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Introducing the Painting department programme tutors

The painting department has a wonderful team of experienced and generous artist tutors who support our students every day to achieve their ambitions. 

In a new development at OCA, we have introduced the new role of Programme Tutor. For painting, the programme tutors support the Head of Department and tutor team to develop the degree programme and to support the learning community to thrive and feel at home in the painting department. Anyone studying painting will meet them through group work activities such as support sessions, group crits or study events. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to welcome them to their new roles (some new and not so new faces!) and also to ask them to share some information about themselves. I’ll chip in about myself as Head of Department too.

L-R Emma Drye, Clare Wilson, Paula Macarthur, Tom Palin

Q1: Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do as an artist?

PM: I see my paintings as a contemporary response to Dutch 17th century Pronkstilleven painting – ostentatious still life. I’m currently focussing on crystals and jewels. Solitary, precious stones are captured in the spotlight, displayed as icons which lure us in and quietly invite us to investigate the multifaceted associations we bring to these treasures.

Through the slow, meditative process of painting I sink into my subconscious and begin to listen to the thoughts that surface. I think about the practicalities of the painting process but also start to conjure up simple narratives responding to whatever the image suggests. For me the paintings are like love songs, they become metaphors for human relationships, full of the joy and pain of life, essentially they are memento-mori, a reminder of the ephemerality of life and also a celebration of life.

I have a solo show ‘Still Light’ on at Rye Art Gallery, East Sussex until 20th March 2022 and later in the year will be exhibiting at Quay Arts, Isle of Wight and Elysium Gallery, Swansea with the artist-led group Contemporary British Painting.

CW: I live in North London, with a Bow Arts Trust studio in the East of the city. 

My work investigates ways in which the process and materiality of painting relates to the experience of landscape and the tension between real and imagined spaces. With my current work I am trying to connect memory, loss, and the sea – referring to the coastline of Northumberland that is familiar from my childhood. 

I am excited to be showing work in two group shows this spring. The first is Seedbomb at Terrace Gallery, London. The title refers to a vital part of guerrilla gardening –  ‘these seed bombs become a revolution in the hand, to be launched onto wasteland, creating future green spaces. Applying this concept to the practice of painting, the works shown in Seedbomb should be about the future: sparks of hope, desire…maybe subversion’

I have also been selected to put a piece of work in ‘A generous space 2’ at New Art Gallery Walsall. An exhibition of artists who have been taking part in the wonderful Artists Support Pledge that was initiated by artist Matthew Burrows. 

TP: I am a painter, writer about painting, and teacher, born in Birkenhead some time ago. As a painter, I am interested in the relationship between the paint-aspect and the picture-aspect of a painting. By this I mean that, seen in a particular light, a painting’s picture is ‘there’ and its object is object ‘here’. This here and there – the push and pull of picture and material of painting – serves to constitute a painting’s being: how it is permitted to function, irrespective of its mode of execution, manner or genre. To Philip Guston, we are image-makers and image-ridden. Yet in painting, the means by which an image takes shape, the material out of which it is fashioned, and the discrete form of its fashioning, are bound to the language of representation: to the world of stories, and of telling. As images, the painted works serve as glimpses of that which has been seen, remembered, or even imagined, then reconstituted through the various and often messy material processes of painting. The small scale of my work permits me to touch and see, and to feel close to what it is that inhabits my space. In its nearness, painting becomes more akin to a seductive surface wherein things simply show up and resonate in proximity to other things.

ED: As an artist I am primarily a painter but for the last 7 years I have been developing a practice going into other people’s workplaces and operating as a temporary employee with the remit to produce art. Most recently I was placed at Edinburgh local authority, but previous placements have included a psychic detective agency and a museum stores. As you can imagine, this has taken a massive hit over the last two years, something which has brought me back to painting rather than attempt to deliver it digitally. I am currently working on some small paintings relating the narrative surrounding a painting by Rubens of his daughter which he made around the time of her death with my own experience of mothering a teenage daughter. I live in a little cottage a few miles outside of Edinburgh with my family including my little dog Haelyn. 

Q2: How do you feel about your new role and what do you hope to achieve for the students?

