‘The more art I see, the broader my perspective gets’: a visual artist’s week with the National Art Pass

‘The more art I see, the broader my perspective gets’: a visual artist’s week with the National Art Pass

I’ve been working as a visual artist and designer for more than 10 years, creating artworks through a variety of methods, including ceramics, painting and textiles. My work is a visual documentation of the places I visit, mostly in the form of landscape painting. Whether it’s a sleepy Ghanaian beach lined with fishing boats, or a bustling market in Brixton, creating abstract and dynamic compositions of meaningful memories is the core of my practice.

Exploring exhibitions has been a big part of my journey, helping me to fuel my passion and motivate me to try out new methods of working. My interest in art exhibitions was encouraged by my mother who is also an artist and worked at a gallery in west London throughout my childhood. She always supported my creative hobbies, and growing up in a creative household, surrounded by painting, graphic design, sculpture, textiles and many other crafts means that I’m drawn towards creative environments. To this day, seeing what my family is up to creatively continues to encourage me to keep pushing the limits of my own practice, which I’m thankful for, as life as an artist can sometimes be quite solitary. You have to actively seek out spaces and communities that inspire you and push you outside your creative comfort zone.

Going to exhibitions and galleries is a great way for me to expose myself to fresh perspectives that challenge me to be bolder and more experimental. Having the National Art Pass for a week was a really good opportunity to see lots of new art, as it gave me free and discounted entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and cultural spaces. I began my National Art Pass journey with the exhibition Capturing the Moment at the Tate Modern in London. The title stood out to me as the theme linked heavily to my own work. I connected with the show immediately as it explored the relationship between photography and painting, two of my passions. For a long time now, I’ve been carrying a sketchbook and camera while travelling, using them as a journal to bring home memories and new ideas. Seeing the work of some of the most recognised artists out there, including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Michael Armitage, Paula Rego, and how they capture moments of their lives through lens and brush, was not only a reminder to keep pushing my passion, but also an insight into how the two mediums can be merged.

Peter Doig’s Canoe Lake painting was one of my favourites in the show. He describes his approach to photography as using “the photo like a map”. I could see from the original photo next to the artwork how he had drawn from the composition of the photo, and modified it to create his own dark and eerie atmosphere.

Visiting Nengi Omuku’s exhibition The Dance of People and the Natural World at Hastings Contemporary art gallery was eye-opening, as earlier this year I worked with recycled clothing and textiles, exploring ways of using textiles as a medium. Seeing how beautifully Omuku paints on to Nigerian sanyan cloth and repurposes it as a canvas got me thinking differently about how I could expand my own experiments. Similarly, when visiting the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, I was introduced to so many new artists exploring a range of mediums and techniques that I’d never seen before. While these techniques might not directly influence my own approach, it’s a reminder that there are people out there trying different things, and this encourages me to try all the ideas that are tucked away at the back of my mind.

Back in London, visiting Claudette Johnson: Presence, at the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, and seeing her powerful large-scale drawings on paper was great, as I also often work on paper but usually move towards canvas when working on larger paintings. Little insights into artists’ practices are what encourage me to push past any doubts or fears that arise when trying out a new way of working.

Initially, I wasn’t drawn to Sarah Lucas’s Happy Gas exhibition at Tate Britain as the poster image didn’t strike me, but I was glad I went (the National Art Pass really allows you to step outside your comfort zone and helps you to give things a chance that you wouldn’t ordinarily). Her work is filled with humour, and provocation is at its core; a very different approach from my own work. Covering a wrecked car entirely in cigarettes is unconventional but impactful, and the piece was one of my favourites from the show. I really liked the pattern work formed by the cigarettes, a motif of Lucas’s work that hints at mortality and consumption. It was only when I got up close that I realised the material used, which got me thinking about how traditional mediums are often the go-to yet there are so many different ones out there.

My week with the National Art Pass gave me a great opportunity to step outside of the capital and visit galleries around the UK, as well as checking out exhibitions from artists whose work I hadn’t seen before. It exposed me to fresh perspectives, new ideas, and has inspired me to open up my methods of working and to experiment further. The more art I see, the broader my perspective can be on what art is, and how it “should” be made. It’s easy to play it safe sometimes and stick with what’s been done before, but getting out and seeing people push these boundaries has been really refreshing. Art can be made by anyone, with anything, and in any way.

The National Art Pass gives free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic buildings across the UK, and 50% off major exhibitions at the likes of the V&A, the Natural History Museum, and Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum. Passes are available as individual or double memberships, and you can save 25% on your first year of membership with Direct Debit

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