medal which happens to be sitting in its box on the coffee table, and I spied some spots of red paint along the edges. It has clearly been with him to the studio once or twice.

Frank has had the same studio in Elephant and Castle for the past 30 years, and at the age of 78, in spite of some health problems, he still visits it to paint for at least two hours every day.

Frank Bowling OBE, RA In his studio, London, 2008. Photograph: Luke Potter

Frank Bowling OBE, RA, in his studio, London, 2008. Photograph: Luke Potter

Once he had left college, he visited New York in the mid-1960s, and it was here that he moved from figurative to the more abstract work that he still makes today. Indeed, he still has a home there in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn with a view of the bridge and, as in London, right by the river. There, his studio is in the same building in which he lives, and Frank describes the time he spends there as an idyllic existence, hearing “the musical rattle of the subway trains over Manhattan Bridge” as he listens to jazz or classical music on the radio.

Though he is no longer able to spend half the year there, he still visits. Indeed, his next visit to New York will be for a show of new work at his gallery, Spanierman Modern, which opens this month, and has also financially supported an arts centre in New Jersey that was founded by a friend of his, allowing them to buy the building and create a sustainable complex dedicated to art, music and dance.

It is clear that he thinks it’s important to offer support to other practitioners where and when he can, an instinct which can be traced back to his membership of the artist-run The London Group which was set up in 1913 as a counter-balance to institutions such as the Royal Academy. Though still a member and former vice chancellor of the group, Frank has since become the first black artist to be elected a Royal Academician.  When asked what drove his decision to set up these scholarships for MA Fine Art students at Chelsea, it seems that it was a straight-forward decision to make. “The thing is, it’s always the simple things that are so difficult to explain. Clearly my own life informs the decisions to do things like this: when I was a student, if there was somewhere I could have gotten a scholarship to avoid having to ask my parents for support I would have done it.”

“My own agreement to do this is informed by that experience and I can only say that my fortunes having changed, it seemed to me rather a waste to give the money to a government that is not particularly supportive of cultural heritage.” He adds, “I’m not grumbling about the state of government or anything, I just know culture comes last on the list. By the time I was teaching [at Camberwell College of Arts] Mrs Thatcher came along and all the students’ support systems vanished overnight – no grants, you couldn’t get materials…”

“What it did is expose yet another aspect of culture: people who want to make creative things will do it anyway, they’ll do it with anything! Put an artist under pressure and they will find a way of coping and my contribution here is a way of facilitating that. Artists will always do what they have to do and find ways of doing it, but if I can find ways to alleviate some of that stress then you’re duty bound to do it.”

Frank Bowling, Hafenlicht, 2007, acyrlic on canvas.  Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London.  Copyright of the Artist.

Frank Bowling, Hafenlicht, 2007, acyrlic on canvas. Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London. Copyright of the Artist.

The London Group was founded in part by artists who would go on to found the Vorticist movement, and Frank still identifies with a modernist tradition in his work today. Inspired while in America by the abstract expressionists and colour field paintings, the influences are still visible in the works he makes. Among the artists he mentions as he talks are Matisse, whose work he is “rethinking” and Auerbach, whose work at the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill recently “transfixed” him with “vicious brush strokes”.

However, he’s also looking further back into art history. “Right now I’ve been looking at Chinese art, which is partly to do with the fact that my dealer gave me a big bag of silk to use in the work I’m making and the Chinese painted on silk, so I’ve been looking at that in particular.  I’m using the silk in a very different way, but I’m looking at the way silk has been involved in the making of art in history.  I’m still quite visited by a lot of classical African art such as works by the Bambara and since what I do is extemporizing all the time, it’s coming from nowhere, coming from everywhere and coming from me.  I don’t feel inhibited by hints in my work of other cultures, I feel it’s available to me and I can use it if I can make works that have that ingredient of modernism.”

“Novelty is a large ingredient in modernist art and of course, like anything else, novelty can be excessive and you can get ‘bling’ rather than art.  I’m more concerned with carrying on the modernist tradition than locating myself into any sort of cultural bracket.”

Frank Bowling, As Above So Below, 1982,  acrylic on canvas.   Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London. Copyright of the Artist.

Frank Bowling, As Above So Below, 1982, acrylic on canvas.
Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London. Copyright of the Artist.

