Experimentation and Growth: New Art Made in London at The Royal College of Art Summer Intensive

I recently returned home from a month of art making, art talking, and art education experience in London, England. In my previous blog posts I talk about this compressed and intensive art experience in detail. I also explain the impetus for the works created during my time at the Royal College of Art, on the beautiful Battersea campus, just outside central London in the borough of Wandsworth. Known as the ‘brighter borough’ the roadway sign and symbol for this area of London includes the iconic Battersea Power Station, which in outline looks somewhat like the city of Oz, with a rainbow arc above the outline of the city. My previous posts discuss in detail my timeline while at the RCA as well as the detailed stories behind the art.

Wandsworth sign Battersea - Royal College of Art

For this post I am sharing more photos of my studio and the work produced while in London. Please scroll on for photos of these works that I refer to as the ‘Mirrors’ series. These are mirrors of my London experiences and the feelings being pulled from within, while I worked through my three weeks of this intensive contemporary art making experience.

Somewhere over the rainbow, and under the towering skyscrapers of London, these are the ‘MIRRORS’ paintings.

Painting I: Topsy Turvy (Rorschach for the UK)

acrylic on raw canvas, poured and brushed,

72 inches high by 53 inches wide,

Brandy Saturley 2019

Union Jack painting by Brandy Saturley - Royal College of Art

Union Jack Painting Brexit - Brandy Saturley

Union Jack Painting detail - Brandy Saturley

Painting II: Mirror for a Queen (Victoria) 

acrylic on primed canvas, poured and brushed,

added paper collage

72 inches high by 53 inches wide,

Brandy Saturley 2019

mirror painting for Queen Victoria - Brandy Saturley

painting detail mirror for a queen

mirror painting for Queen Victoria - Brandy Saturley

Painting III: The Countess (mirror)

acrylic on primed canvas, poured and brushed,

added paper collage

72 inches high by 53 inches wide,

Brandy Saturley 2019

countess mirror painting - Brandy Saturley

The Countess painting detail - Brandy Saturley

Painting IV: The Metamorphosis (mirror)

acrylic on primed canvas, poured and brushed,

added paper collage

72 inches high by 53 inches wide,

Brandy Saturley 2019

the metamorphosis mirror abstract painting - Brandy Saturley

abstract painting detail - Canadian artist Brandy Saturley

Painting V: The Internal (mirror) diptych

acrylic on sanded arches paper

added pen details

2 – 13.5″ high x 10 inches wide

Brandy Saturley 2019

abstract pour paintings by Canadian artist Brandy Saturley

A view inside my studio at Royal College of Art, Sackler Painting studios, on the Battersea campus.

Royal College of art Sackler painting studios London - Brandy Saturley paintings

Royal College of Art - abstract paintings Brandy Saturley

photo by Hattie Allen Royal College of Art - Canadian artist Brandy Saturley

For more in depth descriptions of the artists’ process and meaning behind these paintings, please read the previous blog post.

The Discomfort Zone – Making Art at The RCA in London, England

I am continually trying to make choices that put me outside of my comfort zone, it is the only way I know how to grow. When I find myself ‘too comfortable’ in life and in my art practice, I get agitated and anxious, and I need to get out and test myself and push my boundaries. I call it the ‘discomfort zone’ and sometimes it comes with kicking and screaming, but it always delivers! At the beginning of the year I decided to accept an invitation to join the contemporary art summer intensive at the Royal College of Art in London, United Kingdom. Yes, this Vancouver Island artist, born in Victoria British Columbia, hit London this summer, during Queen Victoria’s 200th anniversary party, for some zone pushing of the contemporary art kind.