PM: I have always enjoyed talking to people about painting; discussing the nitty gritty of materials and processes and thinking more broadly about the conceptual and philosophical aspects of making paintings. I feel I’m able to get a much clearer understanding of where students are coming from and what their ambitions are for their studies through regular conversations. I’ve also really enjoyed the group crits we’ve been running; it’s so interesting to hear other people’s responses to painting and, as well as giving valuable feedback, it also gives a useful insight into our own ideas and thought processes I think, often helping to distil our own ideas. 

CW: My new role as a programme tutor gives me the opportunity to get more directly involved in the different ways the painting department offers support and learning activities for students. I am delighted to be part of a team that is so committed to making the student experience as rewarding and inspiring as possible and I hope to contribute to these aims. I am very keen to develop and nurture good relationships with everyone I teach – finding interesting and challenging ways to enable greater learning and supporting them in their exciting journey towards a painting degree. I think this more frequent contact between students and tutors, for example through group work does help to keep the momentum going when studying, as well as offering a greater sense of being part of a community. I am also enjoying running group crits with students as I can see how this sort of engagement can really motivate creativity as well as help develop understanding and awareness of different approaches to making work.

TP: I’ve worked for the OCA for a little longer than I’ve taught for the OCA, and I’ve been involved in course writing for several months now, which has been very enjoyable. I’ve particularly enjoyed familiarising myself with OCA’s distinct approach to teaching and learning, and to working through the projects with those involved. Those who know me know that I’m more than happy to talk about painting (pretty much at any time) and to share my experiences of making and thinking about making. I hope to find the time to shape my role, and to work with my colleagues to provide a rich, varied and inclusive platform from which to understand the continued relevance of the object and processes of painting.

ED: I’ve been in post for a little under three years now, most of them covid affected. I feel we have come together as a department and I am inspired by what we have achieved in such trying times. Having ‘moved in’ to OCAlearn last year, this year I am using the metaphor of a coral reef to describe how students, tutors, programme tutors and I are all contributing and creating our own areas of activity and sharing spaces. I hope to achieve this during 2022 so that all painters and tutors know they are in the painting department and feel connected, visible and inspired.

Q3: What’s happening in the weeks ahead for you in the painting department?

PM: I recently led an in person study event to a student’s degree show; it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to complete a degree so it’s important to celebrate this achievement. We also visited a professional artist’s studio to give a taste of what life can be like after graduation. Study events are also a great opportunity to meet students and experience painting face to face, something that has become very difficult over the last couple of years. Being able to see and share images online has been a real lifesaver during the pandemic but I really can’t understate the importance of experiencing painting in the real world. 

CW: Alongside my 1-1 tutoring and group crits, I am working on the content of the second course in the painting pathway. This course is focusing on materiality, process and different ways paint can be manipulated to achieve interesting results. As an artist who loves the unpredictable and beautiful ways in which oil paint can move across a canvas, I am enjoying devising exercises and projects that will enable students to make their own discoveries and hopefully inspire them to keep exploring the possibilities of paint. I am also in the process of trying to arrange a study visit in London. I had hoped the Francis Bacon exhibition would be a possibility but the Royal Academy currently aren’t taking any group bookings. Once these Covid related restrictions have completely disappeared these events will be easier to run, but for now I am on the lookout for exciting exhibitions that will allow a small gathering. I think it will be great to meet students in the flesh again! 

TP: I’m currently writing a series of projects that will become the second unit at level 2, and so I’m busy working through the various stages of construction, and of course dealing with the editing process. I will be involved in the next assessment point, too, and I’m currently designing content for future group activities, to be worked in and around the one-to-one tutorials.

ED: I’ve got a run of studio meetings for all levels to share our experiences informally (which I always learn so much from), a run of welcome meetings for anyone just embarking on a new level and a tutor team meeting – so lots of meetings! I’m also working with colleagues to make sure the new group work synchronises with the various systems at OCA. As I write this it is actually snowing so I have brought a pot of hyacinths into the office to remind me of Spring and all we have ahead of us this year.

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Posted by author: Emma Drye
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