Friday, 19 May 2017

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Messing with mono print - making session

Had a great session messing about with mono prints last night.

 Even the plates looked good!


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Alternative Art Education Symposium, Liverpool, Saturday 8th April 2017

Islingtom Mill Art Acdemy were invited by School of the Damned to take part in an Alternative Art Education Symposium to take place alongside their final show at The Royal Standard .Claire went along to talk on behalf of the Art Academy. Here's what she had to say...

"It doesn't matter how much you prepare for something like this, it is the question and answer session at the end that helps consolidate ideas. It was the same with this event. I did a talk about the Art Academy published below and listened to the talks by School of the Damned, Migrants Mutual Aid and TOMA which were really interesting. During the question and answer session I realised that a lot of alternative art education seems to be aimed as an alternative to the MA, not at undergraduate or foundation level. Younger audience members were talking of the pressure to do a degree in a subject that would get you a well paid career, and that school education was focussed in this direction. So convincing family that an art degree is a good choice is really difficult. This made me realise how special Islington Mill Art Academy is, because although some people have art qualifications you don't need one to join and you can become a member at whatever level you are, so long as you want to make art. I had brought with me one of the original flyers and when I read it out, it got a cheer. I think what the Art Academy provides is a space and peer group in which to develop your own art practice, at your own pace with the input of some amazing people.  So here's the draft of what I said in my talk...

Alternative Art School Symposium – Talk

Islington Mill Art Academy is a title, which covers a learning experience that encompasses many paradoxes, which can make it a very frustrating experience for new and old members alike. In my opinion it is these paradoxes that have led to its survival. It is organised and completely disorganised at the same time. It is permanent, yet in constant flux.  It is strong but fragile, political and apolitical at the same time, and although dynamic, it also experiences periods of hibernation. It changes its dynamic, or flavour as I like to call it depending who its members are at the time.

Islington Mill Art Academy is ten years old this year and for the purpose of this talk I am going to start with the history, then talk about my experience of it in the present and then discuss its legacy and future.

So, starting with the History...

I’ve been researching the history through the Art Academy blog and I’ve been in contact with the founder members to ask them what effect  their experience of the Academy has had on their present careers, which I will talk about when I get to legacy. On the blog I discovered a copy of a letter Maurice Carlin wrote to Art Monthly in October 2008, and basically I’m going to use this to describe the history.

Morry explained:
That eighteen months previously he and a group of fellow art foundation students were debating the choices available for further study on BA fine art courses.
Following talks with students and recent graduates their research revealed much disillusionment and the feeling that time (and money) spent had not yet yielded expected results.  The expectation seemed to be that graduation would signal the arrival of an accession point, where the student would become an artist.  On talking to graduates several years out of college it was clear that a whole other period of “education” was required to even begin to carve out something that resembled a career.

Talking to tutors who identified their frustrations with management, University selection criteria and the necessity to maintain course numbers by retaining students unsuitable for the courses did little to inspire their confidence in third level education.  This left them with the following questions, which I suspect are the same questions you are all trying to answer!

What is three years of University Education worth?
What can you reasonably expect?
Is this the best way to develop a career as an artist?
What does it actually mean to be a practicing artist?
When do you become an artist?

Although most of their fellow students went on to University, some decided to take a different approach and chose to set up Islington Mill Art Academy beginning a project to experiment with what an art education could be, where it could take place and how it could be paid for. They embarked on a period of writing, debating, planning and imagining. They talked about the ideas of introducing fees, each putting a fixed amount of money in a pot to pay for tuition and other expenses.
With no history, track record, tutors or accreditation, not even knowing how long this experiment would last, would anyone be prepared to pay for this?

The general concensus after taking advice from artists they knew was that if they had a place to work and a number of interested people, they should just do it.They came to an agreement with Islington Mill that they could work the bar in return for a space to work.

So in their first 18 months what did they do? They organised talks, research trips to Glasgow, the Berlin Biennial and Art Sheffield. They ran study blocs, regular critiques and discussion groups, film nights and a residency programme working with national and international artists. They did a two week residency in Berlin where they set up a temporary free arts school. All self funded and achieved through their own efforts and the generosity of artistsand others who helped, advised and worked with them along the way.