Indeed, with regards to this aspect of his work, he admits that he has been frustrated in the past by being pigeonholed as a black artist, and the expectations this gave people about what his work should look like and be about. Born in Guyana, South America, his family settled in the UK when Frank was 15 years old. Yet his thoughts in response to Chelsea’s recent appointment of Paul Goodwin and Sonia Boyce as Chairs of Black Art and Design are perhaps somewhat unexpected. “I think terminology can be excluding – I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘black art’, I think black people make good art.”  He is supportive of both Paul and Sonia’s work, however, and is looking forward to seeing how the new roles have an impact at the level of higher education.

With our time at his flat coming to a close, we decided to end the conversation by asking him if he had any words of advice for the students that are about to embark on their post-graduate studies. “Keep on keeping on – just hang in there and on with it. The system is daunting and younger artists don’t realise that. When you start making art there’s something called ‘the career‘ that comes behind it and that’s the most difficult bit to deal with. It’s almost as if you can’t escape ‘career’. The art part is organic, natural, but the career concerns can be daunting and in fact a lot of people become disenchanted with the activity because they tend to weigh down your spirit.”

“Remember to go back and get on with your work. Have a good time in your studio, that’s where it’s at.”

 

Find out about the Frank Bowling Scholarships, and other opportunities for support in funding  your postgraduate studies at University of the Arts London on our Postgraduate Scholarships page.

Frank Bowling, Bartica Born I, 1968, acrylic on canvas.  Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London. Copyright of the Artist.

Frank Bowling, Bartica Born I, 1968, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the Artist and Hales Gallery, London. Copyright of the Artist.

You can find out more about studying MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts by visiting our course page.

Chelsea FdA Interior Design students helping create “exemplar” student accommodation!

Exemplar

Chelsea FdA Interior Design students are collaborating for the second year running with student accommodation developers Alumno on an exciting new site on the busy Stratford High Street.

This new development will become an exciting hub for students including a cafe/gallery space, 431 purpose-built student rooms as well a plus a range of artists’ studios. A total of 45 students in ten design teams will play a hands-on role in the development.

Initial approval granted for plans described as “having the potential to be an exemplar of student accommodation” by the Quality Review Panel of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Planning Department

Tomris Tangaz, Course Leader of FdA Interior Design at Chelsea, explains: “Our projects with Alumno have been a great success. They show how education and industry can work together for mutual benefit.”

This project follows up on last year’s redevelopment of the former Southwark Town Hall into a complex with student accommodation, a publicly accessible theatre and café, and artists’ studios.

David Campbell, Alumno’s managing director explains the value of working with Chelsea students: “We were really impressed with the student ideas for the Southwark site and the best of these will be incorporated into the interior design of the new buildings to provide facilities that closely match the needs and tastes of prospective users.”

For more information on the project, please follow this link.

Great work from our FdA students! We’ll be keeping a close eye on these exciting developments in East London.

 

Embassy Gardens student winners announced

Winners have been announced following a competition launched by Chelsea College of Arts and property developers Ballymore for students to design site hoardings for their Embassy Gardens scheme in London. The winners, selected from submissions from the College’s BA Graphic Design Communication and BA Fine Art programmes are: Grace Arnott-Hayes, Simone Barnes, Danielle Field, Akshitha Victor and Phoebe Willison.

This new development is located close to the College, and when complete will create a new living and working riverside district for London, which will see its first residents move in during 2015. Students were invited to submit designs which will Ballymore asked to create “a stunning visual interpretation of the neighbourhood for the hoardings around the almost 500 acre site”.

 The five winners have now been announced, selected by a judging panel including design critic Stephen Bayley and Wandsworth Council Leader Ravi Govindia.

Section of hoarding design by Grace Arnott-Hayes, BA Graphic Design.

Section of hoarding design by Grace Arnott-Hayes, BA Graphic Design.

Discussing her inspiration for the project, Grace Arnott-Hayes from BA Graphic Design Communication saidMy inspiration for this project was People essentially. I wanted to focus on creating an image that didn’t just appeal to a certain audience, but resonated with many. The idea was to have something playful and vibrant for the area. The subject of the design is ‘Conversation’ – whether that be over heard in the street or on the underground.’

Section of hoarding design by Simone Barnes, BA Fine Art at Chelsea.

Section of hoarding design by Simone Barnes, BA Fine Art at Chelsea.

