Graduates 2023: Wendy Smith: MA Fine Art

“The course has allowed me to really push the work further and develop ideas that have laid idle for some time with encouragement from staff and students.”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

I find myself continuing to work more and more outside, finding inspiration exploring places that are on the edge of changing environments. The experience, both psychological and emotive, refers to the sense of place and the experience of immersing myself in landscapes that are pre-selected.  The exploration includes topographical elements, textural surface, materiality and weathering, combined with a process-led practice of placing and leaving canvases in the river. This practice enables me to engage with tidal flow, movement of sediment on the river floor, that impacts and changes the canvases over time and the past connection having previously lived on a houseboat in mudflat areas.

I have a curiosity with ‘edgeland’ areas or the overlap where natural wild spaces, untouched by man, meet the more contained and managed areas. Also, the spaces and edges where land and sea or rivers meet, the wasteland and transitional spaces created between rural and urban areas. These spaces often neglected, liminal areas become areas of fascination and a rich source of inspiration. I work with the materials in the landscape E.g. mud and vegetation combined with the application of pigments on raw canvas, submerging the canvases in tidal and non-tidal rivers to absorb and directly respond to the essence, atmosphere and materiality of place. Paintings develop from these distressed canvases, exploring the fluidity and the ebb and flow of tidal changes.

Photography is also key to my practice being more conceptual with collecting information of place, spatial considerations, visual perceptions and reflective sentiments.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to you course and made you choose it?

I completed my BA in 1998 and since then I have worked as an artist with regular exhibitions, residencies, involvement in community art projects and worked as a visiting lecturer at the University of Greenwich. My work had been progressing but since lockdown, I felt I needed a new injection of inspiration and had ideas for taking my work further, but this was difficult to follow with work commitments and limited studio time. It was quite a spontaneous decision, but I decided to apply to Brighton for a part-time MA because firstly the course had a good reputation and the vibrancy of Brighton as a place and secondly I could travel from Hastings, where I live and have a studio nearby in St Leonards.

What were the highlights of the course for you?

The regular weekly critiques and the input from staff and students, it seemed a real privilege to spend time absorbed in another student’s practice and discuss the work. Having previously taught, it has been fantastic to be a student again. The staff here at Brighton have been excellent with delivering this course. The course has allowed me to really push the work further and develop ideas that have laid idle for some time with encouragement from staff and students. Also, the opportunities that we have been given to regularly show our work as work in progress, exhibitions and residencies in the Edward Street Gallery over the last 2 years.

Was the location of your course in Brighton important?

The location of Brighton was an important factor in deciding upon a suitable course as I live in Hastings so Brighton seemed liked the perfect place to study with accessibility and affordability. I decided on the part-time course to fit in my current work schedule as I have my own gardening business and still needed to work throughout the course. Also, Brighton is an exciting and vibrant place to study and an excellent alternative to London colleges.

What are your plans after graduation? What’s next for you?

After graduation, I will continue with my art practice with exhibitions already lined up for 2023. I plan to explore the potential of residencies and exhibitions next year. Ideally find gallery representation and most importantly continue to explore the areas I am currently working with E.g. the environment, working in the landscape, tidal and non-tidal river areas and submerging canvases.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing postgraduate study?

It has been a lot of work and commitment but worth the struggle of juggling life with doing postgraduate study. I feel very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do this. The two-year part-time programme has the benefit of more time to reflect upon your work, this has assisted with my progression over the last few years so definitely something to consider.


Follow Wendy on Instagram: @wendysmithart


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