Graduate Residency - Month One / by Naomi Harwin

At the end of August I moved to Stoke-On-Trent to begin a Graduate Residency at Airspace Gallery. It has now been just over a month since I arrived.

‘Airspace Gallery is a collaborative, artist led project in Stoke-on-Trent, providing professional development opportunities, studio and exhibiting space and support for artists. Through a dynamic and evolving programme of exhibitions, events and activities Airspace Gallery brings critical, high quality contemporary art to the region and provides opportunities for a broad range of artists.’

The Graduate Residency offers myself and my fellow resident; Alice Walter a 6-month period of self directed work. We are provided with a free studio space, regular support meetings and mentoring sessions with Gallery directorate and artist professionals. We also have the chance to exhibit our work in an interim window show and then a solo exhibition at the end of January.

Having just graduated it is thrilling to be able take part in the programme such as this. Allowing me to focus and continue my practice while providing valuable experiences along the way.

A little bit about my practice

My work is based around a desire to explore and understand the relationship between one’s self, the objects that surround us and the environments we occupy. Most recently, I have been focusing particularly on the processing of visual stimuli, striking up a dialogue between a form and its represented image.

Through playing with materials and employing aesthetic qualities that I find myself drawn to, the attention of my studies has become the forms of my own construction. Through the use of processes associated with mapping I am able to both generate and assess the forms.

Exploring the surfaces by extracting, studying and documenting, traceries act as records of my findings, while also taking on a life of their own. Generating a body of works the display often become integral to the dynamic and engaging experience of the facets and features of these objects.

The Move

While I originally come from Cambridgeshire, I spent the past three years at Norwich University of the Arts where I pursued a BA in Fine Art. And so Stoke-On-Trent and the surrounding areas are places I have never visited before. And yet if I’m honest I don’t think I really gave much thought to the idea of moving to a new and unfamiliar place, where I didn’t know anyone; this was probably to my benefit. All I anticipated was for it to be an exciting and challenging experience.

My first week was quite difficult, feeling every much isolated, not really knowing where to begin. Having to find a part time job and settle into the area, it was hard to focus and make a start on any work. But this soon subsided as I started to explore my surroundings. Once things were more in place it became much easier to spend time in the studio.

Events and activities

Within this first month I was welcomed by a number of events and activities. For example Appetite an organisation that ‘aims to get more people in Stoke-On-Trent to experience and be inspired by the arts’, held their Big Feats Weekend, which involved a great selection of street entertainment and performances. I was able to meet the team and get involved with their events.

 

While Campbell Works, a London based curational partnership that were selected as part of an open call curation project, have been exploring Airspace; the gallery, studios and studio members, the Airspace building, it’s structure and it’s locality. The result of their investigations culminated in an installation ‘Coming Up For Air’ made of materials sourced from the building and the local area. Drawing on their interactions with the place a functioning heating system wraps itself around found objects and flows through the space of the gallery filling it with warmth. The exhibition is a playful investigation into Airspace. The show opened on 12th September and continues until 18th October at Airspace Gallery.

More recently I got in contact with B-arts a group of artists and producers based in North Staffordshire, who have been working together for the past 29 years, co-creating works with communities. They aim to bring the arts to the people by working in outdoor spaces and nontraditional venues, such as parks, city streets, village halls and beaches. I visited their new building in Stoke and was given a tour of the vast spaces and rooms within it. I was told of their plans to create a bakery, a cafe and a co-work space as part of Artcity, a 5-year program. Artcity aims to allow artists to use empty spaces around Stoke-On-Trent to create site-specific events and performances. As they had the launch event for Artcity coming up the following week I got involved, helping out prepare the space for the event.

My first month in Stoke-On-Trent as part of my Graduate Residency has been a busy one, settling into the area, getting involved in the events and beginning my own work which I haven’t included here, those developments I am documenting visually on my tumblr www.naomiharwin.tumblr.com. With more exhibitions and events coming up I will continue to document my experience as I work through my residency here at Airspace Gallery. Please support my residency by checking out the screen prints I have on sale on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/NaomiHarwinPrints or if you would like to see some more of my work please visit my website at www.naomiharwin.com or view my tumblr blog at www.naomiharwin.tumblr.com.

Naomi Harwin

View my a.n. blog here https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/graduate-residency-at-airspace-gallery