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Life after NUA: an interview with BA Fine Art graduate Maddie Wheeler

Artist Maddie Wheeler graduated from BA (Hons) Fine Art in 2016. We catch up with her about her practice and recent participation in the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award Residency.

Can you tell me a bit about your practice?

Through film, sculpture and performance, my practice explores the boundaries between the body and landscape. Questioning what it is for our body’s experience of placement within a landscape and the sensations within the body that relate to this occupancy.

The colour blue is a strong feature throughout my practice, which I now recognise as a holding space. Representing sky and sea, air and water, blue is both a body in itself and also a place of suspense for our bodies and minds. 

What have you been doing since graduating from NUA with a BA (Hons) Fine Art?

Since finishing at NUA I have moved to London and have recently completed my Masters at The Slade School of Fine Art. Over the summer I was awarded the Dolbey Travel Scholarship which enabled a 3 week trip to Lake Constance, to explore the boundaries of the body with landscape in direct relation to a location which escapes the ownership of the surrounding countries.

I have also been taking part in the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award Residency which resulted in a solo exhibition of work relating to the research trip. I have been working across both set fabrication and teaching. It has been helpful to be learning new practical skills through fabrication work and to see theories in practice through supporting young people in their education. 

How has your experience at NUA helped you or changed you?

My experience at NUA provided the foundations of my practice through supportive tutors and the valuable experience of Erasmus in second year. I studied in Karlsruhe, Germany, for 3 months and while there gained insight into the key role language and communication plays in my work. I

t was here that I feel my practice as a whole began to take shape and I still identify with my work through experiences gained while on Erasmus. I now have a regular dialogue with Lucia Mirlach who I met while studying and we have since exhibited together in both London and Bavaria.

This summer I travelled to Lake Constance for a research trip funded by the Dolby Travel Scholarship and ended the trip working with Lucia for an exhibition presenting research from the lake. The opportunity of Erasmus opened my awareness to the benefit of travel in researching our bodily relationship to material and place.

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What is the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award Residency and how did you get involved?

This is the first year The Mark Tanner Sculpture Award has also run residency places for emerging artists alongside the award to recent graduates in June.

I am really grateful to have been invited to apply and be the first in a series of residency artists this year at Standpoint Gallery. I have had access to a studio as well as ceramic and print facilities on the 6 week residency, culminating in an exhibition/public presentation of work.

It has been a great opportunity to work through my research from the summer trip to Lake Constance and present a solo exhibition at Standpoint Gallery.

Looking forward how would you like to see your career progress?

I would like to continue pushing my practice through research trips, exploring further the relation of our bodily experiences to differing landscapes.

I would also like to continue utilising art workshops with young people to understand further our creative material needs through physical research. I find workshops vital in understanding others approaches to the material world and learn so much through the process of teaching.

What advice do you have for someone considering studying Fine Art?

Be prepared to push yourself and keep questioning the role of the work you are creating. Fine Art is a course which both allows you to work on creative skills and also think about how these creative processes relate to yourself on a personal level.

I like to think of studying Fine Art as a visual philosophy course, where you will be reading about philosophical approaches while applying them to how we relate to the material world.

You can find out more about Maddie’s practice on her Instagram

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Published 14 November, 2019