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Camberwell Sculpture graduate talks about winning coveted residency at the Florence Trust

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Published date
23 January 2015

The Florence Trust offers a twelve-month studio residency for up to a dozen carefully selected artists and we are delighted that Camberwell BA sculpture graduate Francis Olvez Wilshaw is one them! We asked Francis about his experience since he started the residency last August and his upcoming exhibition at the trust Winter Open from January 31st to 2nd February.


Congratulations on your place at the Florence Trust residency, how has it been so far?

It’s a great feeling to be making art in a Grade I listed building. I’ll probably never again have a chance to store polystyrene in my own Victorian Neo-Gothic pulpit.

My experience so far at the Florence Trust has been challenging but very exciting. Being the youngest on the program has meant I’m now working alongside artists who have all largely graduated from MA Art courses in London. I have been able to observe first-hand, how they have streamlined there practices to become more efficient with their time and resources. Also being able to see how they articulate there practice to an audience in group critics has been very beneficial.

How was the process to win the Florence Trust residency?

It all came along quite fast. I’d recently completed my year-long residency at The Green Man Gallery in Buxton and also my first solo show last May. It came about from my goal to move back to London and to begin preparations for my MA application. Using the work I made at The Green Man, Paul Bailey (Head of Trust) and Neil Jeffries (Studio manager) invited me down for an interview in July. I was clear with what I wanted to gain from the residency and they offered me a place.


You have an exhibition from the 31th January to 2nd February 2015  at the Florence Trust studios what can we expect?

I will be displaying a selection of sculptures which draw upon the works of William Morris, High Modernism and American Minimalism. The works are arranged in a sort of 3-D collage which refer to visual merchandising, corporate lobbies and ELLE Decoration living rooms.

Along with the abstract works, I have designed a line of handbags which will show alongside the other pieces.

How was your experience as a student at Camberwell?

I arrived at the BA Sculpture course by accident. Originally I applied for BA Painting! I quickly realised though I had made the right choice and fully embraced the unique ethos of the Camberwell Sculpture department. There was a rigorous pushing and support from the tutors to make and freely experiment with materials and ideas. We were encouraged to think expansively and to take risks. Often this led to our studio being a sort of visual cacophony of finished and unfinished works. The whole experience was one of delightful chaos- a sort of mad laboratory.

Has your practice changed much since you graduated from Camberwell ?

I think my practice has become more expansive since I left Camberwell. I owe that largely to the course for helping me channel more of my interests into my practice. Since graduating I’ve begun to incorporate elements of furniture, fashion and interior design into my practice. These were themes that I had just begun to explore in my degree show. On a practical level, being away from fully-equipped workshops has meant I had to learn to be more improvisational in methods of making.


Any more exhibitions lined up?

After the Winter Show, I have the final summer show at the Florence Trust in July. I have also been invited to show work at an upcoming group show called ‘London Connection’ in the OXO Tower. Date TBC.

Finally, what advice would you give to students graduating this summer?

I was often told by tutors that the first couple of years after graduation for any serious artist are the most difficult. It’s extremely difficult to maintain a practice whilst shouldering responsibilities for paying rent, holding down ‘money’ jobs and general 21st century living. You have to be single bloody minded in your pursuit to be an artist. Apply for as many opportunities you find online or through word of mouth. Retain a focus on clear manageable goals and keep making work.

For more information and to contact Francis Olvez visit his site on this link.

Click here for full BA Sculpture course details