To quote directly from Morry’s letter “ It has by no means been easy. We are constantly having to evaluate what we are doing, the content, structure and direction of the project. With no one to answer to but ourselves, every aspect of our education is open to debate and interpretation: are we students or artists? Do we graduate and if so, when and who decides? Do we work 9-5 everyday? Whom do we ask to tutor us? We spend at least 50% of our time organising our education. If we don’t do this nothing happens. Most professional practicing artists we have met have told us that this balance between professional practice and administration is a reality for them also.  Many of these are the basic considerations of any education. However we are excited about the potential to reassess our own art education from the bottom up.”
Interestingly they managed to attract many more visiting artists and lectureres than some of the loacal universities and were invited  to work on projects by established artists, groups and institutions. By disregarding  the need for university accreditation they were treated as a group of young artists, working alongside more established and experienced practitioners. Opportunities probably not available to students at the end of their first year on a BA.

Morry was clear to state that” The group does not position itself in competition to the university system” They often worked with artists lecturers and students based in these institutions, all interested in the deabate about art education.  In 2008 Morry ended his letter, “We have not found the answer to the problems facing art education at the moment and are willing and eager to put our energies into furthering and expanding this debate”. Which is why I am here today in 2017!

Which neatly brings us  to the present day.

So how did I get involved and what is the Art Academy like today.  Well for me the Art Academy is not the same Art Academy previously discussed. In the same way that when I put my glasses on I look like my Grandmother, Mum and Aunty Margaret, when I look at the original Art Academy, I can clearly see the likeness, the shared DNA. However, I would suggest, it is now coming to the end of its third generation, it seems to morph every three to four years.

I joined in February 2014. I did a City and Guilds in Embroidery at night School in the nineties, loved it, got a lot of praise and then continued with the day job.
 Frustrated at my lack of creative output I tried again in 2009 and did an HNC in textile design, distance learning at Bradford College.  I got a distinction for my HNC final show, lots of praise  again and this time decided I had to do something with it. To cut a very long story short, I gave up my job in social care and used my connections to develop a community art practice. So in effect I used my creativity to swap one job, for one I had more control over, but still wasn’t producing my own stuff and most importantly, because I have done all my learning through night school and distance learning I had no peer group.

Late in 2013, I met Bill Campbell from Islington Mill at an artists newsletter  networking event. I asked what Islington Mill was and how to get involved. He suggested I come to a Potluck supper. I duly turned up at the Christmas pot luck, and to be honest felt completely out of my depth and very old!  However  I could sense there was something there that I needed. I turned up again at the January potluck, and again felt very out of it and then Morry asked me who I was.  During that conversation I felt a welcome for and  an interest in Claire the artist. He recognised I was an artist in search of a peer group and suggested I come along to an art academy meeting. This was to be an image reading group. And the rest for me is history.  I slowly found my feet and am now one of the core group.

I joined at the end of the Academy’s second generation.  At that point it was mainly writers and artists who work on line. So it was mainly reading groups with a few making days. It was also very much a two meetings a month, evening class type of activity as everyone in the group had other, non art making commintments such as earning a living or raising a family. As the writers moved on to bigger and better things we dwindled to a tiny group of about five people, all only able to make a part time commitment.
 We needed to assess what the art academy was now and also to review our own practise within it.  The Mill had access to a large warehouse and we rented a mezanine level in it for a summer school, and spent the summer working on our own stuff, sharing ideas, having crits and trying to decide what to do next.

We were a mixed bunch, some with no university education like me and others with degrees in non fine art subjects.  Over the summer of 2015 we became a making Academy, with visiting artists from the Mill popping in to share their skills.

I joined the Academy as someone who was unable to say they were an artist. With the support of a peer group, two residencies, access to conversations with strangers about art, regular crits, constantly being asked and asking questions, having a lot of fun, feeling out of my depth and developing an inner confidence I am now happy to call myself an artist.  I will be having my first show in a public art gallery this June, at Ordsall Hall and I can categorically say that would not have happened without the Art Academy.  For me it has been a place to make a commitment to myself.

So what’s its legacy, whats happening now and whats its future?

