Last year, and early into this year, Outside In took part in a collaborative pilot project with the University of Chichester which brought together artists from differing backgrounds. From September to December 2014, Outside In artist Paul Bellingham and Fine Art MA student Gemma Green met up and worked together, sharing the experience of making work and discussing their art practices. The collaboration resulted in an exhibition of work by Gemma and Paul, which took place at artOne at the University of Chichester in March this year. Following on from two previous blog posts on the project (here and here), this post asks Gemma and Paul what impact the project has had on their work.
How do you feel about the project now, looking back on it retrospectively?
Gemma Green: I still consider the project to be an incredibly insightful and informative venture, and I am continuing to gain valuable lessons from it. The nature of collaboration is significant in any creative endeavour, whether that be whilst working with another artist, between an artist and their material or craft, or between the artist and the viewer. It demonstrated the power of art when it is a shared experience, and the further benefits of communication between practitioners. Our experiences of both formal and informal education also played a part in my understanding the importance of freedom in art.
Paul Bellingham: It was such a valuable thing for me to do at that time. It helped me along, it inspired me. I am now about to start a university course as a result of the project, which is pretty incredible. I now find myself noticing the influence of Gemma in my work, with recent pieces being slightly more meticulous – they actually look a bit like aerial maps, with all the buildings. I’ve definitely seen that coming through. I’m still thinking about collaborating, and I haven’t stopped making work since the project.
Is there anything from it you’ve taken forward?
GG: I found appeal in our documentation of the making of the work, and this is something I have taken forward. In my own practice, the process of making a drawing has a particular significance to the ideas behind the work. I have gained more technical knowledge about making and using video as an addition to my drawings. As Paul and I had very different styles of work, the contrast of spontaneous and meticulous methods had some influence on my process of making a drawing. Since much of my work is rooted in observation, I have developed methods which combine drawing from what is seen, remembered and imagined.
PB: Gemma and I worked on concertina pads together, and I’ve carried that forward. I made one that was exhibited in Outside In’s exhibition in May at the Phoenix Brighton as part of HOUSE Festival 2015, and I’m working on another one at the moment. I’ve sort of continued with what I was doing during the project. It’s definitely given me the confidence to experiment and find my way.
What are you working on at the moment?
GG: I am currently nearing the conclusion of my MA studies at the University of Chichester, with our final exhibition taking place in September. As my enquiry throughout my education has, at its roots, been an exploration into the intrinsic nature of drawing and the potential that different styles can have on the interpretation of a work, the Insight project was a profound experience in that it gave me insight into another artist’s knowledge of drawing. Paul and I shared an interest in the parts of our environments that are overlooked or unappreciated, as my most recent body of work during the MA was looking at weeds, and we both embraced the joys of looking and the discovery of what lay at the edges of our landscapes.
PB: I have been making some of my blind portraits, where I close my eyes to create the outlines and then fill in the gaps with colour. This time, I have been using paint on canvas rather than pastel on paper. There’s been a lot of experimental drawing. I’ve been trying to combine the blind head drawings with other things. It’s getting to the point where I’m wanting to work on a larger scale, but at the moment I’m making stuff in my sketchbook.
What overall impact do you think the project has had on you and your work?
GG: My experience of the Insight project has enriched my art practice and has opened my eyes to the potential of art in my own work and in the community. In some ways it challenged my process of working but also consolidated my understanding of my own work, as well as encouraging me to trust myself as an artist. I will continue to gain valuable insights from the project in years to come, and I hope it will enable me to participate in similar projects in the future.
PB: It’s led to me applying to do a degree and getting in – which is amazing. It’s re-established my confidence in myself and my work; I can do this stuff and my work is of value in the bigger picture. It’s of value and interest to an audience – to other people, not just me. Confidence really has been the main thing. It was a privilege to be part of the pilot of this project, it was really good for me. It’s a great idea to get two people to work together collaboratively and it’s had a deep impact – hopefully other people will have the chance to benefit from this project. And maybe one day, I can take part again and be on the other end!