It was a transformative experience, as I talk about the programme in detail in my previous blog post. During my month in London I created four new large format paintings on unstretched canvas, and two smaller works. These new works are visceral and come from deep down within. When looking at how and what I would paint during my time at the RCA, I began with looking at the current political state of affairs, with Brexit and Boris Johnson dominating the media coverage in the United Kingdom. As I have been commenting on Canadian popular culture for the past decade, I thought I might find some common themes in London. The first painting I created upon arrival in my studio at the Sackler building at the RCA, was a painting of the Union Jack flag. Much like Canada, the UK has a very strong ‘brand’ and identity based on their flag. The appeal of the flag to this Canadian artist is undeniable, and I had to have a go at creating a comment on the undercurrents felt upon my arrival. I decided to begin with raw canvas, no layer of gesso or primer, I began to pour the paint Jackson Pollock style on the raw canvas, while laid on the floor of my studio. After, rather than take my brush and spread the paint around, I chose to fold the canvas in half, then stomped with my feet and used my hands to spread the paint like peanut butter between two slices of bread. I was creating a mirror image, a Rorshack if you will, offering symmetry between the two sides and many opportunities to see things within the abstract application of paint.

union jack painting Brexit - Brandy Saturley

Once dry, I hung the painting on the wall. Many images were appearing to me and I decided to grab a brush and add some depth and dimension to the piece, as well as a contrast of Indian yellow, an orange-yellow to the composition. I wanted to comment on the ‘topsy turvy’ nature of the nation and the feeling of ‘which way is up’, as I felt this undercurrent throughout my time in London. I began to turn the canvas and settled on a vertical display, adding to the comment on the uncertainty of the times in London.

Union Jack painting by Canadian Artist Brandy Saturley - Brexit

As I moved through my work at the college I was looking to keep pushing the boundaries and go deeper, more visceral, and more personal. The next painting began after taking in the Queen Victoria exhibition at Kensington Palace. I found the show to be very moving as it touched on her difficulty with child birth and her responsibilities as Queen. Throughout the show paintings of the Queen are framed ornately in circular frames of carved wood gilded with gold, I began to create next, what would become mirrors on canvas. Perhaps influenced by my visit to Kensington Palace and into the archives of a Queen, whom my city is named after. Being born and living in the capital of British Columbia, Victoria is close to my heart.

Developing a body of work – an ode to Victoria – Brandy Saturley in Sackler studios at RCA Battersea campus.

 

Rorschach painting after Queen Victoria

Mirror of My Soul – poured painting with painterly brush details and paper collage, by Brandy Saturley 2019 – created in the Sackler studios at the RCA in London UK

As I came to complete my second painting, I found a new direction and the potential for a series of paintings based on the ‘mirror reflection’ theme. I also confirmed a consistent size for these pieces on unstretched canvas. At 73 inches long by 53 inches wide, they were lovely large draped pieces, almost like tapestries. I began to create the next two pieces side-by-side, in conversation with one another. This time I decided to paint the background of the canvasses in raw umber and red tones, reaching deeper into the soul.

Mirror Mirror – these two paintings were poured first, then painterly brush details were added after hanging. The palette of each piece includes gilded gold tones on the outer edges, reminiscent of the frames seen in both Kensington and Buckingham Palace. 2019 Brandy Saturley

During my time in London I also visited Buckingham Palace, which was showing another elaborate Queen Victoria exhibition. The lavish textures, deep jewel toned hues, gilded gold frames and trims were burnt into my brain, clearly influential in the creation of these new paintings.

Framed painting of Queen Victoria as seen at Kensington Palace in London UK. Exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria.

In the final group exhibition I chose to show the three works that were consistent with the ‘mirrors’ theme. With my signature vivid palette and rainbow hues, the three paintings became portals, and beings of their own. I also created two other works on paper which were not exhibited in the final show, but were nice compliments to the three larger works. I am very pleased with these new paintings and am looking forward to how this time in London, influences my future work.

paintings at Royal College of Art Dyson gallery

Final works created by Brandy Saturley at Royal College of Art Summer Contemporary Art intensive, July/August 2019. Shown here in the artists painting studios in the Sackler building at RCA Battersea.

Final exhibition: ‘What is an Image’ at Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art in Battersea London, United Kingdom.

For more information about these paintings please email us. See the full portfolio of paintings by Brandy Saturley here.

 

Making Art at the Royal College of Art in London

London is the capital of, and largest city, in England, and the United Kingdom. It is known as the financial centre of the world and one of the world’s Art & Culture centres. From the Fine Arts, to Literary Arts and Theatre to classical and popular music, London is a destination for Artists and art lovers alike.

