Author Archives: Emma Richardson

Toolkit for organising a brilliant student art show!

1. Decide on a theme (if required) and a name for your show

For our show Create Connect Converge we had a unifying theme that we all worked towards, which also meant that we created work specifically for the show.  A brainstorming session with visiting speaker, Mel Jordan from the RCA, helped to generate some ideas.

Failing that you could try this:

2. Venue

The space where you have your exhibition can be anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a square gallery with white walls.  It could be a coffee shop, on a bus, in an airport, in your house – the possibilities are endless.

3. Money, money, money

Fundraising is a key function of the show’s organisation and preparation.  You can do this in various ways including sponsorship from local businesses and organisations, cake sales, gigs and so on. To get started quickly on this, getting a contribution from everyone of a small amount like a fiver will buy some marketing materials like posters and postcards.

4. Make a Facebook event and discussion group

Create a Facebook event as soon as you have decided on the name, date and time of the show. The venue and images can always be added later. And invite everyone you can to the show’s preview night.

Invites need to go out ASAP in order to get that date in everyone’s diaries! An electronic version of the poster or postcard invite is mandatory.

Facebook was very useful as a communication tool and also as a record of the show’s development. It is essential to communicate freely, but bear in mind that it is important to be respectful of each other.  Arguing is a big time waster!

5. Publicity

If you want to distribute marketing material outside of the university, postcards rather than posters, seemed to be preferred by the NN Gallery, Northampton Museum and other local businesses/institutions. You will also need to decide on quantities.  We ordered about 500 postcards and 100 A3 posters.

Press release – who, what, where, when and why?

Keep it concise, free of jargon and make it pop!  This can be forwarded to the university’s marketing department, which means that it will go to all the university’s press contacts and the news feed on the website. If the press are interested they will call you, so make sure you have a contact name, number and email address of a suitable person who is enthusiastic about the show in the Notes to Editors.  You can get a template for the press release from the marketing department. 

If you use the university logo on any marketing material then you will need to have it approved by the university’s marketing department, as it is also important to protect the university’s corporate identity. This is what happens in most businesses and organisations.

6. Create a blog

Our tumblr blog was created so everyone could track the progress of the show.  It is best to keep it updated regularly with blog entries to keep it fresh. Everyone should be able to access it and upload images.

7. Plan your show’s opening and get a YBA to come along if you can

Refreshments: keep it simple – red, white, OJ, water and crisps.

One of the university’s Articulation talks was arranged for the same night as the preview for our show. This could have been a disaster, but we seized the opportunity to get YBA Gavin Turk to come to our show after his talk!

8. Post show and data capture

Think about sending selected guests, curators and other contacts something post show like a CD ROM of the show’s catalogue, for example.

A good quality visitor’s book will have columns for names and addresses, but you could also make postcards for people to fill out and leave behind in a box. This will give you a database of names and addresses of people who are interested in the arts in your local area that you can use for future events.

9. And finally…. Good luck!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive


A plant out of place: Michael Landy’s weed drawings

As part of subject futures week we were treated to a lively talk by Michael Landy, Artist in Residence for two years at the National Gallery, where he created Saints Alive, 2013: a kinetic sculpture of martyred saints. Scrapheap Services was another lengthy project he worked on during the mid nineties which was spawned as a response to Thatcherism and the “greed is good” consumerist society that she advocated. He is also known for his work Breakdown, 2001, commissioned by the organisation Artangel, where he famously disposed of all his possessions, after making a detailed inventory, in the former C&A shop on Oxford Street. He even destroyed his birth certificate.

It is seemingly incongruous that Michael Landy, who is an artist predominantly known for his conceptual work, produces very detailed and meticulous drawings as part of his creative process including complex cartoonish schemas and intimate portraits of friends and family. However, he did explain how drawing was at the root of his early interest in art. It was also his way of bringing himself back to financial health following Breakdown.

Often trodden underfoot, uprooted, sprayed with poison and unloved, weeds are the underdog of the plant world. Landy’s etchings of weeds, which are part of a series called Nourishment, 2002, almost bring to mind the botanical prints of Albrecht Dürer thus elevating the humble weed to a new higher level of interest and status. Intricate and delicately rendered, the etchings are life-sized and positioned centrally on the white page with their roots, tendrils and seed-pods hanging down, almost as if they are portraits themselves. These characterful, eccentrically named “street flowers” such as Shepherd’s Purse, Creeping Buttercup, Thale Cress etc., grow in the cracks of the pavement, in wasteland and in amongst the rubbish. They don’t need much looking after to thrive. They serve to illustrate how everything exists only for a finite amount of time. The drawings are also viewed, by Landy, as a continuation of his work with street furniture such as shopping trolleys and baker’s trays, and his interest in the everyday.

Creeping Buttercup 2002 by Michael Landy born 1963

Creeping Buttercup, 2002 by Michael Landy

Seeing the big picture

What is it that artists do? Artists, as Grayson Perry recently stated in the Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4, “notice things that other people don’t notice”. How does an artist when they embark on this journey begin to do this? Open mindedness and being aware of what is going on in the world around you is a good start. I also find that visiting and viewing other people’s artworks is a fundamental part of this process, as you never quite know who or what you will stumble on.

Recently, my friend and I, another art student, flew all the way to Edinburgh to see Peter Doig’s exhibition No Foreign Lands, which was a major retrospective of his work. On the day that we arrived we attended a free lecture on the Feelings of the Uncanny and the Unhomely in Peter Doig’s paintings by a well-known US academic, Richard Shiff, which we saw being advertised purely by chance at the Scottish National Gallery. As we sat down to listen to the lecture, none other than the artist himself, Peter Doig, walked in and sat in the front row. Obviously, this created a real buzz of excitement for those in the audience, as his attendance was a surprise to most of us. There was a Q&A at the end of the talk and my friend nudged me to ask the speaker a question with regards to Edvard Munch, as she needed to make notes on his response. I did as told and it was, again, very “uncanny” that one of the paintings discussed during the lecture was Echo Lake, a painting that I became well acquainted with through my research for a presentation in the previous academic year, and I knew already that this painting was inspired by Munch’s series of paintings called Ashes. After the lecture, my friend and I took the opportunity to introduce ourselves to Peter Doig. My friend then, very cheekily, asked for his email address, so she could ask him a question for her dissertation. I don’t think she ever heard back from him, but it was worth a try!

This was all very serendipitous and it does reinforce the value of getting out and about away from the studio. Since that excursion I have explored what feelings I wish to evoke in my work, in particular, of the uncanny as described in Freud’s essay, which is also a key aspect of Doig’s work. I found the whole experience immensely valuable and it has fed back into my practice in myriad ways.

Waiting to talk to Peter Doig...

Waiting to talk to Peter Doig…