Thirteen Contemporary Art Practice and Painting students, in their third and fourth year at Grays School of Art, were invited to Hospitalfield to assist in the setting up of the upcoming DUSK Winter Season Open Weekend exhibition featuring artists Ewan Murray, Judith Hagen and Frank Dobson running from the 19th November to the 17th December. The Director Lucy Byatt, the Project and Facilities Manager Laura Simpson and Scott Byrne the General Manager were the staff the students were in contact for the overnight stay. The students, Marcus Murison, Natasha Macbeth, Natasha Riddoch, Mary Gordon, Darja Abdirova, Jasmin Cheyne, Elliott Cookson, Katie Avey, Paula Buskevica, Suzann Ross, Lauren Dixon, Kaitlyn Dunsmore and Christopher Farrell, were given the opportunity to become involved in various tasks in preparation for the exhibition. Two of the students chose to write an article on their experience at Hospitalfield.
There is a subtlety to Hospitalfield. Granted the Arts and Crafts Architecture and beautifully decorated rooms are far from subtle, but you cant help but feel you have discovered something, something unstained by the 20th and 21st Century hiding in the town of Arbroath. Getting out of our comfort of our studios in Aberdeen allowed us to see the way things work in a different location and the different approach they have to the artists work and the ideas of what an exhibition is.
We were welcomed by the staff and given a tour of the never ending house. Laura Simpson spoke passionately about the heritage and the historical background of the artefacts; 19th Century furniture filled the rooms and we were encouraged to sit and treat the beautiful building as our home. Laura discussed the intention of Hospitalfield and the different programs they run varying from artist talks and exhibitions to garden visits and history tours. She explained the intentions of the Fraser family and the importance of them currently. We were then given the opportunity to become involved in the setting up of the exhibition. The tasks varied from conditioning checking Frank Dobson’s works to moving a large red sofa into the small doored cottage. Ewan Murray, one of the artitsts exhibiting, introduced us to his work, the relevance of Hospitalfield to his practice. We assisted Ewan in the preparation needed and familiarized ourselves with his, Judith Hagens and Frank Dobsons work.
That evening as we had dinner thoughts were shared inspired by the challenging tasks and welcoming consideration the staff had for our opinions and ideas. Laura and Lucy spoke honestly when answering our questions and were interested in our perception of not only of Hospitalfield but also the exhibiting work. We were asked to think about a curatorial proposal and to consider common themes in the three artists works and the relationship to the history of the building. We had a bon fire later that night that seemed to facilitate open discussion on our experience and the beginning thoughts of curating the exhibition. We spoke in peer groups of suggestions for the set- up. Laura valued our opinion and encouraged us to trial different set-ups. We switched different paintings from room to room, compared Ewan Murray’s drawing to a 19th Century painting hung in the picture gallery and carefully placed Frank Dobson’s sculptures beside Judith Hagen’s abstract and brightly coloured paintings. We had the opportunity to learn many important steps and skills for exhibition making that are going to be crucial for later exhibitions we are involved in. We now understand the need for the skills to consider the artists work individually and then understand the work as almost an entity and to debate over the dark green carpet on the floor for half an hour.
It was a challenging and inspiring experience for all of the students. We were given the opportunity to participate in an array of challenging tasks that developed our professional skills and our understanding of the various roles involved in the preparation of an exhibition. It was a pleasure to engage with the heritage of Hospitalfield and to be encouraged to question its relation to the contemporary art being shown. The experience opened our eyes to possible opportunities in our artistic careers and the acceptance organizations have for students.
The studets will be returning to Hospitalfield for the Winter Open Weekend running the 19-20 November. Check out the website here.