Talking about the scale of the finished pieces, Simone Barnes, BA Fine Art said  “I think having the work hanging at such a large format for a long period is exciting as it allows different interpretations to be taken and for these interpretations to change over time. Busy people, who may only see snippets of the poem and they pass, will have more of the poem revealed over time. Again this will change the viewers interpretation of the language used.”

The hoardings will be installed in early April and will be in situ throughout the summer. 

If you are interested to find out more about these courses, please visit our BA (Hons) Fine Art and our BA (Hons) Graphic Design Communication course pages.

Find our more about how we work with businesses and organisations on our Business & Innovation pages.

 

Section of hoarding design by *****, BA Graphic Design.

Zabludowicz Collection Future Map Prize Winner Jason File in Conversation

Copyright - Jason File

Life Copy 2012 – Copyright Jason File

The Zabludowicz Collection Future Map Prize offers one outstanding UAL graduate, who is exhibiting at Future Map, a £3000 award and curatorial support to make a limited edition artwork. Join Maitreyi Maheshwari, Acting Director, Zabludowicz Collection in conversation with the winner of this year’s prize – Jason File – to discuss the artist’s practice and aspirations for the future.

Jason File graduated in 2013 with two first-class BA degrees in Fine Art: one from the Chelsea College of Arts, where he was joint winner of the Ovalhouse Prize, and the other from the Royal Academy of Art in The Netherlands, where he won the Academy Thesis Prize at graduation and was hired as a lecturer in Fine Art starting in September 2013.

Employing elements of real life as a material in his multimedia practice, File’s work reflects on the function of institutions and networks in society, and their relationships vis-à-vis individuals. This work remains broadly focused on official institutions, from galleries and museums to government, media, corporate, and legal structures, as well as informal relationships in society. By creating and exploiting overlaps between real life and art objects or performances, File interrogates the identity, authenticity, value and purpose of objects and events. He often uses his own relationships with institutions to employ materials or contexts that are shielded from aesthetic critique—“non-art” environments—as a means of exploring institutional processes.

Catch the last day of the Future Map show this Sunday 6th of April and their conversation will take place 3-4pm at Space Studios, 129-131 Mare Street, E8 3RH.

 

MA Graphic Design Communication Work in Progress Show 2014

MAGDC

Current students on our MA Graphic Design Communication course have been very busy this week in particular, as they hung a deeply inspirational Work in Progress Show in our Cookhouse Gallery on campus here at Chelsea College of Arts.

There was a real buzz around the space as they put their final touches to the exhibition yesterday afternoon, knowing that a number of selected VIPs were coming to last night’s private event. Students we matched with a member of industry so that they could not only network but discuss their work and how it relates to industry in general.

It’s events like these that really open up opportunity for students to either connect with industry for future direct employment or through freelance/consultancy work. Looking around the space it one felt that each member of industry might surely want to delve into a number if not most of the pieces on show.

The work ranges from print to digital, modern to classical and with students from Taiwan, China, Korea, Portugal, Austria, Brazil and Japan…to name but a few…you can imagine the display of international talent present.

You don’t have to imagine…you can come to the private view this evening from 5.30-7.30pm …open to all…or attend the show tomorrow between 11am and 5pm.

 

Alumnus Peter Doig exhibits work made ‘BC’ or, Before Chelsea

Peter Doig, At the Edge of Town, 1986.  Oil on canvas.  Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

Peter Doig, At the Edge of Town, 1986. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

Artist Peter Doig is currently enjoying an exhibition of his early work  at Michael Werner’s new gallery in Mayfair, London.  He studied his MA at Chelsea College of Arts at the age of 31, having also attended UAL’s own Wimbledon College of Arts and Central Saint Martins some years previously, and has since gone on to forge an international reputation as one of the most exciting, highly skilled artists working today.

Revealing, some might say bravely, the formative works made before his career took off, including several paintings and drawings being shown for the first time, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to explore the roots of his approach to painting which were to revitalize the medium at a critical moment  in the early 1990s.  His varied stylistic and technical influences give valuable insight into the process of thinking and making for this artist who is today known for his singular vision.

Installation view of Peter Doig's Early Works exhibition, courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

Installation view of Peter Doig’s Early Works exhibition, courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

In his review of the exhibition, Time Out’s art editor Martin Coomer suggested that “the show might better be called ‘Peter Doig: BC’ – before Chelsea College of Art and Design, from which Doig emerged in 1990 with an MA, fully formed as the painter we revere today.”

