An Open Letter to the University Of South Wales

I was lucky enough to obtain a place on the Foundation Art, Media and Design course run at Caerleon Campus back in 2010 after being made redundant from my full-time job.  Getting onto this course changed my life and gave me hope that the career I wanted could be achieved.  What I hadn’t bargained for over the year that the course ran, was to make so many good friends, learn new skills that I never even thought about and have the help and support of the fantastic lecturers who really listened to me and made me feel that I mattered as an individual and part of a team.

The course offered me the chance to try out so many new techniques, from creating a stop motion video, 3d art, sculpture and using song lyrics to inspire fashion.  The course taught me that inspiration can be sought from so many different, unlikely sources, experimentation in your thought processes can take your project from one dimension to another.  It has affected how I approach life in general, from how I work on a day-to-day basis, to how I plan my own projects.  I am a lot more creative than I used to be, and that is not because I wasn’t a creative person before the course, it’s because it gave me the confidence to take my ideas from my head and to actually create from the ideas.  The course has taught me that mistakes are often the beginning of new creations and should be embraced, I’m not so scared of making mistakes now, and often learn from them and create from them.

The reason I chose to study Foundation Art in Caerleon Campus was because I like the setting, the university has a lot of history, pretty architectural detailing, the facilities that were offered (hello Darkroom and film processing and printing!),and the studios were bright and sunny, well-lit and the perfect place to experiment with art.  The lecturers were not worried about us making a mess, and actively encouraged us to make the space our own, pinning things to the walls, hanging things from the tables and ceilings, anything that could help our creative flow.

The other reason that I chose Caerleon as my place of study was down to its location from my home.  I live in Pontypool and at the time I couldn’t drive, I was having driving lessons, and had to catch the bus everywhere.  To get to Caerleon on the bus took about an hour, getting 2 busses and cost me around £30 a week to get back and for.  The only other place I could have studied the course would have been Treforrest, and according to Google maps, would take me nearly 2 hours in travel, on public transport to get to.  That kind of travel time would have impacted on my study time and would have had an effect on my attendance too, as missing one transport link would have made me miss lectures.  it would have also caused me to be hugely stressed out, limit me to what I could physically create and cause problems with transporting any materials that I might have needed.

Shutting the course will impact on people like myself, who want to learn and be able to stay in our own homes.  I wouldn’t consider going for a job that meant I needed to be uprooted from my home unless I wanted to, so why should going to university be any different.  It will put off a lot of people who don’t have easy access to transport, might have families and jobs that need their time.  I was lucky that I had a job to support myself through the course and had the time to travel between my home, uni and work easily.  if the course was based anywhere else then I would have had to consider moving, giving up work or not even attending the course.

The Foundation course feeds into other courses held in the University, I got accepted onto the Photographic Art degree this way.  If I had not have had the opportunity to be part of the Foundation course then I would not have filled a place on my degree, there would be one less person on that course and one less student’s funding coming through the doors.  I can’t remember the numbers of students on my degree course exactly, but I believe there were around 45 of us, out of that number, around 12 of us had come from the Foundation Art course, that is a huge percentage of students that the degree course would lose and have to find from other sources.

There are far-reaching consequences too, where shutting the course is concerned.  The local area, which is not particularly affluent, nor is it at the bottom of poverty, would suffer.  Students will not be coming to the area, going out in the area, shopping in the area or renting homes in the area.  The pubs, local shops, community will suffer.  Even the university itself will suffer from not having a wide-ranging mix of students coming through the doors and interacting , helping and inspiring  each other.

Going back to personal experiences, I would not be where I am today if I had not studied Foundation Art, Media and Design through Caerleon Campus.  I have been able to complete a degree and am now looking at furthering my career in art, combining it with helping people and applying my knowledge to day to day tasks.

Art is such an important subjects, it’s not just about creating “pretty pictures”, there is a depth to any art, whether its conscious, subconscious, easy to understand or has complex meaning behind it.  There is an emotion attached to all art, from the emotion of the creator to how looking at a work of art can make a person feel.  I do not believe, for one second, that shutting this course will have any benefits to anyone, whether it is a lecturer, a student, the local area, the finance side of things, or other courses.

IT MAKES NO SENSE TO SHUT THIS COURSE.

Please, if you value art and creativity as much as I do, click the link below, and sign the petition…your signature counts.

https://www.change.org/p/the-university-of-south-wales-restore-the-foundation-art-and-design-course-in-newport?recruiter=38412930&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&fb_ref=Default

 

Read more about the course from the news links below…

 

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11867629.Hundreds_join_campaign_to_save_art_course/

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11862801.Protest_to_be_held_over_art_course_closure/

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11843775.Lecturers_campaign_to_keep_University_of_South_Wales_art_course_open/

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11870687.Students_protest_in_Newport_against_closure_of_art_course/

The Need to Write (or A Reflection on the Past) Part 1

Its weird, this is a blog I started up near enough 4 years ago (on the 6th May 2011 to be precise, making my blog just over 3 and a half years old!).  I created the blog as a way to share my artwork, uni projects, notes and things of interest that I have discovered.  I wanted the blog to be more image heavy than contain lots of writing, however, as time goes on I seem to have spent more and more time writing about things than sharing images and this is something that I feel I need to address.

