Conall graduated from the Foundation course at Central Saint Martins in 2008, progressing on to study a BA in Fine Art also at Central Saint Martins. He graduated with a first-class honours in 2012 and is now a visual artist, living and working in London.
Describe your work.
Utilising world-wide web content as resource, platform and tool, my work explores the interaction of art, popular culture and modern visual dissemination media.
How did you hear about Central Saint Martins and why did you decide to study here?
CSM is a hugely renowned institution for a variety of creative subjects. I remember my art teacher helping prepare my portfolio for the CSM Foundation interview. I had always wanted to pursue art after A-Level, and there was no other place I even contemplated going to - so it was fortunate I got in.
What curriculum area did you study on during your Foundation?
You start off by trying a bit of every subject, from fashion to surface design to sculpture. I was led into the Fine Art Contextual Practice pathway where I had a fantastic tutor who inspired me to take my art practice onto degree level.
Describe a project you worked on during your Foundation.
I dug out one of the works I made on Foundation the other day. The project was simple: we had to make twenty individual works that could either take thirty minutes or five hours to create. We then presented those twenty works in a ‘container’. It was a lucid brief, and I ended up responding to it by making a faux Sotheby’s auction catalogue. I took documentation, created a provenance and theoretical justification to these smallish ‘works’ I had produced and in most cases found. For me, the finished work was about exploring notions of value and a critique of art production. Looking back at that project, I can see a strong relevance to the work I’ve made since and the areas I’ve gone on to explore.
How would you describe the Foundation Course? What is a typical day like?
90% of the time it’ll be you in the studio getting on with it. You have relatively free reign of using the workshops. The rest of the time will be a mix of tutorials and crits where you can discuss and justify to everyone else what you’ve been doing for that 90% of the time. You're given the freedom to push the work you want to make under different briefs, which sometimes take you out of the studio and gallery space.
What were your highlights on Foundation course at CSM and why would you recommend it?
The fact that no matter what you want - be it advice, support or equipment - it is there for you if you go to the right place and are prepared to ask. It’s a great year to challenge your conceptions about the type of creative field you may see yourself in.
What sort of a person do you think you need to be to do well on the Foundation Course?
You’ve got to be self-motivated (you won’t get detention for slacking) and take responsibility for the work you want to make. Be open to meeting a lot of new and interesting fellow students, and be good at taking advice when it’s given from tutors, technicians and peers.
How has CSM helped in your chosen career path?
I came to CSM after studying art at a boys grammar school where there were only three students who took the subject for A-level. So to be transported from there to an environment where you have a multitude of talented peers who have relocated to CSM from all around the world is a huge deal. Being thrust into that environment was undoubtedly a huge catalyst in me pursuing Fine Art at BA level and inevitably becoming a practicing artist once I graduated.
What are you doing now and how did you get there?
After graduating, I was awarded a year residency through ArtQuest, ACAVA and ArtsTemps for a free studio in Vyner Street, Bethnal Green. It was an incredible opportunity at an integral time of transition from student to practitioner. My degree show work Crate won the Lowe and Partners NOVA Award 2012 and was shortlisted for the Zabludowicz Future Map Prize in 2013. Later I was selected for the Art Catlin Guide, profiling the top 40 graduating artists across the UK compiled by the curator Justin Hammond. I was then shortlisted for the Art Catlin Prize the same year where I was able to make and present new work twelve months following graduation.
Those initial prizes were invaluable, both in providing press and leading to many exciting opportunities including commissions and exhibitions. I’ve also been working on several joint ventures since I left Central Saint Martins. Since last summer, I’ve been collaborating with a menswear designer on a creative label ctrl+c. Our debut ‘pre-season’ collection inspired by the football shirts of the 1980s and ‘90s caught the attention of international websites Hypebeast and Highsnobiety. We’re about to release our second capsule collection ‘pool’ which we shot on location at an abandoned indoor swimming baths in Manchester.
Looking back now, the most important skill I learnt on Foundation was the importance of trusting your judgement, following your interests and not being afraid to fail. Ultimately you need to make the work that you find engaging and pursue the ideas that you feel resonate the strongest. I’ve often found that it’s only in realising initial ideas that you find the work you were looking to make.
What advice would you give a Foundation student starting the course now?
Make the most of it: the studio space, the workshops, the advice from your tutors, the support from the technicians and the general chats with the others in your class. You will be surprised how much you achieve if you grasp the opportunity with both hands.
Find out more about Conall on his website.