In an interview with the Financial Times’s chief art critic, Jackie Wullschlager, Peter said of his time at Chelsea “[it] was very different from Goldsmiths [where Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst and other YBAs studied]. It was old, solid British painterly abstraction. People were really into materials, for the first time I saw people buying expensive paint. I started to think what you could do with materials as well as with subject. Some of the things I achieved were because I was using better materials. I learnt a lot at Chelsea – that’s when I made the canoe paintings.”

Critically acclaimed for offering a rare look at the way in which artistic ideas are formed, this show is recommended particularly for budding artists by the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones whose review encourages “all would-be artists… to visit. The genius who arrives fully formed is still a dangerous idea. In reality artists learn.”

You have until the 31 May 2014 to the exhibition at Michael Werner, 22 Upper Brook Street, London W1K 7PZ.

Please visit our postgraduate course pages to find out more about studying MA Fine Art at Chelsea, and about the bursaries, scholarships and financial support that is available should you choose to do so.

Peter Doig, boom, boom, boom, boom (the sublime), 1982, Oil on canvas. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

Peter Doig, boom, boom, boom, boom (the sublime), 1982, Oil on canvas. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, London.

the tongue shapes words all too quickly

Video still: Mark Dean, The Veil of Veronica (offset Halo), 2012.

Video still: Mark Dean, The Veil of Veronica (offset Halo), 2012.

Opening next week at our Triangle Gallery, the tongue shapes words all too quickly is a group exhibition, described by the organisers artists Vicky Falconer and Irena Kalođera as “an experimental project”.

Sidestepping thematic positions on exhibition making, the show takes a more intuitive approach, bringing together the work of sixteen artists at various stages in their careers, and following the ensuing dynamics.

With its quickly changing exhibition programme, the Triangle Space offers a setting in which to work informally and responsively, colliding diverse practices from moving image to ceramic sculptures and text-based interventions. In putting things together, and allowing connections between works to articulate themselves gradually or spontaneously and at different registers, the exhibition will include new and untested works along with those reconfigured for the space.

Artists exhibiting include: Shahin Afrassiabi, Elisabeth Ballet, Richard Bevan, Simona Brinkmann, Melanie Counsell, Mark Dean, Vicky Falconer, Lucy Harris, Melanie Jackson, Hannah James, Irena Kalođera, Isabel Mallet, Jayne Parker, Melanie de Quincey, Henrietta Simson and Phillip Warnell.

The private view takes place on Tuesday 1st April 2014, 5.30 – 7.30pm, and the exhibition is then open on the following days: Wednesday 2nd April and Thursday 3rd April, 12 – 7.30pm; Friday 4th April, 12 – 5pm.

The Triangle Space and other spaces at Chelsea are also available for hire.  You can find out more about these venues on our Business and Innovation pages.

 

Student commission celebrates 25 years of the Discovery Channel

Aram Khas, DiscoverMe.

Aram Khas, DiscoverMe.

Aram Khas, currently studying BA (Hons) Fine Art, is the first Chelsea student to have been commissioned by the Disocvery Channel this year to make a new work for installation in their London offices, their European HQ.  His striking piece, DiscoverMe, consists of Polaroid negatives and engraved words on aluminium and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Discovery Channel.

He was briefed to create an artwork which represented how the Discovery Channel has affected people’s lives and experiences over the past 25 years.  For this, Aram asked employees who use the building for a word that best describes their experience working at the Discovery networks. 25 of these responses were selected for inclusion in the final work, when Aram photographed them.

The private view of Aram Khas's DiscoverMe at the Discovery Channel's European Headquarters last week.

The private view of Aram Khas’s DiscoverMe at the Discovery Channel’s European Headquarters last week.

Asked about the piece, Aram said “The use of words have brought a different meaning into a way of looking at a portrait. The fact that people were chosen through their words and then photographed, meaning the photographer (artist), had not seen a person before reading their words, opens a unique way to an insight rather than what we see as a portrait.”   He goes on to explain how the use of negatives help the viewer to view an ‘imagined’ image which is partly created by the ‘insight’ words written underneath.

This project is the second year of a partnership between Chelsea College of Arts and the Discovery Network.  Last year, four students’ works were selected, and each was displayed on The Great White Wall, a prominent exhibition space at their European HQ in London.  This year, Aram was one of three students to be chosen.

