The early summer months of May, June and July, I feel are the most dynamic and exciting months in the art year. I am of course referring to 'show time' when degree students and artists from all art practices open up their studios or hold exhibitions for the public and the wider audience to see and perhaps buy work. Whether it is the first time as an artist you have work shown in the public context or even if you have shown work many times before nothing can quite match the excitement and nervous trepidation that comes from unveiling your work and having it subject to debate, applause or scrutiny by an outside audience.
I recently visited Jamaica Street Studios in Bristol for an open studio event featuring around 43 artists (illustrators, fine artists, graphic artists, textile design) across three floors in an amazing building that used to be a carriage works (SEE PHOTOS ABOVE). I would really recommend checking it out as it was really inspiring to see how the artists worked together to maintain the funding to stay in their building and the kind of work they produced there. Open studios offer a contrast to the more polished and professional exhibition style that I am more used to and whilst exhibitions are very rewarding, open studios offer a different set of perks that you don't get through finished exhibitions. There is a different atmosphere to an open studio event, naturally as you would expect it is more informal and invites more easy conversation about work but in particular about processes that artists use. From an artist point of view there's a lot less cleaning and 'dressing' of your work that you would need to do if you had an exhibition. So all the debree, tat, pots and eccentric collections of images and nicknack's that adorn the walls and spaces of are studios can in fact add to and enhance the meaning of work. For example the artist Karin Krommes has an immaculate studio space which is very tidy and ordered. This is reflected in her paintings which feature highly precise and detailed machine parts and engines. Through having an open studio event these connections can give you an insight into the 'person' behind the work and make art easier to relate too. I therefore think I will look forward to seeing what spaces artists use for the upcoming Somerset art weeks as it too is an open studio event this year. Especially as it is a lot more spread out and diverse than the Jamaica street studios so it will be interesting to see how artists have been influenced by the environment they find themselves in.
On the other hand you also have the slick Summer Shows at the Royal Academy and the equally if not more so prestigious (in my opinion) art shows from colleges and universities at this time of year. I have to say that it is a great experience to be involved in the hanging/organisation of any art exhibition. I found it particularly useful as a way of learning how to edit and curate my work. Learning that the saying, 'less is more' often rings true when hanging a show and is something I struggle still to do and came out of experiences hanging work on my degree. As far as viewing work goes the benefits of a well hung and curated show are invaluable and should be a chance to show and promote your work as intended. As someone who normally paints on the floor to lift my work off and out of the mess and put it onto a clean wall is wonderful and immensely useful. The downsides to exhibitions are that whilst they are often better at presenting and selling work they can also have the affect of being intimidating and alienating some people who view them as they have a much more formal nature. It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes exhibitions grouped together in the form of a festival like, Appledore Arts Festival in North Devon for example can work well at taking away some of the pretentiousness of exhibitions and make art included in a festival setting with activities and fun that make the art more accessible to a greater variety of people.
To conclude, it goes without saying that both open studios and exhibitions are equally inspiring and present different challenges and benefits to artists and their audiences. What makes work interesting to view is having a mixture of both. If I could have visited Picasso's studio whilst he was alive I undoubtedly would have wanted to but at the same time you can still appreciate and take much from viewing his work in galleries. Both add to what makes a better understanding of an artists work.
So whether you are exhibiting, hanging or viewing any of the upcoming shows this summer I hope you have a good time and use them successfully to sell, promote, educate or celebrate your work. I don't think it is easy to show your work to an audience in a studio or gallery and takes confidence and self belief to pull it off well. I do know however, that 'To bestow one of our creations is the surest way to invoke the next.' So that is inspiration enough to keep going for me.
There are some very interesting blogs about hanging degree shows on: http://www.a-n.co.uk/degrees_unedited if you want to read some different opinions.