This week we catch up with BA Fine Art 2014 graduate Laura Fowle. Tackling her first year out of education, Laura is going full steam ahead in developing her practice and completing the ArtQuest Lifeboat Residency Programme with ACAVA Studios in London. Here’s what she had to say about her time on the BA course and what life is like after Chelsea as she progresses into an exciting future as a professional artist.
Describe your Chelsea experience in 3 words?
Challenging / Encouraging / Thought-provoking
What do you enjoy most about studying at Chelsea?
I really liked how the course was heavily practice based, however also had a strong focus on theory. The combination of the two created a really interesting and engaging way of working. I had a good relationship with my tutor Dave Beech in the third year, and I feel he really pushed me to be more daring and challenged me about my work. I felt like the tutors had a genuine interest in you and your work and wanted to push you further – this was really encouraging and motivating.
How did you enjoy living in London?
I have lived in London for almost 5 years now and have continued to do so after I graduated. I guess I really enjoy the convenience of the city, there is always something on, a show to see, a new bar or an exhibition opening. When it comes to applying for exhibitions I find living in London has been really helpful as I can be more mobile with my work and practice, and living in London definitely makes me feel more of a part of the art scene.
What was your greatest challenge on the course and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge I faced on the course was the rigorous re-evaluation of my practice. I found myself overcoming the problematic areas of my work by embracing the aspects that had been overlooked. Previously working two-dimensionally, ideas of spatial influence and experience were often something I was not considering when making work. Realising the importance of space and the impact it had caused the work to transform physically as well as develop more conceptually. This turning point has certainly sculpted the work I have produced since and has caused a shift in how I consider a work as an experience.
What has been your greatest challenge in your professional life since graduating and how have you overcome it?
Possibly the greatest challenge in my professional life since graduating has been balancing my time and money. Finding the time to produce work in the studio as well as maintaining a job to support myself and my practice has definitely been a challenge. I think I’m still working to overcome that one.
What are your greatest achievements/awards/exhibitions?
Being awarded the Art Quest Lifeboat Residency programme with ACAVA studios has been amazing. Myself and three other University of the Arts students (Sarah Roberts, Alex Burgess & Georgia Gendall) have been given a studio space for one year as well as key mentoring support. It has without a doubt helped me to maintain my practice, and to continue working at the scale I had been accustomed to at Chelsea. Another achievement was getting a 1:1 in my degree! (Whoo!)
What would you say to anyone thinking of studying at Chelsea?
I would say go for it. The openness of the course is great, you aren’t segregated into different types of practice. You are just given a space and that’s it, you get on with it. Being mixed with other students from other disciplines proved to be integral to the development of my own work. You support each other.
What’s your favourite exhibition/event in London so far?
I’m really intrigued by the work of Artie Vierkant, he recently had a show ‘Antione Office, Antoine Casual’ at Carl Kostyal Gallery.
Have you met people here you think you will continue to work with post-degree?
Yes, definitely. There was a really nice atmosphere in our year group, and I have stayed in touch with a number of people I met on the course. Sarah Roberts, who also won the Lifeboat Residency, used to be at Chelsea with me, so I am absolutely going to be working alongside her further.
Which member of staff at Chelsea most inspires you and why?
Jo Melvin is a favourite tutor of mine, and someone I hope to remain in contact with. She is such an incredibly knowledgeable lady; it was an invaluable experience to have her look over my works and help me in writing my thesis. We both had similar interests in artist publications and the work of Seth Siegelaub. She introduced me to Chelsea Special Collections, and encouraged me to produce some work to be held there.
How do you feel you have developed as a person during your time at Chelsea?
Studying at Chelsea has certainly made me more confident in my work. Particularly in the third year, I was encouraged to let go and to challenge myself and my practice. To be braver. I feel the course has also prepared me to be more decisive, more organized, and to better understand the concerns of my practice as a whole.
How have you found the studio atmosphere?
I think that the dynamics of a studio are always really important to the development of my work. Throughout my time in Chelsea, I feel I have been quite lucky with the people I have shared a studio with. If I was ever feeling stuck or confused about what I was doing, it’s such a valuable resource to have a pool of people surrounding you in exactly the same position and willing to give advice. Over-time you get to know other people’s work and they get to know yours, they can provide a really useful, but different perspective on your works. The atmosphere in the studios particularly in the third year were great. Although we were all really stressed and busy, there was a collaborative sense of ‘we are in it together’.
What resource in the library have you found the most interesting?
Without a doubt it is the Special Collections. It’s an incredible resource to have at your disposal and something that was eye-opening for me. Being able to experience artist’s publications such as Siegelaub’s ‘Xerox Book’ in its actuality was so useful and helped me to better understand the nature of his work. Experiencing the Special Collections motivated me to practice making artists books myself and I was lucky enough to get a couple of my own works held there.