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The Year 3 Fine Art Curation Team present ‘Serendipity’

The BA (Hons) Fine Art Curation Team presents Serendipity, an exhibition dedicated to the happy accidents and unexpected creations artists have made over a year of social distancing and lockdowns. The team curated student, staff and guest work with an aim of reminding people of the good things that have come from having a seemingly endless amount of time. Curation Team members Elizabeth Seymour and Josephine Bell share more about their roles and the process of curating a digital exhibition.

Can you tell us a bit about the Fine Art Curation Team?

Elizabeth: The Fine Art curation team is a group of third year BA (Hons) Fine Art students that organise and curate exhibitions. The three exhibitions we work on throughout the year are the Interim Show, the student, staff and guest artist show (Serendipity)  and, ordinarily, the Degree Show.

Understandably, the role of the curation team has been very different this year but we have been able to move all of the exhibitions online using the Kunstmatrix software. Although we would have loved to curate more physical shows we have also been really lucky to be able to put together much bigger shows online. Serendipity includes nearly 100 artworks, 13 of those being from guest artists.

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Artwork shown by: Josephine Bell, Elizabeth Seymour, Scarlett-Rose Hood (all Year 3 BA Fine Art), Elsa James (Guest Artist) and Richard Sawdon Smith (Dean of Arts and Media). Header image by Carl Rowe, BA Fine Art Course Leader.

What’s your role in the Curation Team?

Elizabeth: I am Kunstmatrix Curator along with Lucy-Eve Wright and Sophie Hockaday. This includes uploading all of the artworks, choosing the design for the virtual space and positioning all of the artworks.

For Serendipity we had a group of Pre-curation Organisers that grouped artworks together so that when it came to the curation we already had a rough idea of where the artworks were going to be positioned. However, we had to approach this with flexibility due to limitations that come with the software.

Josephine: I was part of the Pre-curation Team, along with Sally Mathews and Tyler Macintosh. Curating an online exhibition meant that we had to decide prior to the upload what works went well together thematically and aesthetically. We also needed to create a good visual flow of work, even though we didn’t know how the space was going to be laid out.

Does Serendipity have a theme?

Josephine: There are three themes – Hands, Face, and Space. This idea came from observing the works and seeing a pattern of behaviour from artists in lockdown: craft, personal reflection and exploring location.

Originally, I had come up with the groups as Person, Object, Location, but after a few minutes I realised that Boris Johnsons ‘Hands Face Space’ fit perfectly and was too perfect a match to pass up.

What are your main considerations when choosing work to include in the exhibition?

Josephine: A consideration we had for this exhibition was making sure that the way we curated the show had a visual flow. We decided to have artists’ works flow from one space to the next; even though the Hands, Face and Space groupings are specific, we still wanted a flow from room to room.

We also decided not to investigate who made each of the works, as this information didn’t come with the images. As a group we found it interesting to not know if the work we were observing was from a first year or from a professional visiting lecturer. This gave us the freedom to base our decisions only on aesthetic and to create interesting connections.

There were also considerations on using the themes of Hands, Face, Space because of the connotation it has to lockdown and Boris Johnson. We didn’t want visitors or participants of the exhibition to feel as if we were making fun of the lockdown. As a group we discussed this topic at length before deciding that we should provide a list of themes and ideas based on each group so that our vision and intentions were clear.

What software are you using to host the exhibition?

Elizabeth: The software we are using is called Kunstmatrix. This is a website where you can put together 3D exhibitions online. I first discovered Kunstmatrix when an exhibition I had curated for March 2020 had to be cancelled last minute and I moved the exhibition online. Since then we have been using the software to design exhibitions that we are unable to put up in physical spaces.

What have been the benefits and challenges of moving exhibitions online?

Elizabeth: We have been able to invite artists who otherwise we would have struggled to work with, and without any of the issues of transportation and location its been an opportunity to exhibit a much broader range of artworks. We have also been able to reach wider audiences. Ordinarily the Interim Exhibition and Serendipity would have only been accessible to those who study or work at NUA, but by moving them online we have been able to share them further.

The main challenge of moving the exhibition online has been the limitations of the Kunstmatrix software. This has been a really great tool, but we often found ourselves having to adapt our ideas. Had the exhibitions all been physical there would definitely be some differences.

How does your role within the team complement your practice as an artist?

Josephine: When I create multiple works, I try to have them exist in a theme or similar visual language- by doing this I create small installations. I also have enjoyed being a part of curating exhibitions in the past at NUA as well and would like to continue doing this after university.

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