Earlier this year, I was looking for an opportunity to challenge myself and disrupt my studio work of the past couple decades. As I enter mid-career as an artist, I am feeling myself moving into a new chapter with my art and the way I make paintings. I feel the best way to access new ways of making art, experiment, and freshen up my practice, is to make art in one of the worlds art centres. Far away from my western Canadian home, on Vancouver Island. I was looking for a professional experience, where I could access the best minds in the business and find out how my artwork would fare, in an International setting. My work has become nationally recognized in Canada over the past decade, I was now looking at moving beyond Canada, and London came calling.

photo of Tower bridge London

Tower Bridge London, UK – photo Brandy Saturley

In February this year, I was invited to join the Contemporary Art Summer Intensive Program at the Royal College of Art in London, England. The Royal College of Art (RCA) is rated the number one postgraduate college for art and design in the world. Delivering numerous Masters and PHD level programs in art, design and humanities; the college attracts the best of the best on the International art scene. Beginning in July, this intensive course ran over three weeks during the busiest and hottest summer the city has ever seen. A peek inside my time at the Royal College of Art…

Royal College of Art Dyson Building - Battersea campus

Royal College of Art Dyson Building – Battersea campus

Week 1: my week began with setting up in the painting studios in the Sackler building on the Battersea campus, followed by an afternoon of presentations from faculty, alumni, staff and the 22 artists in this year’s summer program. Originating from Italy, Spain, NYC, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, China, Macao, and London; we all presented our work in the Gorvy Lecture Theatre over the course of the afternoon.

Brandy Saturley presenting Gorvy Lecture Theatre RCA

Brandy Saturley presenting Gorvy Lecture Theatre RCA

With our studios open and available 7 days a week, most nights until 8pm, we began independent study and creating new work under the influence of our course leader, Despina Zacharopoulou.  (Born in Greece, Zacharopoulou is a performance artist who holds a Master in Fine Arts, a Master in Visual Arts (Costume Design – Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts), and an Msc in Architecture. Apart from her artistic practice, she has been involved in academic teaching. She has participated in various exhibitions in Greece, Belgium, Russia and the UK and has received scholarships and awards for her academic achievements. Her biggest large-scale performance project so far was a seven week (324hrs) long durational performance entitled “Corner Time” commissioned by the Marina Abramovic Institute.)

Course leader Despina Zacharopoulou and Dean of RCA

Course leader Despina Zacharopoulou and Dean of RCA

Our first week included the hottest day on record for London at 40 degrees Celsius, this made for added challenges as we began creating new work and adjusting to our new routine in a very busy city. My week included art gallery visits to South London art gallery, WhiteChapel Gallery and the endlessly fascinating, Flat Time House. (Flat Time House was the studio home of British conceptual artist John Latham and is now open as a contemporary art gallery, centre for alternative learning and artist residency space, housing the John Latham archive.)

Flat Time House in Peckham, London

Flat Time House in Peckham, London

From first week tutorials with leading artists and alumni from around the world, to a film screening and discussion, we were well on our way to quickly integrating into this new art community. We were already finding ourselves experimenting with new ways of communicating, through the use of our chosen mediums.

RCA Sackler Studios - Brandy Saturley work in progress

RCA Sackler Studios – Union Jack painting by Brandy Saturley work in progress

Week 2: the weekend played an important role in offering concentrated studio time, preparing for our first critique sessions (crits) over the second week. The course continued with film screenings, and a writing workshop with Dr. Chantal Faust. (Dr Chantal Faust is an artist, writer and Senior Tutor at the RCA. Her photographic, painting, video and installation works have been exhibited in the UK, Australia and North America. Faust has contributed book chapters to contemporary art publications, and regularly writes for academic journals, magazines, and exhibition catalogues.)

Dr. Chantal Faust and Brandy Saturley

Dr. Chantal Faust and Brandy Saturley discussing work week 1

We found new ways of accessing our internal, visceral voice as artists, as we worked through movement and performance workshops led by Despina Zacharopoulou. This second week ended with more concentrated time in the studio.