Speaking about his practice, he said “I have been focusing my practice on photography and its origin recently.  Camera obscura and the negative image it produces on the silver chemical of paper or film is much of fascination to me.  Colours are washed, blacks are whites and whites are blacks. It is almost a reverse point of ‘reality of the reality itself’. It is hard to see the real image unless one uses own imagination.  What is a real image? What is real and what is unreal in the first place? Is imagination a real thing or even a reality?”

Aram’s piece will be on dispaly for four months.  You can read about last year’s prize on the Discovery Channel blog, and watch this space for information about the other winners.

Aram Khas and his piece, DiscoverMe.

Aram Khas and his piece, DiscoverMe.

Future Map 2014

Circus by Elizabeth Lands

Circus by Elizabeth Lands

Future Map returns this week for its sixteenth annual exhibition, showcasing the finest talent from UAL.  This year’s show takes place at SPACE in Hackney, a perfect venue to display the best of the next generation of visual artists and runs from 20 March – 6 April.

In total, 26 exciting new artists from across the colleges have been invited to exhibit their work, with nine of these coming from Chelsea’s BA (Hons) and MA Fine Art courses.  These are: Zehra Arslan, BA (Hons) Fine Art,Abigail Booth, BA (Hons) Fine Art,  Han Byul Kang, MA Fine Art, Jason File, BA (Hons) Fine Art, Libby Ireland, BA (Hons) Fine Art, Elizabeth Lands, BA (Hons) Fine Art, Jessica Roper, BA (Hons) Fine Art, Adrien Vouillot, BA (Hons) Fine Art and Redjade Yuan, MA Fine Art.

To lose the ground beneath one's feet by Zehra Arslan

To lose the ground beneath one’s feet by Zehra Arslan

All participants were selected by a judging panel of high profile experts including artist Laura Buckley, artist and Chair of Art and the Environment Lucy Orta and Saatchi CEO and curator Nigel Hurst. The full list of exhibitors can be found on the Future Map website, along with profiles, information about their work and the panellists.

At the opening night several prizes will be announced including: the £3,000 Zabludowicz Collection Future Map Prize, the £1,000 2014 UAL Future Map Prize for Drawing, Painting, Printmaking or Photography and the £1,000 2014 UAL Future Map Prize for Sculpture, Installation, Moving Image or Performance. The winners’ names will be revealed on Instagram and Twitter on the night using #futuremap

Follow UAL on Instagram to see the artists behind the scenes before the exhibition opens and find out about past Future Map exhibitors.  You can also follow #futuremap on social media to see updates and meet the artists.

Hyperborea by Andrien Vouillot

Hyperborea by Andrien Vouillot

Future Map runs 20 March – 6 April at SPACE, 129 – 131 Mare Street, London, E8 3RH

Lumen Prize symposium and exhibition comes to Chelsea

passages

Passage by Bonjour Interactive Lab, France.

Chelsea College of Arts is pleased to be hosting the Lumen Prize Exhibition next week which will be on show at Chelsea’s Triangle Space Gallery from the 18 to 22 March.

The 2013 Lumen Prize Exhibition is a showcase of the winners of 2013′s Lumen Prize, named by The Guardian as “the world’s pre-eminent digital art prize” and celebrates the very best fine art created digitally from emerging and established artists globally. The goal of the prize is to focus the world’s attention on this exciting genre of fine art through an annual competition and global tour of the works selected by their imminent panel of judges of which Dean of Chelsea College of Arts, George Blacklock, is one.

There are 50 works in total on show in the exhibition, from 22 countries around the world.  It first first opened in October last year at ArcadeCardiff in Wales. It moved to NYIT Gallery 61, 16 W61st, New York City on November 1 and ran to November 9th.   Following its time at Chelsea, it will move to The Space in Hollywood Road, Hong Kong on June 10th. The global tour will finish at Treberfydd House, where the Lumen Prize was founded, in Powys, Wales in July.

Organised to coincide with the exhibition, the Lumen Symposium will take place on the 20 March from 2 – 5pm.  Dr Lois Rowe, Programme Director, BA Fine Art, Wimbledon, will chair a panel consisting of Jonathan Kearney, Programme Director, MA Fine Art Digital, Camberwell and John Hill of Lucky PDF  who will discuss a variety of topics concerning art and digital media with Lumen Prize exhibiting artists Nicholas Feldmeyer, Genetic MooDavid Gould and Katerina Athanasopoulou.