I contacted some of the people who founded the Academy in 2007 and asked how the academy had shaped their present careers.

Interestingly of those who replied, many already had higher level qualifications. Laura a practicing artist said that after University the academy was like “a breath of fresh air”, we asked “why are we doing this and what are we doing?” “ I realised that I am an eternal student in this world, that we all can be, that the most valuable education doesn’t need to end”

Maria who is now a Phd student at Durham university and recently accepted a post-doc research fellowship at University of the Arts said “ what the Art academy gave us was space, in the physical and metaphorical sense of head space. We had a physical space to experiment with materials, processes and methods. But we also had space in our heads to think about what kind of artists we wanted to be, how that would be possible and how we can get there. We had space to discuss, debate , read and think”

Lowri, working as a professional artist said “ I think the inclusivity, the rebel spirit, the DIY ethos of the academy has influenced how I make art and confirmed why I do it.” It wasn’t a stepping stone or something for an end. It was the thing itself”

Amy, now a freelance artist making socially engaged work collaboratively said “ IMAA was something that opened my eyes to the possibility of what art could be and how this fitted the things I was interetsed in” “It encouraged my confidence and made me feel I had something to say. The DIY attitude of we can do and we will do has really encouraged me in the world I live in now” “After talking to people about their own arts education I feel proud of my own path and the others of IMAA that we have gone about things differently.”

Craig, now a practicing artist in Berlin said, “As it began to get going, I began to feel attached and dedicated to it in a way I had rarely experienced in any form of education up to that point. In truth I had no particular idea of what we were doing, and was not thinking about the project it interms of its philosophy or any educational theory, but I felt a surge of enthusiasm for doing and making things.” “ it was really fun – which I feel is very important. But in hindsight it was totally pivotal for me in the way I went on to live and work in the years since then”. “ It was the Art Academy that gave me a taste of what being an artist could be like, and probably also gave me the confidence to go for it, whatever the consequences”

Morry, currently the first Clore Visual Artist Fellow said “ I think that confidence is the most important thing you need in order to be an artist, skills can always be honed, but confidence is always elusive and hard to find and hold on to” “ For me the confidence came from taking ownership of the process”

Put simply, they had all found the Art Academy had had a major impact on their present careers, It had given them space to be and develop themselves and confidence. The most interesting aspect was that it wasn’t the organised learning that they felt impacted most, but the unspecified muddle  that went alongside it. I think the Art Academys major strength is that it captures all the informal learning and networking that goes on at a University, the conversations over lunch, the ad hoc comments made by friends and colleagues about your work, the book recomendation, the chance meetings and to some extent the peer pressure.

So what of the future?

One of the drivers of the Art Academy has been Maurice Carlin, one of the original founders. Recognising in 2016 that his art career was moving him into new and exciting places, and that the Art Academy needed to function without the safety net he provided we had a two day residential to try and work out how to keep the Academy sustainable, and a new members drive was a part of it.

Those new members have brought different skills, different interests and different expectations. I can sense that the fourth generation of the Academy is beginning. These new personalities will give it its own twist. Morry is part of the mill and has effectively been a connector the Academy could use to plug into its networks, databases and personanlities. This is changing, we need to make our own connections and opportunities and the Mill is changing too. Our new members are plugged into different networks, we are starting to develop links further afield, such as Bradford University. So yes the Academy is morphing into its fourth generation, something new, something that represents 2017, not 2013 or 2007 and it is really exciting.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A useful critque

At the Art Academy last night I presented work I am preparing for an exhibition at Ordsall Hall in June. This was the first time I had shown this work to anyone and it was a really useful experience. The exhibition "The Basque children in Salford and Eccles" is my response to a story I discovered about a group of Basque children who came to Salford in 1937 as evacuees from the Spanish Civil War.

My response has been influenced considerably by the Art Academy Regent's Warehouse Residency which I took part in during 2015, where I was reunited with my childhood toys on the day the little refugee boy's body was found on the beach. My talky walkie doll who was wrapped in a plastic bag for protection disturbed a number of people. This in itself is becoming a body of work that I have been exploring through previous crits (including 10th November 2015 and 17th March 2016 ).