Brandy Saturley performance art

performance workshop at RCA

The transformation begins: At this point I began to experience a transformative moment in my artwork, spurred on by the writing and performance workshops earlier in the week. Like many of the artists in the program, we began to move beyond our initial ideas and plans for art making. Ideas we had brought with us from our respective homes, and began making new work based on our experiences in the program, and influenced by our time in London. We were becoming like a ‘hive-mind’ of sorts, where our studio mates and our shared experiences were helping to form deep connections to our inner artist voices. Many of our interactions and workshops were quite intimate, which can often be foreign to the modern-day artist as we are sequestered in our studios alone, a great deal of the time. I also found that the use of technology, computer communication, and social media fell to the wayside in favour of personal connections.

Taking on #Brexit - The Art of Brandy Saturley

Taking on #Brexit – The Art of Brandy Saturley

Week 3: our last week began with working through our final details and preparing our works for the group exhibition on Friday. Our final tutorial sessions came on the Tuesday and I was pleased to be paired with Professor Jo Stockham for my final tutorial session. Jo has a wealth of knowledge and experience that I found valuable to my work as a painter.

photo of Brandy Saturley in studio by Hattie Allen

photo of Brandy Saturley in studio by Hattie Allen

(Jo Stockham professor and Head of the Printmaking programme since 2008. She began working at the Royal College of Art in 1993 as a Visiting Lecturer in Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. After studying painting at Falmouth School of Art, Jo worked at Chisenhale Studios for two years before undertaking an MA in Sculpture at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Returning to Chisenhale, she initiated an education programme with local schools and helped build Chisenhale Gallery, an experience which was formative in her desire to work in and create public spaces alongside studio work. Over the next 20 years, her studio practice was supported by running workshops for the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate, Camden Arts Centre and part-time teaching. Her first full-time teaching position commenced in 2008 when she became head of Printmaking at the RCA.)

A final film screening and a day of installing the show rounded out the week.

installing the show at RCA Dyson Gallery

installing the show at RCA Dyson Gallery

FINAL DAY AND SHOW: on our final day at the college we spent the day participating in final crits under the bold leadership of Professor Johnny Golding. (Johnny Golding is Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art, and Senior Tutor at the RCA. Born in NYC, Golding lived in Toronto carrying out PHD studies at the Universities of Toronto and Cambridge.)

talking about contemporary art - work by Brandy Saturley

talking about contemporary art – work by Brandy Saturley

Golding was joined by Habda Rashid, curator of WhiteChapel Gallery (Habda Rashid is Assistant Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, working on a variety of exhibitions including; commissions solo and survey shows. As part of her role she also coordinates, edits and writes in exhibition catalogues. Habda is also a visiting tutor on the MFA programme at, Goldsmith University and has sat on the selection panel for Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin.)

Habda Rashid - painting by Brandy Saturley

Habda Rashid curator WhiteChapel – painting Brandy Saturley

A spirited day of crits followed by an evening opening of our final art exhibition at the RCA Dyson Gallery; for alumni, staff, patrons and public.

It was an intense three weeks, with a fourth spent on my own exploring all London has to offer. I am still processing all the information and thinking about how my experiences in London will push my work forward as a professional artist. Unlike many of the artists and instructors I met, I rely solely on the sales of my work and commissions to support my full-time art career and not on income from teaching or a job on the side. It will be interesting to see where my work ends up from here and look forward to developing my relationships abroad, as I work towards my goal of exhibiting and selling work internationally.

Final exhibition Dyson Gallery

Your question may be, why does a successful mid-career painter from Canada upset her studio practice and take off to London to go to school and make new artwork. The answer is a continuous need to push beyond the boundaries of the work, the comfort zones. In order to keep me invested, I need to keep growing and risking things as an artist. The need to risk things and push myself into areas where I am not comfortable, it is what has gotten me to the place I am as a professional Canadian artist. I’m a creator and a fighter, and I am here to make the most honest, best work, I can. For routine kills creative thought and we must shake up or perspective, our routine and challenge our point of view, every so often.

Onward and upward! ~ Brandy

About the new paintings: more about the paintings created during my time at the Royal College of Art, with detailed photos.

