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a-n Re:View Bursary and the Last 9 Months

Last spring I received a Re:View Bursary from a-n. The funds were to pay for mentorship and critical feedback from arts professionals. I chose to work with Mark Devereux of Mark Devereux Projects in Manchester and Matt Roberts of Matt Roberts Arts in London over a nine month period. I then used this award to help in my application to the Arts Council of Wales for a Research and Development Grant. The Arts Council will not fund 100% of a project so this was the perfect opportunity to show that I had support and funds from another source. I received the ACW grant and started both projects at the end of May. My goal with the project was to simulate a period of artistic development like I would get with an MA. I wanted to expand my practice but was having trouble expressing my ideas. As I have spoken about it in previous posts, I had planned on starting an MA last September but found it no longer a possibility because of family and financial reasons.

On Mark Devereux’s encouragement I rewrote my artist statement:

Alana Tyson’s work attempts to make sense of the world she inhabits. Identifying herself as an outsider, not just because she is an immigrant to the UK, Tyson keenly feels the friction of everyday life and the contradictions and hypocrisy of society. Dismayed by such platitudes as “that is how it has always been,” her uncertain questioning takes the form of performance, sculpture and installation utilising found, altered and constructed elements.

A commonality of her materials is their link to domesticity, as she makes use of everyday items such as suit lining or even sugar. Repetition and mark making are key aesthetic elements in Tyson’s work. The build up of a simple mark, movement or idea can create a complex work that calls for reassessment. Tyson’s questioning does not provide answers but she is striving to elicit reactions in the viewer, maybe to comfort but also to evoke laughter or even unnerve.

One of the first pieces I created went way beyond my comfort zone; it was a performance – something I thought I would never do! My Addiction was a performance in which I created the outlines of bodies out of sugar on the promenade in Llandudno, North Wales. Llandudno is a holiday destination and the promenade consistently plays host to the over consumption of sugary treats like ice cream by holidaymakers. My grandfather and his brother both died of type1 diabetes; this has overshadowed my entire life and I feel a lot of anxiety about sugar, which is particularly difficult as I am thoroughly addicted to it. The performance took one hour and the seventeen sugar outlines (the number or people estimated to develop the disease every hour) were left to the environment; the sugar was washed away by rainfall soon after.

tyson_myaddiction tyson_myaddiction Alana Tyson My Addiction

I was really pleased with the completed performance but then found myself at a loss. I had no idea how to share this work with others, as photographs or as a video piece or was it a one-time performance and if you missed it too bad? The critical feedback of Mark Devereux was extremely valuable here and he helped to guide me through this unfamiliar territory. I did film the performance but decided that I did not want to show the resultant footage. Lately I have seen a lot of work that is the remnants or artifacts of quite interesting sounding performances. I have found many of these pieces unsuccessful (the gallery remnant, not the original performance) and didn’t want to fall into the trap of limiting the artwork to fit within the confines of a gallery. I decided that with this piece I wanted the art to remain as the performance, with photographs as documentation but not as art pieces themselves. I hope to create this performance again, perhaps in an equally relevant location and on a larger scale.

On the next piece I made, I also faced concerns with how to present the finished work. Again it was a performance, but this time not in a public place. I decided that it actually worked best as a video piece. I have learned that each new art piece needs to be approached individually and presented however best suits it.

Best Laid Plans, as the title suggests, is about making plans in life. One year ago my sister was diagnosed with a serious illness. All of the plans I had made in my life, and likewise for her and the rest of my family, instantly became obsolete. It made me feel the futility of making grand plans but as the year progressed I came to understand that this realisation would not stop me from continuing to do so. In this performance I use a set of playing cards to build a tower on the gallery floor, using the method my father taught me as a child. During the performance the house of cards collapses, revealing that the cards are made of porcelain. Some of the cards shatter in the fall but I continue to build my tower until I have used or broken all 52 cards. The experience of making this performance was very intense, and though I knew that some of the cards would break I still found myself shaking with anxiety.

These are just a couple of the pieces that I made during this R&D period. There were many unsuccessful ones but I feel like I am starting to open up my practice and address some concerns that are very important to me.

As part of the project I travelled to lots of different exhibitions such as Cloth & Memory {2} in Salt’s Mill; The Yorkshire Sculpture Park; The Edinburgh Festival; The Ceramics Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent; The International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth; as well as various exhibitions in Manchester and London. This proved to be an important part of my research along with many hours of trawling the Internet and books.

I met with Mark Devereux 3 times in my studio for critique sessions and twice with Matt Roberts in London. During our first meeting, Matt and I discussed strategies for making my practice a viable long-term career. The following session, we went to several galleries in London’s East End, exploring how my art fits in to the scene there. Both Mark and Matt really pushed me to define what my goals are with my artistic practice and to come up with a plan to make them viable. As evidenced by my piece Best Laid Plans, I have been feeling a bit resistant to making any plans the past while; I have come to the conclusion that I can’t abandon having goals all together and am currently working on defining what these are for me and my artistic practice.

I will never again go back to making art in isolation; it is so valuable having critical feedback. I am not saying that you need to take as gospel everything said to you, but I have found the questioning and criticism from exterior sources has pushed my practice and me much further than I could have on my own.

-Alana Tyson





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This entry was posted on February 19, 2014 by .


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