By Visual Arts team

10 July 2019 - 10:15

Cathy Wilkes at the British Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019
Cathy Wilkes at the British Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2019.  ©

Image by Evie Redwood

My Month as a Fellow in Venice, the opportunities I had and how I became more mindful of my surroundings while living in Venice.

As a fine artist my time in Venice working as a fellow was invaluable, my month was made up of fourteen days of research and fourteen days of invigilating Cathy Wilkes exhibition at the British Pavilion.

The British Pavilion-

My time working in the British Pavilion consisted of learning more about Cathy Wilkes work so I could discuss it with the public - due to the nature of her work I was able to also form my own opinions as the work is partly about the individuals experience, there is no right or wrong way to read the work. I also spent time learning about condition checking, making sure the work hadn’t been damaged or changed and learning what takes place for the exhibition to be ready and open to the public. One of my favourite parts about my time working at the Biennale was giving tours of the exhibition, explaining my interpretation of Wilkes work and discussing with the public in more depth how they interpret the work, in turn this developed my own ideas about her exhibition. 

My Research- 

The Biennale is made up of lots of different countries pavilions, giving you insights in to issues and strengths each country faces. There are also other galleries and artists exhibiting around the city to coincide with the Biennale. Most of my days off were spent wondering down narrow colourful streets to stumble upon yet another gallery. I was never short of artwork to see but more so stuck with the decision of which galleries to prioritise visiting first. This experience as an art student was extremely valuable, giving me plenty of new work to research and influence my practice.

Along with my independent gallery research we spent time with Barena Bianca an artist collective who we met through a meeting with We Are Here Venice. The collective focus on the environmental threats Venice faces. A group of fellows and I joined them for a t-shirt printing workshop they had previously done with local Venetian children to raise awareness of the pollution the lagoon faces due to many issues. one of the main ones being cruise ships passing through Venice. The workshop consisted of making clay printing plates and using native plants species of the Venetian Barena (meaning salt marsh), most prominently the Salicornia that grows in less polluted areas of Venice’s lagoon to print in to the clay.

Making print indents using dried Salicornia on to clay plates ©

Image by Evie Redwood

T-shirts hanging on the line in Venice
The printed T-shirts we made hanging out to dry on my washing line ©

Photo by Evie Redwood

The making process as well as wearing the t-shirts brings new conversations about ways to improve the pollution that’s causing these plants to stop growing in the Barena. This t-shirt workshop seemed a good starting point to raise awareness in children and young people like us to think more about the issues Venice is facing environmentally. Talking to Barena Bianca and understanding how they use their art practice to respond to Venice’s environmental issues was really helpful in being mindful of these things for the month I was living in Venice. It also made me think more about how artists can respond to the environment in new subtle ways that make a difference. If I hadn’t had this experience and spoken to the people affected by this first hand my time in Venice would have been very different.