In September 2013, 3 years after completing my BA in Fine Art, I managed to scrape together the funds to take myself out of London and off to NYC for 3 months. This was to be my sabbatical, from London, where I was juggling 3 jobs on top of my studio practice as a painter. I wanted to experience a new culture, have a little time away from my studio to reflect on what i’d been making and indulge a little: gallery visits, all-American breakfasts, beers down the dive bars in the LES and long, early morning walks along the Hudson.
My 3 months in NYC flew by, and as is nearly always the case, it was during my final weeks that my relentless attending of exhibition openings began to pay off and I was starting to get to know familiar faces on the New York art scene. Touching down in London’s Heathrow, I vowed to follow up my new NY art connections and to return in the not too distant future when I’d figured out a way to work with the artists that had been hitting my radar via open studio tours and visits to the city’s art schools.
Fast forward to May 2015; having proposed an exhibition to Imperial College London’s Blyth Gallery for an international group show featuring painters participating in an active artist community on various social media platforms, the Principal’s Travel Abroad Fund offered the perfect opportunity to head back over the pond to visit these artists i’d been chatting to online, and personally select works for the exhibition.
My previous trip provided me with a strong network of friends and contacts in the city with whom I could stay with for the odd night here and there, but wanting a little independence to come and go as I please, I also booked in to a loft apartment via Air BnB. I got an incredible deal – £150 for 7 nights – but after the bargain factor wore off, I began to worry a little about what kind of a place I may have signed up for… I knew my friends had my back if the worst came to the worst, but arriving after sunset in a pretty industrial (though very artsy & up and coming) neighbourhood did little to settle my nerves. Of course, I needn’t have worried, and the loft has provided the perfect base, ideally located just a couple of blocks from the majority of the studios i’m visiting.
It’s been such a joy to visit the studios and residences of such a fantastic group of contemporary painters, to see where they make their work and to discuss their processes at length in front of their works-in-progress. It’s a lot harder than one might imagine to organise an artist-led show featuring work by international artists; the internet has the ability to break down geographical boundaries and connect us across continents and time zones, yet the physical distance still remains. I’ve learnt, and am still learning a lot about the logistics involved in moving art work. My bags are packed and i’m carrying some pretty amazing cargo back to London with me (and will eventually be showing the works in Glasgow, so stay tuned!). But i’m just one little lady with a whole lot of baggage, so the journey home will be a struggle, but here’s hoping it’s going to be worth it!