The crit was really powerful because it helped me see that this project is pulling together the ideas I have had previously. That there are clear links to previous projects and experiments such as a repetition of colour (that may or not be a link to childhood and growing up), repetition of symbolic shapes, similarity between the lines I create in mono print and stitch.The theme of wearing out to represent transience was also discussed and I was introduced by Niki to the concept of Yabi Sabi

A really useful suggestion that came out of the crit was for me to try hanging the pieces in the gallery at the Mill to see what they looked like out of the studio environment.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Hepworth visit and some questions about curating

The Art Academy took a trip to the Hepworth to see the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture 2017.

Phyllida Barlow's impressive work was a favourite, and evoked strong feelings. Helen Marten's carefully considered sculptures raised issues around curating, the buying and transportation of sculptural works comprised of many pieces.

Hepworth's maquettes were fascinating, as was the building itself.

And as with other Art Academy visits, we talked and plotted future collaborations.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

January 2017

At our first meeting of the year we set our dates, had a natter about the future and had a short critque for Sara who presented some of the motion graphics she is creating for a commission for a philosophy project.

On the 14th January a few of us went to HOME, where Maurice Carlin, one of our founder members was presenting the first prints he has made as part of his Temporary Custodians Project and the raise the Roof fund raising for the Mill. It was a great event.

EXHIBITION // Michael Holland: Total Rubbish 

Over Christmas Art academy members Claire, Lisa and Andrew moved into a studio at the Mill. On 17th Januray, Morry, who is currently the first-ever Clore Visual Artist Fellow brought a group of his Clore Fellows to meet the Art Academy in the studio. Claire, Rika and Lisa were joined by Niki, and we had an interesting discussion about the academy and our own practice.

In the same week, Michael Holland had his exhibition Total Rubbish  in the gallery at the Mill

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Reading session

Last night we met up for a reading group. The text was "The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by Walter Benjamin. Although this was written in 1935, we approached it from the perspective of art in 2016 and were amazed at how relevant his thoughts are today in the world of digital reproduction.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Liminality critque

We are in the process of working on the subject of liminality for a show in November.  This critique was to review our work and ideas so far. It proved very useful.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Trip to the Whitworth

After conducting the worlds longest Doodle Poll three of us finally managed to go to see Elizabeth Price Curates at the Whitworth.  This was a thoroughly interesting exhibition. Of particular interest to Claire was the opportunity to see and crawl under Gustav Metzger's "To Crawl Into" - Anschlus, Vienna, March 1938. In June 2014 Claire went to a talk "Gustav Metzger in conversation with Giles Bailey" presented by Pavillion at Harewood House. This was one of her first trips with the Art Academy and not having studied art, Claire realised how important the Academy was to introducing her to artists she might not stumble across, but who were so signigicant.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Remnants of July 2016

27th July: Making a publication with Sara
July: Creativity sessions with Stina using Ink
and collage.

2nd July: Train trip to Blackpool to The Grundy Art gallery to see 

the Mark Leckey exhibition and to visit Abingdon Studios . Throw in some Fish and chips, Some cocktails and some good company to make a great day out!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Art Academy involvement in Doremifasolasido residency at Florence Mine

‘Doremifasolasido’ is an annual group residency that invites emerging artists from around the country to Cumbria to forge links between artists and arts organisations working in urban and rural settings. Jackie Haynes and Lisa Risbec will be attending from the Art Academy and are really looking forward to being involved. Here's some more info on the residency.

"The first residency took place in October 2015 at the Merz Barn, bringing together visual artists to explore the artistic legacy of the Merz Barn and Kurt Schwitters in Britain, as discussed in ‘Housing Merz in the 21st Century’ at Tate Britain, November 2014. This year (2016) we are delighted to be hosted by Florence Arts Centre. During the week-long  residency. participating artists will create work, from sculpture to performance and film, in response to the Florence Mine site culminating in a weekend of public events, including an exhibition spoken word, screenings and artist critiques. Organisers: Jocelyn McGregorLouis-Jack Horton-Stephens and Stephanie Farmer"
We'd love for you to join us on the opening weekend, info on the Facebook event or the Website.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Some thoughts about an Open Crit

Our Open Crits are a great way to get feedback on a piece of work - attended by members of the Art Academy, artists from the Mill and visiting artists. Lorna and Steve reflect on how the crit helped them. 

