A busy Second Month at Airspace Gallery / by Naomi Harwin

I have now spent just over two months here in Stoke-On-Trent as part of my Graduate Residency.  And again my weeks have been filled with exciting activities along side my own developments in the studio. Here is what I have been up to over the past month, apologies for the length.

In the studio

Spending the majority of my time in the studio, the work seems to be progressing in an interesting direction with some exciting potential. I have numerous ideas on the go and quite a few I am hoping to soon materialize.

I have found that making work on this residency at Airspace, my process feels much freer, being the most enjoyable experience of making work I have found so far.  This I would assume comes partly from the new found freedom having left education, where deadlines can sometimes halt or get in the way of the works natural flow.  And this flow is something I have definitely felt over the past few months.  The process of making has felt much more fluid and engaging.

While the studio space itself has allowed me to consider creating much larger works, through this the pieces are becoming more spatial. Now the studio is starting to get busier as the works are increasing in size and quantity.

Studio documentation – www.naomiharwin.tumblr.com

Beneath the pavement

At the end of September I attended an event that was held to present the proposals and ideas generated as part of the Beneath the Pavement programme.Appetite and the City Centre Partnership commissioned Airspace Gallery to design a programme that worked with artists to find spaces and opportunities in the city centre for creative practitioners. They also aimed to identifying gaps in the city, considering how it might work differently and the opportunities available.

The presentation took place in three locations; the event started out in the town hall in a space I would assume is used as a courtroom. Here we were given an overview of the ideas behind the programme and the significance of its potential.  The importance and value of artists within society was discussed, highlighting the different ways artists can engage with and help regenerate communities not limited to site-specific commissioned sculptures.

From here we moved on to a green space. Along the walk we shared Chumbrellas, one of the ideas generated as part of Beneath the Pavement. The Chumbrella offers temporary shared shelter, encouraging a small act of kindness and social engagement with strangers.

At the green space we were presented with some of the proposals, amongst a herb garden.  We explored the ideas and discussed them with the artists.  Before moving on to the next location we were able to take away a herb from the bed, mine was an apple mint plant, which is now thriving on my window sill.

The final location was a café space where we were presented with the remaining proposals.  Here we were able to discuss the ideas and potential for such projects.  The whole event highlighted how Stoke-On-Trent can prevent losing its identity and build a thriving city through the assistance of artists.  The Beneath the Pavements proposals were generated in a very short space of time, but the programme illuminated the potential should significant time and money be invested into the city’s development.


On the same day as Beneath the Pavement a launch took place for Artcity a programme developed by a consortium of Stoke-on-Trent arts organisations, funded by Esmée Fairbain Foundation.  Artcity is a five-year project, which aims to turn vacant buildings and disused spaces in the city into temporary theatres, galleries, studios and cinemas.  The launch was held at B-arts’ new building on Hartshill road and included a large scope of works; sound pieces, performances, paintings, photography, sculptures, installations and spoken word.  The event had a great sense of energy and excitement for what is to come.  The atmosphere was really encouraging and emphasized the feeling that Stoke-On-Trent is developing a significant arts culture.

A trip to Manchester

While I am living in Stoke-On-Trent this time here offers me the opportunity to visit the cities in the area, which I have yet to explore.  I became aware that Manchester was holding its art fair, The Manchester Contemporary and this seemed the perfect time to visit the city.  With around 18 galleries showing, the art fair was reasonable small but had a great selection of emerging artist.  It was an excellent chance to find new galleries located within the area as well as across the UK.  It was also nice to see familiar works, those of Jost Münster and Jo Addison represented by Tinype Gallery, London.

For the rest of the day both Alice and myself were then able to explore the city and visit the Manchester Art Gallery.  It was clear that there was a lot to explore and discover and a day trip would not cover it.  But we were able to get a feel of the place and I will be sure to take another trip to the city.

In the window interim show preparations

As part of the residency we get the chance to put together a small show with the works with have developed so far.  This interim show is presented in Airspace’s Window space, and aims to allow people to get a taster of the kind of works being produced in studio 1 as well as offering us the opportunity to test out our ideas.

Due to the time scale between the exhibition turn around in the gallery, the window space is only available for a short time and so both Alice and myself are exhibiting together.   While considering the works we will show, we have also been thinking about how our works might come together.  Working in a shared studio, it has come to light that although our practices are quite different, visually our work shares a number of qualities, both incorporate a quality of drawing and the repetitive use of shapes and images, while there is a certain quietness and subtlety which comes through the muted colours and limited pallet.  There is also a spatial element that is developing in both practices.

We were able to test out some ideas for the window when we went to visit theKules residency at Olympus engineering. The project includes the artists; Leigh Clarke, Chloe Cooper, Leslie Deere and Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson.  The huge warehouse space offered the opportunity to test large works.  The Kules residency will culminate in an exhibition at Olympus, I am really looking forward to this exhibition, on from 8th-29th November.

A trip to Frieze and SUNDAY

Alice, myself and Kornelia a studio artist at Airspace were nominated by the gallery to take part in Turning Point West Midland’s trip to Frieze art fair. Turning Point a network for the visual arts in the West Midlands organized our trip to London where we met other artists and explored both SUNDAY Art Fair and Frieze.  And as part of our trip the Contemporary Arts Society also gave us a tour of both fairs. As I have been to Frieze once before and was an intern for SUNDAY Art Fair last year I was familiar with both fairs, however, the tours offered a much more insightfully experience.  At SUNDAY, Rob Tufnell one of its organizer spoke to us about the origins of the fair and its aims, as well as his own gallery and the artist he was currently showing.  A few other gallery directors spoke to us about the artists they were showing.   It was extremely fascinating to hear how the galleries spoke about and represented each artist.

At Frieze Art Fair our tour included visiting a selection of the stalls and listening to the directors speak about their artists.  Some spoke at length, describing in detail the artist ideas and works, while other spoke more briefly, selecting a key area of the artist’s interests. After our tour we were free to roam the fair, which I felt, was much needed after the group tours.  Walking through the stalls I could explore the works that caught my eye. As always there was a lot to see and a great buzzy about the place, with performances happening throughout the day.  The trip with Turning point was a great opportunity to explore both fairs in London.

Soup Kitchen

More recently I attended one of Airspace Gallery’s Artist Soup Kitchen events.  Susan Jones, who was until recently the Director of a-n came and spoke to a small group of us about the importance of artist-led activities, the value of artist within communities and paying artists.  Throughout the talk we were able to write our thoughts and highlight points discussed on the tablecloth.  These contributions will come together in a book along with the soup recipes. After Susan highlighted on some extremely thought provoking points, we were then served a delicious soup made by Anna Francis. The talk then continued and others began to contribute to the discussion.  It was great to hear what the other artist had to say on the topic and some point really stuck with me, making me rethink a few things.  I felt I was not able to contribute as much as the others, having just graduated and only just beginning to find my feet as an artist, but it was great to hear the experiences of the other artists.  The Soup Kitchen was great format for discussion and the soup was excellent!

So these are some of the things I have been getting up to on my residency at Airspace Gallery this month.  Check my blog at : naomiharwin.tumblr.com if you would like to see my studio work.

View updates on mu a-n blog : https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/graduate-residency-at-airspace-gallery