From 23 – 26 March, an exhibition – ‘Insight’ – at artOne at the University of Chichester showcased the collaborative work created by MA Fine Art Student Gemma Green and Outside In artist Paul Bellingham as part of the Graduate On project (a collaboration between the University of Chichester and Outside In). On Tuesday 24 March, there was a Q&A in the space which included Paul, Gemma and Tanya Wood; Graduate On coordinator. This blog post will look back at parts of the Q&A, which saw Paul and Gemma reflect on their partnership, and what they will be taking away from the project.
Tanya: What attracted you to the project?
Gemma: I hadn’t collaborated with another artist before and it was a good opportunity to experience what is was like to work with someone else and it also gave me a chance to challenge the singularity of art making, giving me an opportunity to try and enrich my own practice, because I was a bit worried about it becoming stagnant.
Paul: I’d been having a pretty rough time personally, I was in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction for around a year and then Jennie called me and I’d got from the point where I was suicidal and was thinking there’s no point to the point of being much better wanting to work, to do my art again, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Tanya: How did you decide what you would do? How did you decide how you would work together?
Paul: Well I think initially we just chatted and started doing some drawing separately and as we were drawing we sat together and talked about what we were interested in and decided we would just see what happened – not be too rigid and just experiment. We both decided that we would like to do something together but again there was no rigidity, we’d just work and see what happened.
Tanya: Did you have a plan when the two of you met?
Gemma: No it was quite important that we didn’t. We sometimes had ideas about what we would like to try and do the next session we met up and when we were working in our sketch books we decided we wanted to a larger piece the next time we met up; hence the bigger pieces in the show.
Tanya: So you decided that you would work collaboratively on each piece?
Gemma: Yes. The more and more that we went on the more we got used to each other’s way of working and also did start to produce a new way of working that you couldn’t do on your own.
Paul: It was: ‘I’ll do some work on it this week and bring it back’ and it was more like ‘I can’t wait to see what you’ve done’ and then respond to it, then Gemma would take it away the week after. The same happened with the concertina pad once we started that, so alternate weeks I would take that home and Gemma would take the other piece home and it was great fun. We’d look forward to showing the other person what we’d done and then finding out what they would do next.
Tanya: What activities did you take part in? You came and worked here but looking at the variety of work here there’s all sorts of different media involved, were there other things that you did as part of the project?
Gemma: We visited Pallant House Gallery; the exhibitions there, and we walked round the city wall and some of the etchings we made were in response to that.
Paul: The same with the cathedral, we took photographs and that inspired the piece with the stained glass window.
Tanya: What do you think were the challenges during the project?
Gemma: I think probably to begin with it was the not knowing what it was going to be like because you hadn’t collaborated before and the things we had done were quite unsuccessful for various reasons and so I think there was a lot of trepidation about what would actually happen. I think that was the biggest challenge to begin with and then it was just working through each challenge.
Paul: Being open to suggestions. We had to listen and be open to each other to make this work. It could have gone completely the other way. We needed to be completely open and free and have some humility.
Gemma: It was important to steer away from a hierarchy within the partnership because it is working to make it truly equal and truly collaborative in that sense, we found it quite easy to do that but there was a possibility there that that might not work.
Tanya: What have you learned, and what will you take forward?
Gemma: How influential and inspiring it has been to my practice and myself. The biggest thing has been seeing Paul and how he functions as an artist – he has taught me so much and allowed me to start understanding who I am an as artist. Coming from a background of education, it was great to work with someone self-taught like Paul.
Paul: For me it’s the same, but the other way round! Gemma has helped me learn new things, she has been really patient. Now I’m thinking about going away and doing a BA degree- perhaps now is the right time. I want to learn more and I want to create more.
Featured image taken by Andy Hood.