We caught up with Doncaster-born, Bournemouth-bred MFA Fine Art graduate Daniel Curtis to discover more about his practice, his achievements and time at Wimbledon College of Arts.
What was your background before coming to Wimbledon to study MFA Fine Art?
I completed my BA in Fine Art at the Arts University College Bournemouth in 2009, after which I moved to London and studied Theology for a year. I worked in a number of studios across London, and between 2013-14 co-directed Husk Gallery in Limehouse. I have curated a number of shows with Husk and in other spaces across London, as well as exhibited my own work in both the UK and Paris at the ParisConcret project space.
How would you describe your practice?
My work is driven by form. I compose and fabricate shapes, colours and surfaces until there is a charged relationship between them. I form structures to be in active conversation with one another; making in response to the muddled memories of things I catch out of the corner of my eye – the end results are often strange resemblances of something half recognisable.
How has your work developed during your time on MFA Fine Art?
Before I started the course I worked almost exclusively with found objects. I had always wanted to make my own constructions but had always been a very anxious maker. MFA Fine Art helped me to let go of certain ideas I had about my practice that were keeping my work in the same place and I have now started to form, bend, and mold every aspect of my work – with a few found objects thrown in. MFA Fine Art has also further developed my professional practice and the amount of opportunities for collaboration with my course mates and the opportunities for showing new work has been amazing.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Collaboration and dialogue with other artists is the main thing that develops my practice and keeps my work moving. I am currently an artist in residence at Koppel Projects in central London with fellow student Frederic Anderson. We are working on playful projects, very different to our usual work and that is opening up new ideas within both our working processes. We have also invited other artists into these projects and each person who has joined us has brought exciting new insights into the process. This is what keeps me inspired to make.
Do you use any of the workshops at Wimbledon College of Arts to produce your work?
Moving into sculpting in metal was a daunting task but made infinitely easier through the metal workshop team at Wimbledon. The workshop team helped me to realise my ideas to the best standard and built up my confidence in metalworking so that I can produce things myself from start to finish. The metal workshop team always push you to experiment and try new processes out and we had huge amounts of fun realising my projects.
Tell us more about the Tiffany & Co. x Outset Studiomakers Prize, how did you get involved?
The Tiffany & Co. x Outset Studiomakers Prize is awarded to one student from each of the 7 main London art schools and includes a year’s free studio space in London, shared exhibition space and a mentoring scheme with visiting artists and curators.
We were introduced to the prize through our course leader Edwina Fitzpatrick towards the end of the course. Applicants are required to send in images of their work and write a number of statements and proposals about their practice and how they would use the prize, this is then followed by two interviews.
What work were you awarded for?
I showed the judges two pieces of work, one piece which was a transitional work and the other was my final show piece. Myself, and fellow student Frederic Anderson who was also shortlisted, collaborated to curate a small show of our work in the hirable MFA space during our interviews; I think this gave the judges a good platform to not only see our work, but also our curatorial abilities.
How has this prize impacted your practice going forward?
The award has given me a real confidence boost in continuing my practice now that the course is over. It’s can be difficult to find affordable collaborative and critical studio environments in London outside of the university setting, so the prize is opening a great amount of opportunities for me. Having met the other 6 prize winners a few weeks ago we have already discussed collaborating on projects together.
The prize means that I have space and time to produce a years’ worth of work, without having to worry about the financial burden of paying for a studio space.
What’s next for Daniel Curtis?
Along with the other 6 prize winners, I have just planned and curated an opening show for the Tiffany Studio Makers prize to open in September. Frederic Anderson and I also have another few weeks of the residency with Koppel Projects and more artists visiting the space.
What made you want to study at MFA Fine Art at Wimbledon?
The ethos and ethics of MFA Fine Art drew me to apply to Wimbledon. There is a huge focus on contextualisation, which I think is probably the most important thing for building a solid art practice. Also the way the costs and time is structured.
The ‘Extended Full Time mode’ of the course over two years really helps to spread the time and costs involved in postgraduate study and provides you with the studio space to develop your practice. This option is a brilliant way of progressing under the current economic climate.
What have you enjoyed most about MFA Fine Art?
The course structure is brilliant, you begin by throwing everything up in the air and totally reexamining your practice. This makes you see things you hadn’t before and then there is the process of re-contexualising these new findings. By the end of the course the quality and knowledge of your work has become more robust through being challenged at every level. The community of the course is wonderful; the smaller size of the class and college means you get to know each other quickly.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting a course here at Wimbledon?
Enjoy it, and take advantage of everything on offer from the course; the workshops, the library, the professional development teams and your fellow course mates.
Featured image caption: ‘People standing around at an after work party. People that you think you recognise, seeming familiar, but that you can’t quite put your finger on, making you wonder if you know them at all’, (Detail), 2017, Powder coated steel, concrete, copper, aluminium, wood, emulsion, spray paint