The afternoon will be introduced by Lumen CEO Carla Rapoport and Doug Dodds, Senior Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  The symposium will be followed by the Lumen Prize Exhibition Private View.

The symposium and exhibition private view are open to all UAL Students, Alumni, Artists and Academics. To reserve a place, please email: ccw.rsvp@arts.ac.uk.  Those of you who can’t make it can watch the symposium online via a live stream which will also be available to see at Camberwell College.

Interview with Richard Deacon

 

Artist Richard Deacon with his sculpture Out of Order 2003 Photocredit: Tate Photography

Artist Richard Deacon with his sculpture Out of Order 2003, Photocredit: Tate Photography

Richard Deacon is a Turner Prize-winning artist, known for his sculptures that make use of everyday and natural matierals to combine organic forms with elements of engineering.  He is also an alumnus of Chelsea College of Arts, joining as a part time student after graduating from Central Saint Martins and the Royal College, before going on to teach BA and MA sculpture studetns at Chelsea for a decade.

Currently enjoying a retrospective exhibition at neighbouring Tate Britain, he made a return visit to Chelsea on 25 February to speak to students and alumni about his career, his work and his inspirations in conversation with his gallerist, Nicholas Logsdail of Lisson Gallery.

We caught up with him before his talk to find out more about his links with our college, and hear about everything from the importance of art history for sculptors to his views on making as a collective act.

We started by asking about his experiences of Chelsea College of Arts: “I was briefly a student at Chelsea and I only studied here part time after I finished at the Royal College doing a post graduate course in art history.   The course was a college diploma, non-authenticated and was a result  of the art history tutors noticing that graduates coming out of the other colleges were interested in art history but were insufficiently qualified to get into the courses that were available.

The course conducted by going to look at things – we were assigned objects to go and see, asked to write papers and come back and discuss our thoughts.”

Richard Deacon After 1998, Wood, stainless steel, aluminium and resin.  Tate. Purchased from funds provided by CGNU plc 2002.  Photocredit: Tate Photography

Richard Deacon After 1998, Wood, stainless steel, aluminium and resin. Tate. Purchased from funds provided by CGNU plc 2002. Photocredit: Tate Photography

Having studied at Chelsea, he then moved into teaching: “I first taught at Chelsea in the art history department.  When I began looking for part time teaching jobs I thought that coming from art history I had a bit of an edge over other people – I had a bit of a mission: I thought that sculpture students were taught art history very badly as they always got taught the history of painting when what they wanted was the history of sculpture.

What I felt I could offer was a sculpture-based approach to 20th century art.  At Chelsea I was initially just teaching sculpture students.  Then I ran a seminar which changed rom being about the history of 20th Century sculpture to the history of sculpture of the world, from the year dot to now.  It was a cosmic explosion, like a big bang!  The course went from hand axes through to works by Rodin.  I taught through museum visits, so the subject matter was selective as it was about what we had access too.

We looked at Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and Roman work at the British Museum.  It was an attempt to provide a global history through the use of materials and by being able to understand that some sculptural issues were common across countries and historical periods.  One of the pieces we always looked at was an Egyptian two figure composition.  What was interesting about it was there are four variants on the same object, all executed by the same artist, where you an see him working out compositional issues, trying to get two figures out of a single block.

I was also teaching in Sheffield at the time on a sculpture course, when I started teaching on the BA Sculpture Course at Chelsea with Shelagh Cluett.

That’s when I realised that I had to stop teaching art history because if I wanted to do it properly it would be a lot of work.  I could scratch the surface quite adequately and could continue doing so, but if I really wanted to start talking about the stuff I was interested in, I would have to stop making work.”

Richard Deacon, Fold 2012 installation at Tate Britain.  Photocredit: Tate Photography, Lucy Dawkin

Richard Deacon, Fold 2012 installation at Tate Britain. Photocredit: Tate Photography, Lucy Dawkin

He first taught on the undergraduate sculpture course, where he taught artists such as Andrew Sabin in mid-1980s.  “When Shelagh Cluett took over as course director we used to teach together – we had a double act.  I liked that ay of teaching, instead of one-to-one tutorials you got a two-to-one, which the students were delighted with!

Then I moved into teaching on the MA programme at  Bagleys Lane, still working with Shelagh a lot on the fine art MA in the sculpture department.   Chelsea always had a strong sculpture department but also always had a good mixed-media studio early on.”

