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Workshops 2022/2023

The series of 5 workshops each semester aim to lead the students through a creative process:

  • experimentation
  • reflection
  • research

Mae’r gyfres o 5 gweithdy bob semester yn arwain y myfyrwyr drwy broses greadigol:

  • arbrofi
  • myfyrio
  • ymchwilio

The 5 workshops enable the students to witness and ‘get’ for the first time, or ‘get’ again a creative process that can be the foundation of any creative project in any discipline. The students will be encouraged to learn how to apply this process to their own individual self – directed projects and their projects in other practice based modules.

Mae’r 5 gweithdy yn galluogi’r myfyrwyr i weld a ‘deall’ proses greadigol, am y tro cyntaf neu eu deall eto o’r newydd, a all ddarparu sylfaen i unrhyw brosiect creadigol mewn unrhyw ddisgyblaeth. Anogir y myfyrwyr i ddysgu sut i gymhwyso’r broses hon i’w prosiectau hunan-gyfeiriedig unigol eu hunain yn ogystal â’u prosiectau ar fodiwlau eraill sy’n seiliedig ar ymarfer.


Workshop 5

The series of 5 workshops this semester focussed on the theme TIME, the programme of workshops led by myself and Tim Beckham were designed to encourage and enable the group to understand the topic/concept/theme central in contemporary art practice and theory. Dee Matthews and Amy Hamilton’s group workshop proposal pitches were chosen.

Amy led her timed painting workshop – her idea was to get everyone into a playful space and to enjoy making art, specifically painting. She set us a given time to paint something we had been asked to bring in or find in the room. She set us a given times; we were given 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes etc. until finally we were given 10 minutes to paint our objects. It was a very simple and effective workshop, enabling us to paint freely while observing deeply, returning to observe the same object over and over allowed us to really scrutinise the object. At the end Amy led an evaluation, I definitely preferred the shorter times, my first 30 second painting of the Monkey Clock was my preferred painting, loose and free of judgement.

Amy found the shortest times of 10-40 seconds also to be the most fun as they were the most challenging. However her favourite painting over all was the 10 minute painting , as it was most people’s, Amy suggested it was perhaps because it gave everyone enough time to be free and paint any details without over working or caring too much about the work. This workshop was a direct reflection on Amy’s own project and served to inform and strengthen her ideas moving forward.

Dee led her painting workshop with used and vintage paints workshop. Again a really fun and informative workshop. Dee taught us how to mix various pigments with various bases and binders, explaining which were better or worse for the environment. She instructed us on how to dispose of the paints and how to wash and preserve our equipment without having to tip it all down the sink! We ended the session by writing and painting our thoughts on global warming and the climate crisis all over the paper that covered the table, Dee then took the paper up to the Arts Centre for the TAKEOVER exhibition to invite more participation.


Workshop 1

The Thai Red Curry Workshop

The series of 5 workshops this semester were designed to encourage and enable the group to understand the topic/concept/theme; The EVERYDAY – a central reference in contemporary art practice and theory. We Looked briefly at Happenings, The International Situationists, Fluxus, Dada and Relational Aesthetics for context. I started the series off by introducing Rikrit Tiravanija; contemporary artist who introduced cooking and eating to the gallery. He staged his first project pad thai in the Paula Allen Gallery in New York in 1990 and Free/Still at the 303 Gallery in Soho New York in 1992. This radical and totally unexpected gallery based artwork was a rejection of the traditional, it was a development on what a gallery could be, what an audience could be and how they could both generate and effect an artwork in a gallery setting. Instead of installing objects and images Tiravanija installed ‘socializing’ – with the intention that social interaction was at the core of his work and the core of visitors experience of art and the museum/gallery. Through his work Tiravanija was asking audiences to recognize and realize that they themselves could be the makers of an artwork, that they could directly contribute to its existence and its meaning, that their presence and their exchanges were an integral part of the work. His live art works were about bringing people together, with the sole purpose of stimulating conversation. Grant H Hester in his book Conversation Pieces; Community and Communication writes “There are…a number of contemporary artists and art collectives that have defined their practice around the facilitation of dialogue among diverse communities. Parting from the traditions of object making, these artists have adopted a performative, process based approach. They are “context providers” rather than “content providers,” in the words of British artist Peter Dunn, whose work involves the creative orchestration of collaborative encounters and conversations, well beyond the institutional confines of the gallery or museum. He goes on to say that projects like Tiravanija’s “create an open space where individuals can break free from pre- existing roles and obligations, reacting and interacting in new unforeseeable ways”

In this workshop I asked the students to “consider that while we are not in a gallery, we can imagine for a while that we are, that we have an audience and that this is a live artwork”. I went on to say that “during this workshop we will all be part of an art work, and that all of our activities, our processes, our conversations and exchanges will be the artwork”.