Brandy Saturley with her paintings at RCA Sackler Studios

Brandy Saturley with her paintings at RCA Sackler Studios

*photos on this page courtesy; RCA, Despina Zacharopoulou, Hattie Allen, Mei Kei Lai, Brandy Saturley

 

From Victoria, BC to the Royal College of Art in London

Canadian artist Brandy Saturley in her studioShe was just a girl living in her own world, her bedroom walls covered in pink and purple rose wallpaper. The carpet was green like the Spring grass, and she would sit for hours on this grass dreaming up ideas and writing down thoughts. It was her English Garden. The tape cassette player clicking and pushing out tin can sounds of great, and not so great but popular, music. The Beatles Greatest Hits, Billie Holliday, the soundtrack for Miami Vice and AC/DC. It was the 1980’s and her world was mostly created, in this room. The walls were lined with stacks of magazines; Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Top Model, British Elle and the European Newspaper.

Fast forward to 2019, with nearly two decades working as a professional visual artist and a dozen years working full-time developing my artist voice as a painter, I am now looking forward to the next challenge and opportunity to ‘freshen-up’ my practice and perspective as a contemporary artist.  As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow.

It has been said that there is a number when it comes to mastery, related to time spent practicing an activity, that number is 10,000 hours. In recent years this popularized rule of numbers, was clarified. Within that study, there was no magic number for greatness. 10,000 hours was not actually a number of hours reached, but an average of the time elites spent practicing. Some practiced for much less than 10,000 hours. Others for over 25,000 hours. Where the rule has been challenged, is in the quality of time spent, versus the quantity. Meaning, someone who was not genetically pre-disposed or exposed to a practice, such as painting, might not attain expert level ability just be practicing daily. The research found that there’s much more to mastering a skill than just months, even years, of practice. Genetics may play some role, but science is also giving us glimpses into what else we can do to learn more efficiently.alanrickmanquote

There are many things that make a master; hard work, persistence, patience, and an early introduction in life to the activity, in my case art. (painting, drawing and photography)  Equally important skill acquisition, and particularly rapid skill acquisition. Exposure to mentors and learning that teaches advanced skills, short-cuts and new forms of creative problem-solving and reasoning. As long as I can remember I always sought out the elders in the room, because they were better at things than me, more experienced, and I wanted to learn.

My study in the arts began with my artist mother, with my eyes being opened with that first public school art teacher. This led to the study of fashion design, cinema, and time working in the motion picture arts. These experiences led to the fine arts with schooling in sculpture, graphic design, drawing, painting, and art history. These experiences found me obsessed with taking my drawing practice to the canvas and once I began painting, I never looked back, I was hooked. Photography came to play a role in my practice and complemented my time in the studio, while it also gave me an opportunity to break from my studio practice and explore the world, behind the lens.

ridleyscott_quoteI am a fan of shaking up my perspective, and challenging my practice of art and I am now preparing for a new opportunity for learning, in one of the world’s art centres.

In July and August his year I will be shaking up my practice and perspective while I make art at the Royal College of Art in London, United Kingdom as part of the Contemporary Art Summer School program. I will be making art where some of my favorite masters, walked before.

The Royal College of Art and its predecessor schools have numerous notable alumni in many fields. Alumni from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries include the sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Sir Peter Blake and Charles Tunnicliffe, artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin and R. B. Kitaj, fashion designers Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes, industrial designers James Dyson and David Mellor, film directors Tony and Ridley Scott, designers Thomas Heatherwick and Sir David Adjaye, prominent member of the suffragette movement Sylvia Pankhurst, the musician Ian Dury and the actor Alan Rickman. traceyemin_quote

The world’s number one art and design university, the Royal College of Art. The only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world. The RCA has three campuses, in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore.

I will be making art, alongside a small group of  international artists, on the Battersea campus. Battersea is a district of south west London, England, within the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is located on the south bank of the River Thames.

Bringing my Canadian art voice to the country that is the birthplace of my paternal grandparents and ancestry. I will be making art and disrupting my perspective and art practice for the months of July and August. Looking forward to sharing this experience with you!

David Hockney quote