Beyond Art School

Artist Alex Hetherington is the founder of Modern Edinburgh Film School which brings together practitioners in visual art, poetry, performance and film to explore alternative approaches to the screen. Here he talks about the transition from art school to art world and the tools you can develop to navigate it.

Art School
Contemporary Art
Life as an Artist

Each generation of artists makes their transition from art school to the contemporary art world. Communities of graduating art students drive forward their culture with ambition, vitality and resilience. Key to their success is a sense of purpose, knowing the importance of networks and working within them with professional intention and a devotion to quality and accomplishment. In turn an understanding of the importance of developing and maintaining a profile as it performs an important function in understanding artists and why they make the work.

Modern Edinburgh Film School publication

Building a profile is a progressive activity. It is a combination of good habits, making use of social media and quality online documentation. While it is informed by open communication, it is shaped by involvement in visual arts communities. It is aware of new and recent activities and is resourceful and opportunistic. A profile is developed from an understanding of the audiences who share a curiosity and passion for visual art. It runs parallel to making good quality art.

Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
Transmission Gallery, Glasgow

Get to know how things work.  Start with conversations with the other artists, find out what is happening in your city. Seek out, be inspired and be influenced by the energy and activities of artist-run initiatives and small-scale art operations – Generator in Dundee, Rhubaba and Embassy galleries in Edinburgh, and Telfer Gallery and David Dale in Glasgow, for example. Read publications like Line in Edinburgh and MAP in Glasgow whose features place visual arts activities in Scotland alongside international projects. While a small gallery operation like Kendall Koppe in Glasgow representing a group of emerging and established artists like Laura Aldridge, Corin Sworn, Craig Mulhollandand Charlotte Prodger, reinforces Scotland’s miraculous influence within the international stage.

Be supported by and support other artists, listen to people talk about their work. Zoë Fothergill, a recent graduate from the Masters degree course at Edinburgh College of Art, discussed her show Art Fur, Bizmuth and Spiny Oyster at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern in March 2014. In this instance she highlighted the research involved in her creative process working with the internet. Using online video footage she merges her interest in art and its relationships to science, psychology and gender. Educational events like this give artists a place to be discussed and understood.

Zoë Fothergill, Art Fur, Bizmuth and Spiny Oyster

Events like How Near is Here? a symposium on art, activism and urban spaces organised by Collective Gallery in September 2014 allows exposure to national and international voices in visual art, curating and academia. These opportunities to hear about and participate in the thinking behind contemporary ideas is exhilarating and vital. Contributing to these types of networks gives voice to your developing creative process and demonstrates your ambition.

Be conscious of how your voice and the ideas behind your work translates to the written word. Pay close attention to the clarity of your artist’s statement. Edinburgh-based Irish artist Claire Walsh’s project Edits-While-You-Wait allows artists the chance to have editors comment on their statement. This encourages support and confidence. Presenting her editing artwork at a recent exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art she placed artists, writers and audiences together. It articulates how important lucid artists statements are. How essential they are in making proposals and exhibitions.

Walsh’s work gives expression to a sense that by participating in our visual art culture we become its creator, audience and influencer.

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