Big tent approach
Liz Shannon talks to the founders of a unique artists’ residency as an exhibition of work inspired by the residency pitches up at the CCA
Artists’ residencies sound like wonderful things. Who wouldn’t appreciate the opportunity to go somewhere new and moon around with a paintbrush? Unfortunately, this is not the reality of most residencies. Instead, pressure is often piled on artists to produce significant new work, without allowing time for experimentation, or even enabling ideas to be thought through properly.
But there is another way of doing things. From the end of November, the CCA will be home to a special group exhibition that has resulted from a different kind of residency programme, featuring work by 15 artists, including Kate Davis, Hayley Tompkins and Ann-Marie Copestake.
Founded by artists Sarah Kenchington, Belinda Gilbert Scott and Katy Dove, the Caravan Residencies have enabled some of Scotland’s up-and-coming artists to create work away from the usual pressures and deadlines. Based on a dairy farm in Balfron near Loch Lomond, the residencies are extremely flexible, and run from a week to a month in length. ‘We have a woman who comes who has kids, so she just attends for a week a year,’ says Gilbert Scott. ‘So far, we’ve never turned anybody away – there’s no criteria. We provide a space for work that’s not only open to artists, but to people who want to be creative. We offer a completely different experience.’
It all sounds too idyllic to be true, but Gilbert Scott sets the record straight: ‘It’s very picturesque down here, but it’s basic. There’s a cold tap, a compost toilet, and when it rains on the roof of the caravan it’s very loud. It can be tough.’ Still, she is convinced of the value of residencies: ‘It’s essential that artists have time to work without having to worry about an end product – not thinking about a completed piece of work but how the work is developing.’ The success of such an outlook will be demonstrated by the eclectic exhibition at the CCA: ‘We have a selection of fantastic current artists and some unknown names,’ says Gilbert Scott. ‘It’s a real mixture of people.’
Accompanied by a programme of performances, film screenings and other events, the exhibition is designed to reflect the communal and experimental nature of the original residencies. Sarah Kenchington explains: ‘We do an event here called The Caravan Club. Everybody that comes has to perform, so it’s a safe way for people to try out new ideas. We have this residency with no expectation of outcome, but there has been a lot of ongoing stuff that’s come out of it with people working together.’
Kenchington will be exhibiting a renovated horsebox that contains a mechanical orchestra, and giving performances with different invited guests. ‘I was keen for the work that I put into the show to reflect the ethos of the residencies, which is why I built something with a literal platform for other people, so I can share my space at the CCA with other artists.’ But doesn’t she fear the inevitable rise in profile for the residencies that will result from a show at the CCA? She dismisses this with a laugh: ‘We might have to become a bit more choosy.’
Open Field, CCA, Glasgow, Sat 22 Nov–Sat 17 Jan.