Student stories: Alison Dollery | The Open College of the Arts
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Student stories: Alison Dollery

Alison has just completed Studio practice (HE4) and is currently doing UVC2 on the Fine Art pathway. 

Although I got an A* at Art GCSE I really wasn’t suited to main stream school education and I didn’t do as well in other subjects which meant I couldn’t pursue the routes I wanted to. Despite studying for a GNVQ in Art and Design, due to home life struggles I left college and had a career within the Travel Industry for 15 years. Although gaining professional qualifications, I never felt I was able to pursue an artistic career or study art at an academic level especially study towards the much wanted BA in Fine Art that I dreamt of in Art class whilst at school. 

I came across an advert for the Open Collage for the Arts and joined in 2015, enrolling for the new Fine Art Programme in 2016. Distance learning has allowed me to study completely at my own pace, with flexibility around my two young children (who were two and five when I joined the OCA) and part time work. At times managing studies and a young family has been extremely challenging but really rewarding and extremely enjoyable. Without the OCA I would have never had the opportunity to do this. Through tutorials and study visits the tutors have been extremely supportive and insightful into their own artistic practices. I have also been able to cathartically use my studies through my artistic practice to help me deal with difficult medical situations as I had surgery to lose 10 stone in weight.  

The OCA has provided so many opportunities like the 2018 Showcase exhibition and student visits to places such as the British Museum drawing archives, galleries and exhibitions all over the UK, 2020 Lisbon Study Visit and online workshops and critiques during the Covid- 19 pandemic. This has allowed to meet students, tutors and artists, likeminded creatives from different artistic disciplines, study levels and degree pathways. 

Fig 1 She who was once Obese (Part of a Series) 2020 84.1 x 59.4 mm

My ongoing body of work explores my relationship with my body, its materiality as a cathartic process that is subversive of the female form. This reflects my experience of obesity, bariatric surgery and theoretical research into Julie Kristeva’s Abject. The drawings, performance and photography exemplify vulnerability as an artist and take ownership and depict the honesty of my body exploring repulsion or Desire. 

IM DIRTY 2019 33.1 x 46.8 in Photographic image of Performance.

I’m Dirty, latex paint imitates abject fluids and foodstuff, representing fat and milk dripping off of my naked slumped body psychologically viewed as grotesque abject body and can be aligned with Krauss Sherman/Kristeva readings.

“When the eyes see of the lips touch that skin on the surface of milk… I experience a gagging sensation… spasms in the stomach. tears and bile” she explains that she abject oneself against parental order to maintain self (Kristeva:1982:3).

Selfie Adaptives, Photographs of Performance at the Tate Modern in 2019. (External View Image Credit: Timothy Cheong with Permission).

The sculpture represents Franz West Adaptives, The Abject, my larger body and visceral intestines. Conceptualising ideas of the inside/outside of the body, photographing my own mirror gaze, Kristevan boundaries, transformative bodies within a liminal space of the in-between through performance and sculpture as part of collaboration alongside artist Harold Offeh, Tate Curators and other artists at the Tate on the 11th May 2019 as part of the Franz West Exhibition with Artist Harold Offeh.

SKIN Film Stills Obesity Cleansing Video 2020
SKIN Film Stills Obesity Cleansing Video 2020

My video narrative SKIN exploring the materiality of my body as it becomes a canvas using paint, jam (Inspired by artist and OCA tutor Diana Ali’s Smeared and Aftermath) and chocolate sauce, subsequently cleaning the substances away to show the removal of dirt/fat. Video art as a medium similarly to Sherman provides a safe boundary for the viewer to explore the grotesque abject bodies aftermath of loose skin.

View more of Alison’s work here:

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Posted by author: Alison Dollery
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12 thoughts on “Student stories: Alison Dollery

  • Inspiring to read about your journey. Your topic is very personal, van imagine at times hard and investigative; transforming this into visual art, like performance is what I admire of your practice.

  • Good to read and to see your writing about your own most relevant experience and journey. I am glad to collaborate with you and hope your performative and material interrogations with self, body schema and body image is as transformative as it was and still is now going through struggles and anxiety through UVC2

  • Creative, inspirational and a genuine narrative from your strong character. I admire your passion to communicate the journey you have taken so far. Your experience will resonate within many concepts and collaborations to come.

  • I followed your work on IG and I am happy you got featured here because you have strong messages in your art! The truth you speak trough your work is inspiring and hope to see more of your works 🙂

  • Brilliant work and a heartbreaking story. It was a great pleasure to collaborate with on on Keeping up the Momentum.
    Wishing you every success with your OCA and life journey.

  • Well done Alison, your work and journey will resonate with so many people. I feel it may represent various struggles that so many of us have in different forms. It was really good to meet you in Lisbon.

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