When I was in my first year of undergrad studies at Sydney College of the Arts one of my favourite classes was Studio Concepts.
Studio Concepts was not a studio theory class where students learn about the conceptual history of their discipline, and it was not a studio practical class where students learn the specific techniques of their discipline. Concepts brought together students from the different disciplines, aiming to foster interdisciplinary thinking and to build relationships across studios. The year was divided into three projects with different themes; sound, space and light.
Considering that my own artistic practice already had a well-defined set of conceptual concerns, you could be forgiven for thinking that these projects would interfere with my work, but it had exactly the opposite effect. Working within the limitations of each project’s theme forced me to innovate and consequently the works I produced in these classes were some of my strongest of the year.
In my second year at art school however I struggled to come to grips with a completely self-directed practice. I no longer had the limitations of the Studio Concepts class and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It took more than a year for me to get back on track, just in time for the undergrad exhibition.
Five years have passed since then and my work still has a very definite set of conceptual concerns. But, lately I’ve been making a lot of my work for group shows, often directly inspired by the curatorial premise. For example, In Exitu Israel de Egypto which I made for an exhibition in Rookwood cemetery.
I’m not sure how I feel about this return to working within external limitations. On one hand, I’m concerned about what it means for my “self-directed practice”. On the other hand there is the work, which I’m more than satisfied with.