Richard Deacon, Fold 2012 installation at Tate Britain.  Photocredit: Tate Photography, Lucy Dawkin

Richard Deacon, Fold 2012 installation at Tate Britain. Photocredit: Tate Photography, Lucy Dawkin

When asked about the ways in which students studying at Chelsea today now studying BA Fine Art work across mediums and not on a practice- or method-speicific course, Richard highlighted somes of the ways in which arts education has changed in the last 30 years: “Progressively as things have gone on, the idea of there being any difference between the kinds of practices that you have has eroded.  Object-making and sculpture has morphed into a fine art activity that doesn’t have a particular material or object basis.

Painting is different, it has stayed much more closely attached to its support and surface and it has benefited from the explosion of ways in which imagery is handled, whereas object-making lagged behind.  I think it has changed again in the last 10 years as processes of hand-making have started to return.  There was a time in the early 2000s that high-tech solutions and imagery dominated studio practice which is not really true at the moment.”

For Those Who Have Ears #2 1983, Richard Deacon. Photocredit: Tate Photography

For Those Who Have Ears #2 1983, Richard Deacon. Photocredit: Tate Photography

Richard Deacon has often referred to himself as a ‘fabricator’.  When asked for his take on the dawn of ‘high tech’ and its implications for his work he was quick not to dismiss the evolution of technology, though it does not often feature obviously in his best known works: “I have collaborated a lot with people who use technology in their work and I’m always interested in developments – I’m not anti technology.  I think the answer to that is that people of my generation are in the fantastically lucky position of having material knowledge and then being given the capacity of IT tools that provide double the information.

But I do prefer watching things in the cinema – this is  not really to do with objects but there is a link. I have recently noticed that the cinematic has disappeared as an experience.  Most people who engage with moving imagery these days do so on a small device which I find difficult, I like being immersed climatically and with other people.  It has definitely become a much more solitary experience.  I think there are going to be consequences of that, but I’m not yet sure what they are.

It seems apparent to me that certain types of collective actions like knitting have become resurgent.  Previously, making things was an exclusive activity.  Today, I see that it has become more inclusive and in the case of cinema there has been a reversal.”

If The Shoe Fits 1981, Richard Deacon. Photocredit: Tate Photography

If The Shoe Fits 1981, Richard Deacon. Photocredit: Tate Photography

Giving his thoughts on the value postgraduate study, he concedes that his experience varies wildly from that of students today, particularly where funding and fees are concerned.  With regards to the importance of research-based study for someone with a primarily practical, fine art background, he spoke about the evolution of his work throughout his education.  “I will confound your expectations here!  When I was at St Martins, I did a lot of performance work.  It wasn’t until I went to the Royal College and into their Environmental Media department that I started really making things, sculpture.”

“Learning about the history was important to me because sculpture students were left to feel a little bit as if it was for someone else rather than for us, looking at paintings asking ‘what’s that go to do with me?’.    To me, it’s still important, and definitely an under explored history.”

Richard Deacon is showing at Tate Britain until 27 April 2014.

Find out more about studying at Chelsea on our courses page.

Oscar win for Steve McQueen

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt.  Image courtesy of AMPAS via HitFix.com

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt. Image courtesy of AMPAS via HitFix.com

Last night in Los Angeles, Chelsea alumnus Steve McQueen made history by becoming the first black director to pick up the Oscar for Best Picture in the history of the Academy Awards.  His film, 12 Years A Slave has been critically acclaimed, also winning the Bafta for best film, the Best Drama award at the Golden Globes earlier this month and won three awards at the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards .

In his moving acceptance speech, reported in full on the Independent website, he thanked his colleagues and family before paying tribute to the man upon whose memoir his powerful film was based: “The last word: everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today. Thank you very much. Thank you.”

The film also won Academy Awards for newcomer Lupita Nyong’o as Best Supporting Actress and best adapted screenplay based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man sold as a slave in pre Civil War Louisiana.

As we have previously reported, Steve, who studied for his Foundation degree here, has marked out his time at Chelsea as a seminal period of creative freedom, as reported widely in the media recently.  John Crossley, a tutor who taught Steve during this time, said:

“Steve had a quiet, sensitive and yet direct personae that was mirrored in his approach to his exploration of his ideas, which tended to involve performance and photography as a way of developing an identity. He was highly thought of by staff and students alike.”

You can find out more about studying for your Foundation Diploma at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon online, along with profiles of some of our recent alumni.