Our In The Beginning series continues as a conversation with Monica Santos, who is in her first year of BA Fine Art. Monica tells us about her journey to Chelsea and how she’s finding studying with us.
Hi Monica, please tell us how you come to be here at Chelsea?
I moved to London five years ago from Portugal with my family and spent a year studying English. I had a lovely teacher, who opened up an art club and she helped me to sort out my portfolio and see what my strengths are.
That’s how everything fell into place. She helped me get into level one and from there I did level two at Barnet Southgate College. Then I moved to Leicester and joined level three.
After which, I came back to London and went to the London College of Contemporary Art in Holborn, where I was inspired by my teachers and I learned about contextualising my physical art work.
Now I’m here at Chelsea, so my teachers really helped me to get where I am.
Which neighbourhood are you living in?
I’m living in East Ham. One of the few areas of East London that hasn’t yet been gentrified fully.
In the past few years I’ve also lived in Tottenham, Barnet and Finchley, as well as Leicester.
So when did you decide you wanted to come to Chelsea?
I applied for a number of universities but knew I wanted to stay in London. I started looking for facilities where I could make work that was very big and to the scale I’m used to working with as I specialise in sculpture. I like to work quite big. I was researching and saw Chelsea. The broadness of the Fine Art course suits me.
So you like the facilities at Chelsea?
I was looking for somewhere that was also friendly, with a workshop space and a studio space. I looked at other universities and not all of them had a fair amount of studio spaces for the number of students.
I know that here I can go to the workshops, talk about my work and what I’m planning to do. The technicians help us a lot by teaching us skills.
How did you find your portfolio and interview experience?
I loved it and I really enjoyed it. I was nervous beforehand but I was confident with my work. I got really good feedback for my portfolio and people seemed really excited.
How did you find the open day?
I enjoyed it, I saw all the workshops and the spaces and it just ticked all of my boxes really.
How do you like the environment of Chelsea now you’re here?
I really love it and everything around here, I can just cross the river and go to the Southbank Centre or walk to the Tate Modern and Tate Britain is just next door to Chelsea! It’s very cultural.
I find inspiration at these places or learn something new about an artist I didn’t know of before. There’s also a really nice boat ride from Tate to Tate and you can relax on your way across the river.
What is the concept behind the sculptures that you are making?
I enjoy making and the object and I love the materials that I use but I don’t usually focus on themes. I make the work, and then themes emerge.
How are you developing the work?
Now I am trying to create work that is easier for people to read. In my assessment I wrote that I thought found objects were something that everyone could relate to because they are self-explanatory and pretty common knowledge to everybody. However, by taking those objects out of their original context I may have frustrated my audience. So next I’m going to focus on the opposite, I’m going to make something with all the care in the world and see how people react to it.
Are there any areas of interest in popular culture that your work is relating to?
I think at the moment I am focusing within the art world itself. I may be forgetting about popular culture because I think the art world right now is set in its own ways. It frustrates me, so these boundaries are what I’m trying to work with. I think everything in the art world is not about making something one hundred percent original but about developing an old idea into something new.
Do you have any advice for prospective students or students in general?
Listen to everybody that gives you advice about your work but keep in mind that it is just that, advice, not instructions. Stay true to yourself.
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