"I presented some drawings at the group crit, mostly sketch book ideas and plans for the beginning of a new project. I haven't had a crit for a while and felt a little worried about not having my work more organised.  But I felt that it was probably the best time for me to discuss my ideas while they are still in the early stages of development.  I left the crit with plenty to think about, good points were made and I found the group discussion very helpful." Lorna Mollart

"This was the first time I've shown my recent video work 'SLOW DOWN. CHEW YOUR FOOD' publicly (other than online), so it was great to see an actual audience reaction and get to talk about it in that scenario. 
Film is a new medium for me so the discussion really helped to contextualise the work in terms of my wider practice. The crit also brought out some old ideas, particularly around the element of performance in my work which is something I am interested in exploring more in future." Steve Hockett

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

OPEN CRIT // Lorna Mollart & Steve Hockett

Wednesday 27th April

Islington Mill 1st floor common room/ gallery 

6pm - 9pm

Islington Mill Art Academy member artist Lorna Mollart will be presenting a range of new audio and sculpture works and Islington Mill studio tenant, Steve Hockett, an artist, designer and doer of things, will be screening a recent video work.

Potluck Dinner in 1st floor Common Room from 6pm followed by crit in the gallery  – please bring a dish to share (enough for 1 person, can be home-cooked or shop- bought, home cooked is nicer!) and BYOB.

Let us know if you are planning on attending by clicking on the Facebook event.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Mapping your practice

Roadblocks - surprisingly universal!

Some of us at the Art Academy are going through a period of reflection and after finding ourselves having some free time to dedicate to our practice, we held a planning session to try to come up with some goals for the next year...


We looked at where we'd like to be in a years time, and chatted about different areas of our practice.

Short cake break then we all wrote down the things that we felt were stopping us. 

Then we played post-it-note-bingo and each added relevant notes to the last one which was stuck up. Turned out that despite being at different points in our practice and lives, they were surprisingly similar!











Here's some feedback from other members about how the session helped them...


Get Everything - Sara Nesteruk

Had a brilliant meeting at the Art Academy today, working on planning, goal setting - focus, some very interesting ideas,* incredible inspiration, and a clear vision, focus and -
well, loads of stuff for the film, the proposal, the approach - particularly looking at the first year, the year ahead (now) where I am now, what I want to do over the next 3, 6, 12 months, and beyond.

Loads of brilliant ideas - all to be digested, with cake, over the next few days and weeks. A great (visionary) starting point, or slogan, project, motto, or approach - for year one. - Below.

I'll post more ideas as they form, settle, digest and process.

A massive thanks to Morry - for all the wonderful vision, focus, inspiration and ideas, to Lisa, for organising, and to everyone there for a great event, loads of ideas and inspiration. (2)

* Questions - Some insightful, clear, and quite profound (and very simple, but important, questions)
(2). - Cake.


Next time we'll break down some of our goals into action plans, and start looking at ways we can experiment and expand our practice.

Here's the document we worked from if any of you fancy having a go yourselves!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Notes from Crit - Sara Nesteruk

Sara Nesteruk presented a proposal for her PHD project...

Recipes for Baking Bread.

Project Proposal - presentation of proposal in progress, themes, ideas - approaches, production. Documentation, physicality and form of the final object.

Documentation, presentation -
performance, and the performative aspects to the work - how and - where (?) -
how, it will, and can be received.

Will the reciever, or audience, know about the production - methods, process, and ideas, and how?
 A document that requires gentle care and handling - gentable.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Our next open crit and potluck dinner - Wednesday 30th March

Join us for another open crit and potluck dinner on Wednesday 30th March where IMAA members Jenny Walden and Maurice Carlin will be presenting.

