Week 1: Playing Artfully

So here we go again… week one of the MFA Art and Humanities course. It doesn’t seem any time at all since I was typing the same for the final year of my Bachelor’s Degree and so much has happened since then.

I guess the first important piece of information I should share with you is that I won a scholarship. This means that my tuition costs for the course are paid for and I get £6K tax free for living costs, which is pretty astounding. I almost didn’t believe it when I received the email! It has taken huge weight off of my shoulders and I feel now I can just relax into the course.

I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you. From what I’ve experienced of the course so far, I can already tell that it will be pretty life changing. It already has me thinking about so many aspects of my work that I’d really never considered before now. So here’s the run down of the first week…

On Monday morning we had our first meeting. There we had a run through of the course structure and it was an opportunity to meet everyone I will be sharing this journey with. We had only met briefly the week before to matriculate, so it was good to speak about what materials everyone works with. There are about 28 of us in total – the largest year so far which I think speaks volumes about the popularity of the course. We have a huge array of different disciplinary artists, from painters to jewellers and everything in between. Our course comprises of an Art module and a Humanities module, both of which seem to intertwine to inform our practice so I’m looking forward to the change of pace. During this meeting I was crowned the ‘Queen of Seminar Spaces’ (not as fancy as it sounds) which means I am in charge of the communal seminar space near our studios. I definitely want to get a yoga morning and a wine and cheese evening up and running in there which all sounds like good fun to me.

After the meeting in the morning we then had a chance to settle into our studio spaces. They had already been assigned during matriculation week, but it was good to get properly set up and start putting ideas up on the walls. I have a nice corner of a room with a little storage chest. It was so nice to finally be in a studio space again after lacking one all summer and I had put up some ink and paper tests inspired by the ocean which I had been working on.

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On Tuesday we had our first lecture from Professor Mary Modeen the course director. The title was ‘Playing Artfully’ and explored the concept of ‘play’ and experimentation within art practices. This lecture really struck a chord with me. Play is something that I advocate strongly both within Aces and my nursing home art sessions. It at once occurred to me that although I am a strong believer in the concept, I have never really turned the tables on myself and focused on free experimentation within my own practice. I have always been quite a control freak, especially in regards to editing images with photography and I think that is something that is important for me to relinquish this year, at least in the initial stages of experimentation. After the one hour lecture we then had a one hour seminar. We all sat and played with plasticine while discussing some topics and I think that was a genius idea. I reckon I haven’t touched plasticine since I was about 5 but it’s so fun.

Afterwards, in the spirit of this lecture I found a tube of bubbles that were left behind by the previous year which I was determined to try and print with. It turned out just adding ink to the bubble mix however seemed to compromise the solution and wasn’t concentrated enough to make a mark on the page, so I vowed to try again the next day.

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On Tuesday night 5:30-7:30pm we had our first Humanities module seminar. This was taken in the Dalhousie building which was a nice change from the art school. We were discussing the definitions, connotations and historical development of the words ‘culture’ and ‘criticism’ and how they relate to the art world. A seminar like this was completely different to anything I have ever experienced. Especially in fourth year, we didn’t even have any lectures at all, never mind partake in an active discussion! The majority of the discussion I understood, but some of it was quite convoluted to follow. I imagine that is something I will get used to, but for the moment it’s quite a – to use one of the terms discussed in the seminar – culture shock.

On Wednesday we had a free day and so I was determined to get back into the studio to complete my quest to print bubbles. I discovered that I was better placing the paper onto the bubbles after blowing them, because they hold their shape for longer. After a lot of trial and error I eventually managed to achieve the bubble prints I had been wanting! I loved the unpredictable abstract nature and the surprise of not knowing what the print was going to look like until I lifted it off the surface. It was very childlike, completely in the spirit of the Tuesday lecture.

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On Thursday we had our second lecture of the week from Mary. This time the title was ‘What Makes Contemporary Art Contemporary?’ Another concept which just blew my mind. How was that a question I had never considered before now?! Well it turns out the answer isn’t a simple one. Afterwards we all moved to the seminar space for another discussion and this one was intense. As with the Tuesday lecture, it was a fast-paced exchange of ideas and thoughts which left me with a bit of a headache afterwards. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it required a lot of hard concentration. Following these discussions is a new process that I will have to get used to. I thoroughly enjoy them but I find it difficult to interject with my thoughts as it is so fast paced and by the time I refine a point to make we are already three topics ahead.

I am really enjoying the fact that this course isn’t just an extension of fourth year though, it is much more than that. Already I can see development in my practice from just week one, so goodness know what will happen by week 15.

Not much to speak about on Friday. As you all know I suffered from sepsis a few months ago so I am undergoing blood tests at the moment just to check everything is okay on that front. I had another one midday on Friday due to the fact that the hospital had lost one of my blood samples the previous week (how does that even happen?!) So I was feeling a bit rotten after them poking and prodding me and decided to go home and read the material for the Wednesday Humanities lecture, which is Freud’s writing on the Moses of Michelangelo.

So there’s the run down of this week. I am looking forward to getting stuck in to this course. The winning of a scholarship kind of validates to me that I am doing the right thing by studying this course. It was something I had wanted to do since I attended my first Master’s Show in 2013 and I’m glad I finally have the chance to do that now without worrying about the cost. See you all next week!

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