The 2017 Summer Residency at the Koppel Project Hive was an opportunity open to all artists renting a space in the Koppel Project studio complex. It allowed successful applicants to work in the Hive’s adjoining gallery space at street level on High Holborn for a number of weeks. Arranged over two floors with floor-to-ceiling windows at ground level, the generous spaces allowed the participating artists to spread out, expanding their normal working methods and interacting with one another as they worked. The large windows also served as an invitation to members of the public to come in and talk to the artists, or just take in the changing studio landscape as they passed by.
Having both recently graduated from the MFA Fine Art course at Wimbledon, myself and Daniel Curtis applied for the opportunity with the idea of building on a series of collaborative projects we had initiated during the two-year course. After the pressures of the recent degree show, the residency offered the perfect opportunity to pursue our on-going collaborative project and respond to a space outside of the art school environment. Alongside the work, it also gave us a chance to reflect on and share our experiences of the course and lay plans for the future.
At first glance our two practices might seem to have little in common, with Daniel working in sculpture and myself in drawing. Below the surface, however, lies a shared interest in form, abstraction and the idea of ‘not becoming’ – the state in which things point at or echo recognisable objects without becoming them. Our on-going collaborations draw on the resources of our respective approaches to examine these common areas in quick, light and intuitive ways that take us beyond the boundaries of our ordinary practices.
During the residency we created both individual and co-authored works spanning from sculpture to drawing and site-specific installation. Working with a variety of different media, from found objects to ‘difficult’ materials (those materials that have been sitting in the studio for ages without finding a form of expression), we set up a series of compositional games that would allow us to work quickly and intuitively together, responding to and modifying each other’s compositional choices.
In order to broaden the scope of the conversations we were having and push ourselves in new directions, we invited a series of artists whose work we both admire, and who are further ahead in their careers than us, to come and take part in the project. These artists – Olivia Bax, Shawn Stipling, Dominic Beattie and Charley Peters – were invited bring their own ‘difficult’ materials and add them to our growing pile. This added an extra dimension to the collaborations, pushing the work into unexpected new directions and creating a forum for advice and creative exchange.
We began with quick assemblages of found objects. First designating an installation space to work with, we chose three objects each, alternately placing them with the ability to modify the previous move if necessary. We then moved onto simple structures in balsa wood, again intervening with each other’s work, and sometimes limiting ourselves to 5×7″ frames as a starting point. From here we began responding directly to the gallery space, applying abstract structures to the walls and windows as echoes of the architectural features. The bright nature of the space heightened our awareness of shadows and reflections and this then fed back into the work. We recorded the assemblages and interventions in drawings and photographs, also as a way of re-evaluating and understanding the day’s work.
Shawn Stipling brought a splash of colour with his ‘difficult’ materials and led us to create colourful translucent geometric compositions for the window space, again starting with 5×7 frames. Olivia Bax immediately challenged the scale we were working with, encouraging us to think bigger and make the joins on our structures more explicit. With Dominic Beattie we made quick wall-based compositions from balsa and a found black paper bag, creating a collective assemblage that felt like an index of semaphores. With Charley Peters things became very playful, reconfiguring unresolved pieces into new iterations and mashing together seemingly incompatible materials.
The Koppel Project Hive is an ex-office building on High Holborn offering generously sized and affordable open-plan studio spaces to artists. They are particularly attractive solution for recent graduates as the open spaces foster a good sense of community and already house many 2016 UAL graduates.