I find I have bred a need to write, and I’m unsure where it has come from, it’s not writing in a creative (NaNoWrMo for example) way, nor is it probably very interesting for others to read, but I’m finding the whole experience rather therapeutic for myself.  It’s my way of recording things that have happened, of documenting my thoughts and ideas, a way of preserving something of myself for the future that is less likely to be destroyed than if it were written on paper.  I feel like, since I have finished Uni, that I have been neglecting this blog, not sure what to post, and not really having many images or projects to share.  I have one in the pipeline which I will be starting in the New Year, and several other thoughts about other projects I would like to pursue but no projects currently underway, but I have been thinking about these projects and how I want them to go and what kind of outcome I am aiming for.

Anyway, this post isn’t really about talking about the future, I have been wanting to write a post documenting the past four years, the years that I have spent working towards a degree in Photographic Art, a nod to the past and what I have achieved in that time!

I worked for a charity in the payroll department for 3 years prior to starting university, I had been thinking about getting back into art as it was my favorite subject through school and when the news broke that my colleague and I were being made redundant it seemed the perfect opportunity for me to begin life (again) as a student.  I went to an open day with my partner and met the lecturers of the course I wanted to take (Foundation in Art,  Media and Design or F:AMD) at The University of Newport, Caerleon Campus.  I learned a lot about the course and what kind of things the students got to produce and decided it was the course for me.  I enrolled and was surprised to receive a letter inviting me to an interview, even more surprising was that upon attending and going through the interview, at the end I was offered a spot on the course unconditionally!  That was back in 2010!  It seems such a long time ago now!

So, I started the course, catching the bus each day as it was prior to me being able to drive, or I’d get my partner to drop me off on his way to work and picking me up again on his way home (doing 12 hour days in college!)  I learned so much on that course!  We covered lots of different things in our first term, the lecturers designing the course so we could have tasters in lots of different art practices before we decided what kind of “artist” we wanted to be, and where our specialties lay.  We covered photography, fine art, fashion, animation, 3-d Art and printmaking in the first term.  I remember not really getting on with animation, we were required to create a stop motion movie of our name morphing into a chosen characteristic or description word of ourselves.  I created a flick book first and that seemed to work ok but when it came to turning it into a stop motion film I just couldn’t do it.  We were set a lot of fun “activities” to work on, for the fashion element we had to create head-wear based on a love song, I chose U2’s Sweetest Thing and created a hat which had a tear through the middle of it that had been sewn back up with ribbon and had a giant needle sticking out of it.  For the fine art module we had to create a fantasy animal that combined elements of other animals…we got to go to Bristol Zoo as part of the research!  I can remember constructing this fantasy animal, spending hours with chicken wire and paper mache, spray paint and glue, working out how to meld a zebra, flamingo and rat into this creature that then needed to be suspended through a canvas and hung from the ceiling.  That module was probably the hardest to execute.

In the second term I chose to concentrate on Fine Art and, if memory serves right, 3d Art.  I remember working on a project called Higgeldy Piggeldy, where the brief spoke about how some things can appear as one but are actually the opposite and decided to create 2 perspex boxes, one totally transparent and filled totally full of water and sealed in, giving the appearance that it was just a totally empty clear box and totally lightweight, the other giving the appearance of being full of sand but in reality the inside surfaces of the perspex being coated with sand and filled with polystyrene, giving the illusion of heaviness but being really light.  This was going to be an interactive piece, requiring the audience to lift the pieces to experience the opposite of what they imagined.  I remember being really frustrated with this project, I had so many issues with the perspex, it wouldn’t seal properly, my application of sealant was less than perfect and kept leaking, but the idea was there and I managed to back it all up with almost a sketchbook full of ideas and research materials.  we also worked on a piece called Mechanisms where I looked at work involving kinetics (movement), I spent days lying under my desk with a wooden board suspended under it and finding different ways of having a pen make contact with the surface whilst it swung back and for.  I then moved off into Knex and constructed a windmill like structure which turned with a handle and propelled markers around it before settling on making a version of a harmonograph.  We also worked on a project called Location in which I focussed on the area I live in and spent many days gathering leaves and making them into different coloured crayon rubbings before cutting them all out and attaching them to canvas.

For the third and final module I decided I wanted to major in Fine Art.  We had to design our own brief, conduct appropriate research and come up with our own ideas about the subject we had chosen.  I knew that I wanted to focus on the past and on ornaments, the home and ideas of emotion and sentimentality.  I had lost my grandmother in the January of this course and that influenced the piece heavily.  I chose, in the end, to create an installation of part of a room with a cupboard in it that was semi open.  Inside the cupboard were lots of ornaments that had been wrapped in a kind of insulating fabric that was see through, giving the effect of dust sheeting over furniture…it was my way of making a statement about objects in life, many of them hold untold stories, from where they came from and the reason they came to be in the place to the sentiments attached.  No one knows those stories like the owner does and they are shielded away from many Peoples ears, only shared with the trusted few.  And then you die, and all that is left is this group of objects that seem so insignificant to others yet held so much to the person who owned them.

And, that summarises my first year in university… Stay tuned, or even subscribe if you so wish(!!!) for the stories from my degree!!!!