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It smells as sweet….

I have had cause recently to reflect on the cross disciplinary nature of the creative arts degree, and as if by magic a small exhibition was laid on outside my studio door to help me think through some of the issues. The images here are from a pop up show of third year students at Edinburgh College of Art (equivalent to the latter end of level 2 for us, or maybe on the cusp between level 2 &3 as Scottish degrees are 4 years full time.)
I would urge you before you read the labels to try to guess which course each student is signed up to, and then look and see how far you got it right. I would hope that you will be surprised by at least a couple, or maybe that you would just find the task either impossible or, more fundamentally, begin to question the function of such delineations.

Paloma Proudfoot - Sculpture
Paloma Proudfoot – Sculpture

Emily Bath - Performance Costume
Emily Bath – Performance Costume

Morwenna Potter - Painting
Morwenna Potter – Painting

Andrew Dhesi - Fashion
Andrew Dhesi – Fashion

Marion Barron - Painting
Marion Barron – Painting

Sarah Bushell - Product Design
Sarah Bushell – Product Design

Karen Fleming - Painting
Karen Fleming – Painting

Lucy Ellingham - Sculpture
Lucy Ellingham – Sculpture

Rachel Turner - Painting
Rachel Turner – Painting

Jack Wrigley - Sculpture
Jack Wrigley – Sculpture

Alan Kerr - Sculpture
Alan Kerr – Sculpture

Alice Kettle - Product Design
Alice Kettle – Product Design

Creative process, creative thinking, exploration and invention run across all of our courses at all levels at the Open College of the Arts. At least half of my own level 3 painting students are working with materials other than paint and have developed a multi disciplinary practice. This website provides a vital forum for cross disciplinary thinking and as a college we provide a unique platform for those artists who prefer to explore ideas across different forms of making.
As I draw to the end of my current residency my current materials list is:
100 forks
an opera singer
oil paint on gesso
optical illusions
wool, ribbon, string and bungees
other people
small plastic models
screen, transfer & digital printing
greaseproof paper
mooring rope
camouflage netting
the dark
I still feel in some part of my brain or heart that I am a ‘painter to trade’ but in common with my students, I am primarily an artist and allowing myself access to whatever medium and process suits the idea is simply the most effective use of my energies.
(I am currently artist in residence at the GMRC in Glasgow)

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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3 thoughts on “It smells as sweet….

  • Thanks for this post Emma, I’m a creative arts student with level 2 in printmaking and photography nearly completed. I’m currently working out how I’ll approach level 3. I guess if one wants to make work with some kind of conceptual cohesiveness one needs to use media appropriate for the idea you’re looking at, rather than just because its what you’re meant to be studying. I’m not sure how this is going to work out for me as yet, if one also needs to stay within broadly defined specialisms (in terms of media) I guess ones’ starting idea and inquiry would need to be broadly relevant to those particular media or you’d drive yourself mad, For instance I’m not sure how a photography tutor would be able to help me develop any drawing element in my work, so that there wouldn’t seem that much point emphasising that in any work I produced as part of a photography module, although I can see how it could be a relevant part of it. One of the concerns I have is that I’m not sure that all media specialists ‘see’ the conceptual side of choice of fine art media and how it supports the meaning; that seems such a major part of it and means that in the past I’ve worried that my more conceptual side will not be understood. My reason for worrying about this is that (probably more in the past) we at OCA often seem to have disagreements over contemporary art where the craft skills are heavily criticised and the conceptual element is totally overlooked.
    Maybe I’m confusing myself a bit with the transition from level 2 (pure media approach) to level 3 where more is possible but still needing to be done within the subject specialist frameworks …all my studies here have been subject specific because of the modules available…whereas I studied somewhere before that was across media. So I’m just a totally mixed up artist!
    Anyway my final year equivalent will probably be photography, which is the only option available to me of the new level 3 courses. Although I suppose, looking more broadly, all the above are also photographs.

    • Hi Anne, that is a lovely response, packed full of ideas. I hope that level 2 is not solely media based, and as an assessor for painting and drawing I know that the assessment criteria foreground inventiveness, experimentation and risk taking which seem to me to encourage interdisciplinarity. As you say, it is certainly the case that drawing is relevant to photography and plenty of practitioners out there are exploring just that. Staff at OCA are all qualified and are very able to respond to varied art practices, in which many of them themselves engage. So often I find with my own work that these kinds of questions are helped along by contextual research – asking these simple questions (‘who is working with printmaking and photography’ ‘who is working with drawing and photography’) should give you some answers. Maybe a photography assessor or CL can chip in here too?
      I think you have made a very interesting point that you have felt that in the past craft skills seem to have been highlighted over thinking skills – it is useful feedback and might be something that varies across departments. Try having a look at some level 3 photography portfolios on the OCA website, and also maybe have a look at some tutor websites to see what they are up to. Enjoy your courses and best of luck with level 3 when it arrives.

      • Thanks for the reply Emma! Yes I’ve begun some general research into these areas as a way of thinking my way into how it might be possible for me to be able to honestly say
        “I am primarily an artist and allowing myself access to whatever medium and process suits the idea is simply the most effective use of my energies.” aswell, within the confines of the final year of a photography degree! Whether this is possible is one thing, whether its advisable for me if I’m serious about my work, might be another. Anyway I’m factfinding via my tutor who knows me well enough to know what I’m on about hopefully.
        I wanted to say I’ve had no problems with the craft skill vs conceptual side of things in photography, this is one reason I felt I had to change subject area… the problem was on the art dept side for me, but I know things seem as though they have changed at OCA since.

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