Open Crit. Friday 1st August, 2014

Our latest crit was a busy affair, as due to a mix up, four artists presented work instead of the usual three! It was also very well attended by art academy members who were there to contribute but not rpesent, which was great to see.

First up to present his work was Michael Holland, who showed the group some of his huge collection of collage work made from meticulously collecting and curating pieces of everyday ephemera, and who has this to say about the experience:

"Since I've not had a crit since university it was slightly stressful but it turned out fine in the end. I showed some new work, sketches and lots of stuff on paper . The feedback I received was almost completely positive and it felt more like an airing of my work rather than a critique. I rarely show anyone any of my work so it was great to show a group of people a whole load of it all in one go. Since the crit I have been moving forward with it and creating new works in a more loose outdoor style, something that I can't keep to myself, the front of the mill has become my workspace and I have been pasting up compositions on the spaces left by gig posters. Some successful and some not so, but its nice to leave them out in the elements for other people to get involved and possibly collaborate in the same space . 

The airing of my work gave me a different perspective and allowed me to work some things out, test myself and more quickly than I previously thought, move on to the next stage in my meandering development. "

Next up was Hannah Cawthorne, who wanted advice from the group on where next to take the concepts that underpin her abstract photographic work.

"This was my first time showing my work to members of the art academy, and I was strangely nervous and excited beforehand. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive, and said some really insightful things about my work, including some aspects of it that I hadn't really thought about at all. In fact at times it felt like a bit of a therapy session, but in a good way!

Evere since I heard about these crits I've been wanting to do one, because I recognised there was a danger of my art getting a bit stagnant if I didn't branch out and try new things, so that's what I have been doing for the past few months. But then sometimes it's good to get a third opinion on whether you are headed in the right direction, and that's what I hoped the crit would provide. It did do that, and it also pointed me in the direction of several new ways forward, including the amazing opportunity to do a residency at the Mill this Autumn, which I think will be a huge thing for me. So, on balance I think the crit really surpassed my expectations about what it could do for my art practise!"

After a short break for some much need refreshments, the third artist to present was Jared Szpakowski. Jared had a very specific question he hoped the attendees would be able to answer for him, which was whether the film he presented to us was successful in its current state, needed re-doing, or was not working at all. Praise for the piece was pretty universal, and the answer seemed to be that all agreed it worked very well as it was.

The fourth and final artist was Hannah Leighton-Boyce, who wanted to share with the group plans for a recently commissioned artwork.

She explains:
"It was my first time actually attending or presenting at the Art Academy and I wasn't quite sure how it would go as I didn't have much physical work to present, just plans, maps and photos which makes it both harder to get the essence of the work across and therefore for others to feel able to give a response. The work I shared is one that I am currently making in a village north of Manchester called Helmshore. The work called 'The Event of the Thread' has been commissioned by Helmshore Mills Textile Museum but will actually be located in a housing estate above the former Mill in what was the Tenter Fields where woollen cloth was stretched across the land to dry. Essentially, a thread of around 3300 yards in length will retrace the mapped lines of the tenter frames as it is passed by residents creating one sculptural line as it crosses roads, gardens and fences, passes through houses, letterboxes, windows and doors and a temporary memorial to the site, re-connecting different lives and times, private and public, people and place. 
So much of the ‘making’ of this work is about meeting and talking to people, knocking on doors, 'taking the museum' and spinning wheel to the pub, Library, Sports Centre and market to both meet local residents as, without their interest or support, it won't happen. So, although I didn't yet have anything physical to show at the crit, I suppose that is also why I felt I wanted to share the project with the group, discussion is part of the nature of the work. Initially, I think it was hard for people to feel able to respond as I didn’t have any clear questions that needed answering but the conversation created questions and comments that were really helpful and, just the act of sounding out the work, rather than going over ideas in my head really helped to clarify what was important to the work."

And with that, we agreed to call it a day, after another very successful crit!

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