Arts writer Amelia Edgell-Cole checks out this year’s open studio event at Spike Island.
A trip to the Spike Island Open Studios presents a version of the gallery never normally witnessed. Besides the regular exhibition space, Spike Island also throws open its doors to the artists studios in the back corridors of the building, allowing visitors a unique insight into the work that goes on in this former tea-packing factory.
The first thing of notice is the scale of the building; housing over 70 artists studios in addition to the Spike Print Studio, UWE Fine Art BA/MA students and numerous other writers, filmmakers and photographers, Spike Island truly is a hub of creative innovation.
Every corner of the building is full of studios, never normally open to the public, which present such a variety of work that it’s difficult not to wander around for hours. From the work of primary school children in the Hareclive 13 Studio, to the carnival of hybrid animal sculptures in Beth Carter’s Studio 22 and intricately printed tiles in Anton Goldstein’s Studio 34, there really is something to interest everyone.
a varied collection of sculptures and installation art, including an interactive pillow den
Not only this, but being provided with the opportunity to discuss the works with the artists in their own studios made for an intimate experience not usually afforded to gallery visitors, providing an additional layer of engagement with the art.
The normal gallery space hosted the works of Giles Round and Andrea Luka Zimmerman – on Saturday Zimmerman hosted a drop-in event with the collaborators of her film Estate: A Reverie. In addition to this, the ground floor played host to the work of UWE Fine Art students, a varied collection of sculptures and installation art, including an interactive pillow den and international inspired Cafe-Bar Interconti.
Of all the artwork on show, however, I was particularly taken by the variety of prints produced by the Spike Print Studio’s, the largest open-access print studio in the South West. Charlotte Farmer’s work, for example, uses bright colours and detailed line drawings to depict comic animal figures and plates of biscuits, an interesting contrast to the brooding landscapes on display.
Not only was there seemingly endless art to enjoy but also numerous events and activities running throughout the weekend. The gallery provided the opportunity to hear Gavin Strange discuss his book Do Fly, listen to presentations from young artists about making it in the creative industry and engage in conversations about art and ideas in a project by the Spike Associates.
[The activities] provided even the most unconfident artist with the environment in which to create unique pieces of art
There was even the chance to take a ferry boat to Spike Island showcasing the work of Helen Grant entitled Spring Break, an instillation of scatter cushions inspired by the signal flag alphabet, allowing passengers to spell out words and create new anagrams.
the atmosphere of the creative space was one of community and accessibility
If inspired by the artwork and wanting to channel your own creativity, there was even the chance to make art yourself, from producing small prints with the artists from the Spike Print Studios to making plasticine animations and zoetropes. The two activities hosted by Sarah Wilton – making your own clay vessel and producing botanical photographic works – provided even the most unconfident artist with the environment in which to create unique pieces of art.
We loved welcoming thousands of you to #SpikeIslandOpen Thank you to all involved, right across the Spike Island community. Don't forget that Spike Island exhibitions and events happen all year round, our galleries are always free entry, and the lovely Spike Island Café is open 7 days a week too! Find out more at www.spikeisland.org.uk Photographs by @lisawhiting
Not only was the art engaging and varied, but the atmosphere of the creative space was one of community and accessibility. It can sometimes feel as if galleries only operate for a select few, but with free entry and only small fees for additional activities, the weekend certainly catered to all.
To top it all off, it even had a donut bar. Roll on the Spike Island Open 2018.
What were your thoughts on Spike Island’s Open? Let us know in the comments below or on social media