Diagram by himHallows, visualising a distribution structure for Maurice Carlins 'Performance Publishing' artwork.
Potluck from 6pm in the first floor common room space at Islington Mill. Please bring a dish to share, can be home-cooked or shop bought (home cooked is nicer!) Plus BYOB. This will be followed by presentations in the gallery space from Maurice Carlin who will present recent work and Jenny Walden who will give a short talk on 'the hidden curriculum' within fine art education;

"Concern for a 'hidden curriculum' has arisen because in some ways fine art specifically may be less understood or less easily accommodated by the prevailing 'norms' of a university as a whole. 'Fine Art' is less easily slotted into discourses about 'employability' or 'instrumental' university education and the student as 'consumer'.

My paper looks at these issues very much from the point of view of art education happening 'somewhere else', other than the university.  Many college and university students participate in alternative spaces for art education, along side artists who may not have trodden the path of the fine art 'degree' in addition to their degree studies. IMAA being one example." Jenny Walden

Take a look at some of our past posts to see what the crits are all about - it;s a great way to meet others and get involved with the Art Academy.

Some thoughts from presenting artists on the IMAA Open Crit

For our Open Crits, we have been experimenting with how we document the discussion, through inviting those who have presented work to write something about their experience of the crit, if and how they found it useful, and what they intend to do as a result..

Claire Hignett

I have taken some time out from my usual routine with the intention to progress my art work. Following a residency in the warehouse at the Mill late last year my work is in a state of change and I am not sure whether this is a development in my usual practice, just in a different landscape or whether it is a fundamental change! I have been using the crits at the mill to try to voice what my work is about and to test how others respond. I find the crit process really difficult, but it is worthwhile.

I showed a printed blanket with multiple images of a doll from my childhood, curious to see what the response would be.  The overall response was that it was unnerving, creepy, angry and political. Apart from the political aspect - which I was a little surprised by - this was the response I expected, although I would like to find a way to take the creepy/scary aspect away as I don’t think that is what I am trying to say.  Somehow, the work I started in the warehouse, which was to sort through my childhood toys, which make me feel safe and loved turned into a response to the refugee crisis and this muddle was clearly evident in the questions people asked and comments made. This wasn’t made as an exhibition piece, and is just the first stage of making since the residency and the crit has identified many elements I want to explore.

Aliyah Hussain
This was the first time I've taken part in an art academy crit and although I was nervous about it. I found it really useful. I'm preparing for an interview so it was a nice way to get some feedback on my ideas and use it as practice. I do normally work with other people and have studio crits as I'm working but I haven't participated in something this formal since university. I found it to be a very useful way to present work, as it was interesting to hear the responses to the physical work and also my reasonings and research as well as hearing different people's interpretations of the work. 
As I tend to work with quite abstract forms, I normally allow the work to remain open and ambiguous when I present it for exhibitions, usually relying on the titles of the work to suggest the meaning. I enjoyed explaining in more detail and being challenged on decisions I'd made whilst making the work. I have already started the next phase of this work, using some of the questions asked of me as a springboard for experimentation. It's still the early phase of this project and I feel like it's got a way to go until I reach a clearer conclusion, so participating in this crit has given me a more ideas that I can work with.
Our next open crit is Wednesday 30th March - more info here.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Coming up: Islington Mill Art Academy Open Crit 24th Feb

On Wednesday 24th Feb we have the first Islington Mill Art Academy Open Crit of the year. Potluck Dinner in 1st floor Common Room from 6pm followed by crits in the gallery with Claire Hignett and Aliyah Hussain.
Please bring a dish to share (enough for one person, can be home-cooked or shop- bought, home cooked is nicer!) and BYOB. 

Claire Hignett is a current member of IMAA. She will be presenting new work, which is a development of work made during the recent IMAA 6 month residency at Regent Trading Estate.

Aliyah Hussain is a current studio tenant at Islington Mill, and member of performance collective The Volkov Commanders. Her work frequently observes topics such as spirituality and space, creating bold, exciting and humorous works through fabric and photography.

                   Image: Claire Hignett 'Secret and Sacred' 2015                  

Image: Aliyah Hussain

Friday, 18 December 2015

IMAA mentioned in The Guardian

Islington Mill Art Academy have been mentioned in an article on liberating arts education featured in the Guardian's Cultural professionals network. Here's a link

Alternative Art education does seem to be becoming a very relevant subject again judging by the number of enquiries we keep getting!