Michael Crossan graduated from the MFA Fine Art course last year, and is now working at a studio based in Holborn called The Koppel Project and has shown his work in several exhibitions around London, including a show at the National Army Museum.
We spoke to Michael about what he’s been up to since graduating from Wimbledon College of Arts, his multi-disciplinary artistic practice and what he enjoyed most about the MFA.
What did you enjoy most about studying at Wimbledon?
The college is large enough to have all the facilities, studio space and skilled technicians you might need, yet small enough to retain a friendly, non-intimidating atmosphere. Even the surrounding area of Wimbledon is pleasant and adds to the experience.
The course tutors encouraged me to develop, reach beyond my comfort zone and incorporate new ideas and methods into my practice.
Finally, I found the variety of ages, nationalities, backgrounds and artistic interests of the other students on my course stimulating and inspiring.
What made you want to do an MFA and in what ways did the course develop your practice?
I had completed a two-year Fine Art course and felt that the MFA was a step forward that would develop my practice in ways that I could not achieve simply working on my own. I wanted to be moving toward a goal, and to meet and share studio space with other artists whose ideas would inform and expand my own. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work on several collaborative projects while at Wimbledon.
The MFA course developed my practice by pushing me to think beyond my habitual ways of working, and by opening my mind to new approaches and ways of thinking about art. As my practice expanded, I developed new skills in casting, printing and installation work. Finally, the course gave me a greater sense of the wider context of my art practice.
Can you describe your practice for us?
I am a multi-disciplinary artist whose work comprises printmaking, painting, sculpture and installation work. My recent practice is concerned with the imaginative processes by which we edit and frame our experience, and our relationship to the power structures that help shape our perceptions of threat and safety, privacy and freedom, self and other.
My ideas develop through intense engagement with process, and I employ labour-intensive methods in mixed mediums that are sometimes used or combined in unconventional ways. Where possible, I like to work on several projects concurrently, creating versions and variations that occasionally reference my own work, transformed and reinvented through other mediums and techniques.
Can you tell us about your work with the National Army Museum and the piece you have featured there?
Brothers in Arms was created for Art of Survival, a 2012 exhibition organised by Veteran’s Aid. Several representatives from the National Army Museum (NAM) attended the opening, although the work was subsequently purchased by a private collector. The following year, I was offered an opportunity to engage in a collaborative project between NAM and contemporary artist Susan Stockwell, who incorporated an original screen print of mine into her mixed-media work, Peace Maker. After its initial three-month run in London, this work toured military museums across the country throughout 2014-15. As the exhibition took shape over many months, I was able to form helpful relationships with NAM curating for them and taking part in subsequent media events and interviews. At this time, the purchaser of Brothers in Arms kindly offered to donate the work to the National Army Museum (then under renovation), where it now features in the re-opening exhibition War Paint.
Brothers in Arms is a large, three dimensional, mixed media canvas, where some features – image of the Union Jack, mud-roc faces, reaching figures – emerge or recede in prominence depending on proximity and angle of viewing. This work grew, in part, out of personal experience, including circumstances after my release from the military that culminated in periods of homelessness and imparted a lived sense of the way any subjective perception – in this case of being ‘counted out’ and rendered invisible by society and oneself – can realign identity and solidify into a sense of truth. I think the piece speaks to the role of both art and human connection in re-forming these perceptions.
What else have you done since graduating?
I work out of a studio based in Holborn (The Koppel Project), and have taken part in several exhibitions in London, including FLAC The Graduates, The Koppel Project Hive Exhibition, and the National Army Museum’s War Paint. I organised and curated, in collaboration with Melissa Hardwick and Daniel Regan of the Free Space Gallery, an exhibition at Kentish Town Health Centre (Light Therapy: Feb-Mar, 2017), which showcased eight artists’ work in addition to my own.
I have given art workshops (ongoing), including a printmaking workshop during The Koppel Project Exhibition, and have been meeting one-to one with students and helping them set up artist websites.
What advice would you give to someone interested in studying the MFA at Wimbledon?
Be open to new things and don’t be afraid to experiment, or to make mistakes. Look into things you never thought you’d be interested in. Take every opportunity to collaborate with others. Listen to your tutors’ feedback and try to apply it constructively toward growth in your practice. Have fun and definitely go for it!
What else do you have coming up?
I am currently considering applying for the MA Printmaking course at Camberwell College of Arts for autumn 2017, as the potential of this medium has become a growing focus of my practice this year.
I will give a printmaking workshop at the Stoll Foundation in May, and hope to build upon and expand my community work this year in line with my strong interest in health and well-being through the arts. I intend to continue one-to-one website help, and to update and expand my skills in this area.
In August 2017, I will be offering a talk and tour at the National Army Museum in conjunction with War Paint.
You can find out more about Michael and his work by visiting his website.
Learn more about studying MFA Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Arts.
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