Creative Practice #2: Emerging Artist

It being virtually impossible to earn a living by making art, emerging artists rely on awards and bursaries from legacies, NGOs, and arts foundations. Ergo, I’m in the process of applying for an award from Jerwood Visual Arts (part of Jerwood Charitable Foundation) in conjunction with Eastside Projects and WORKPLACE, for a project I’ve been wanting to develop for a good six months.

The idea began to surface, like mayflies from a river, after I made this image:

Still Life Photography by Eryl Shields

which itself arose out of a completely different idea that turned out to be impossible to implement in my limited space. But, having brought the tin all the way from our kitchen I decided to try an alternative approach. I made half a dozen shots from different angles, and immediately liked this one best. After faffing about with tone curves in Lightroom (which always takes me days) I made a print, and as I was in the process of matting it I started thinking about all the biscuit tins lurking in cupboards around the country, waiting to dispense comfort and joy. I wondered about the diversity of them: what they look like; what they contain; how they came to be in the hands of their particular dispensees. Some inherited, some received as gifts, some bought, some found. There must be so many biscuit tin stories out there, all of which have the potential to tell us something about ourselves. To add, in fact, to the sum of human knowledge. Albeit in a small way.

I have a problem about the way we marginalise the domestic realm and privilege the commercial. As well as with our overly narrow definition of heroism: why is it heroic to save a life, but not heroic to create and nurture lives? Why is it heroic to fight and banish aliens but not bacteria? Thus, my initial idea was to make portraits of the nation’s biscuit tins in the heroic tradition, and at the start of the year I applied for a bursary to do just that. I was shortlisted but didn’t get it. Which has turned out to be a good thing, because the idea has morphed.

Now my plan is to hear the biscuit tin stories and allow them to suggest the style of the individual portraits: Modernist; Avant Garde; Allegorical; Cubist; Surrealist; Impressionist, there are myriad options of which Heroic is just one. It would, then, be bonkers to limit the possibilities at this stage with my own preoccupations.


Oh, and if you are an artist in the early stage of your career with a project you wish to develop, the deadline for this award is 5pm on May 8. You don’t have to have been to art school, it’s free to enter, and there’s no age limit; so what are you waiting for?

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