For an everyday activity like this to become an artwork we made and agreed on a contract:

  • We must intend it to be an art work
  • We must decide it is an art work
  • We must all be congruent – in agreement that this is an art work
  • We must believe it is an artwork
  • We must say it as an art work
  • We must develop an objective perspective to everything we do
  • We must think critically about everything we do
  • We must do everything mindfully
  • We must be both self – conscious while natural
  • We must keep analyzing, reassessing and adapting the artwork during the process
  • We must remember that we are each organisms in the organic, living system, everything we do impacts what someone else will do and impacts the whole event

While we were involved in the process of preparing, cooking and eating our Thai Red Curry we were acutely aware of how we approached each task, how we arranged things on the table, how we cut the vegetables, how we washed the vegetables, we thought about composition, balance, form, colour, structure etc. all the time in everything we did. We were natural and enjoyed the workshop but tried to remember that when we responded to each other, when we helped each other, when we talked to each other, when we shared stories and concerns and references that it was all part of the art work we were creating. This was a unique event, unique to us at that time, that day, that year, in that place, it will never happen again in the same way, with the same people…

Workshop 2

In the second workshop the students are given the opportunity to reflect on everything they did in the first workshop and during the week. In this workshop they are asked to research and brainstorm in the class to develop their individual proposals for the collaborative workshop in workshop 5, week 9. I gave them blank cardboard boxes to see if the material, shape, size, texture, colour of the box would change and shape their thinking.

Workshop 3

The third workshop aims to give students an opportunity to pitch their individual proposals for the collaborative project which will be led by one of them in workshop 5. Their proposals will extend and enhance the activity and material developed in workshops 1 and 2. Students deliver their pitch via a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation. At the end of the presentations each person votes for one proposal they want to participate in in workshop 5. The person whose proposal is successful leads workshop 5 under my supervision. Mike Varney’s Claymation and Jennifer Berwick’s Worry Doll’s projects were the successful proposals .Here is just one example of the project pitches by Dee Mathews.

Workshop 4

The fourth workshop gives the students an opportunity to present the research that they have carried out on one concept and one artists’ creative project, from any discipline, that relates to the selected collaborative project. We brainstorm together to think up the related concepts. Here is Saad Hussain’s research on ‘Burn’ which was one of the concepts that related to Jennifer’s Worry Doll’s project proposal.

Workshop 5

The fifth and final workshop in the workshop series for The Everyday, aims to give students the opportunity to fully realise a collaborative project that has been conceived, devised and proposed by a student. The project will clarify, refine and define, through a process of experimentation, reflection and research the theme/concept/topic that we started with in Workshop 1. Experiencing the process we have taken together throughout the series of 5 workshops enables students to witness and so hopefully ‘get’ for the first time, or ‘get’ again –  the creative process that is at the heart of the development of any creative project in any discipline.

The Claymation Workshop

In Mike Varney’s ‘Claymation’ workshop we were asked to individually model elements in clay that would contribute to a collective village. It was a loose brief with a clear parameter and so wonderfully freeing and not too daunting. We all dived in and quickly got on with making our characters, buildings, animals, trees, plants etc. We then brought our individually modelled elements to a table – here the village came alive; our curious and innovative elements all collided in a rich and humorous scenario. We then moved our various characters etc. one movement at a time while Mike made a stop frame animation. I have no idea what went on in the village that day, lots of characters were up to no good thats for sure – including the animals! All I know is that my farmer tried to enjoy a bath plein air while his two pigs messed about and kept tipping him out! The workshop was fun and playful, and it was magical to see the finished film.

© Mike Varney 2022

The Worry Dolls Workshop

Jennifer Berwick’s Worry Dolls workshop was another collaborative endeavour, this time we worked together from the start. Again, Jennifer set a clear brief and so we all understood what the task was and what we were trying to achieve, but the beauty of any creative process is that you never quite know where you will end up, I don’t think Jennifer imagined the dolls would end up so big and I am not sure she anticipated how much everyone would identify with them. I enjoyed going off a bit on my own to make the hat while others made ties, scarfs and buttons etc. They just kept growing in personality, and it was clear we were all invested in these new crazy friends of ours. Students wrote their worries on coloured paper and pinned or sewed them onto the dolls, this was sobering and cathartic exercise and added a reflective and personal dimension to the workshop. Once the dolls were finished we all ceremoniously carried them down to the School of Art foyer, to sit them either side of the main entrance doors, they looked like SoA mascots or scape goats. SoA students and staff were invited to participate by adding their written worries to the dolls. The finale was fabulous, albeit a little macabre, we made a pyre on the beach and burned the dolls along with our worries, students remarked that the worries they had pinned to the dolls back in December were no longer present in their lives, and so reminding them that all things pass – pertinent to our theme Time this semester, some of us made new ones or spoke some aloud. The collective ritual of burning the dolls and our worries on the beach was a very beautiful, evocative and memorable end to a wonderful workshop.

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