The U6 residency in Berlin turned out to be absolutely brilliant. The thought of living with 4 other artists you don’t know very well and sharing a studio for 10 days might not appeal to everyone, but for us it worked so well, we all wanted to do it again immediately. The other four artists involved were Cadi Froelich, Mel Cole, James Edgar and Gin Dunscombe. Having been on the Joya residency with Cadi and Gin earlier in the year, I felt like I had an idea of what to expect from the whole experience, but the two residencies probably could not be more different in their approach and content. Joya was group isolation in the landscape, with an emphasis on collaborative practice and discussion. Berlin is one of the most bustling cities in the world with an incomparable art scene, there were far fewer of us, and we had more time so I still didn’t really know how easy it was going to be to produce any work…
Our 10 day trip began in typical holiday fashion, with an afternoon excursion to the city’s most noteworthy Arts Institution UDK, a wander around Kreuzberg, and then an alcohol fuelled night of madness and fun until 4am. By the morning of day 2 it already felt like we’d been there for a week we’d managed to cram so much into the first day. What followed were 9 days of sightseeing, gallery visits, studio time, epic conversations, falafel, beer, gin and tonic, group crits, lots of walking, and some very cold weather.
It was a really great opportunity to be in a shared studio space, and to have a sustained period of 10 days with no distractions of home life. I’m used to working alone in my studio, so wasn’t really sure how a shared studio would go, having not been in one since my BA at Leeds. I actually found it quite nice having other people around, but it can be quite distracting – I’m not sure I’d like to be in a shared studio on a permanent basis, but for this kind of trip I think it was essential.
After going to a few museums and commercial galleries, as well as the amazing art shop Modulor, I returned to the studio with some materials and began to play around with basic composition, and relationships between the materials I’d bought. I was also reading Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord at the time, and fairly soon a phrase from the book stuck in my mind as being quite a poignant and relevant notion to me: ‘That which is good appears, that which appears is good’. Having spent a few days with James “Helvetica” Edgar, I found myself playing around with text which was new territory for me, and distilled Debord’s phrase down to the two words ‘Good’ and ‘Appears’ and began to make links between image and language in a way I had never really done before.
A few days later I found myself back at Modulor in search of more interesting materials, and came back to the studio armed with more sheets of acrylic, and also a large sheet of clear cellulose film. I then spent quite a lot of time arranging two sheets of acrylic in various states of delicate balance that seemed interesting to me, and I especially enjoyed the motif of sheet material standing on the floor, and leaning against the wall. I suppose these experiments were all small scale architectural interventions, but I also felt they could operate as individual autonomous artworks. Having said that, these were raw ideas I was working with, that were nowhere near resolved as artworks, but I could see how they might lead me to an interesting new place.
I feel like I have come away from Berlin with a better understanding of how I work in the studio, and what I need to do to be more productive. I realised that my studio has a much more real influence on the work I make, both in terms of scale and material, and that I need to think beyond the realm of the studio when making work. I also know that discussion brings the work to life, so the more opportunities for that the better.