Student stories: Bloomberg New Contemporaries – Beverley Duckworth
The Bloomberg New contemporaries is the leading graduate art prize in the UK. It is a launcher of careers and a fantastic overview of the best of british art schools. Kirsty Ogg, BNC Director describes the remit of the Prize as “creating clearly identifiable, networked communities of artists. We have an over 70-year history of successfully achieving this around our physical exhibitions – from the artists working in the post-war period, to the pop artists of the 1960s, the new media pioneers of the 1970s and 1980s, the 1990s YBAs and on to the next generations of artists post-2000 that have continued to push at the parameters of contemporary practice”.
This year I am delighted to say that a graduate from our own painting pathway has made it through the incredibly competitive first stage of the process. I hope this inspires everyone on the painting pathway and beyond to recognise the excellence of student activity within the college. I got in touch with her as she awaits the next stage, to find out more about her experience.
ED: Hi Beverley, it’s so lovely to be back in touch! I’m delighted for you that the panel have selected your work for more detailed consideration and wish you all the best with it. We have spoken at level 3 about the value of entering competitions in terms of getting your work seen by panels of great artists, regardless of whether you are selected. Who are the panel for this year’s competition and are they people you are excited about?
BD: I have found entering Open Calls to be a really positive experience on many fronts. Whether or not my work is selected, the process of entering has encouraged me to strive for more professional standards in my practice and the deadlines can also be a useful push to get on with making work! The judging panel for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries changes each year and the panel for 2021 are Tai Shani (joint winner of the 2019 Turner Prize with her work ‘DC Semiramis’, 2018), Michelle Williams Gamaker (joint winner of the 2020 Jarman award with her film ‘House of Women’, 2017) and the incredible sculptor Hew Locke. I find all their work so inspiring. Shani’s work in particular has encouraged me to think about performative ways to make connections between objects and sculptures which can transform art spaces into ambiguous platforms and, in doing so, create an audience experience which is potentially richer, and more immersive.
ED: You’ve made even better use of that aspect of the experience than I had envisaged in my question as researching the panel has had a direct impact on your own research. That’s great. I know it can be so hard to select work for something like this, worrying maybe that you can’t possibly do yourself justice and which branch of your practice do you put forward. One starts to see the value of the Turner Prize which looks at whole exhibitions. You have actually had quite a bit of success already with open exhibitions, and exhibited quite a bit towards the end of your SYP Unit and just beyond. Did having done a similar thing before make it easier to choose and how did you go about selecting the work in the end?
BD: Yes, applying to Open Calls has given me the opportunity to exhibit in a range of shows over the past couple of years which has been great. When deciding what to put forward, I generally have a look at selected works from previous shows (if the exhibition is an annual one) to get a sense of the kind of parameters that the selectors are working within. I also take into account whether the exhibition will be in a physical gallery space, in a virtual gallery, or on Instagram as this can really affect how the work is experienced – some of my work really doesn’t translate well online, for example. Having said all that, for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries I just went with my gut, selecting the work which I felt was strongest.
ED: Thanks so much Beverley, I hope your success inspires others to apply to BNC which is available to all recent graduates and we at OCA have everything crossed for you.
Image: Hairlace, 2020, Beverley Duckworth