10th December 2020
On the Wednesday 9th December 2020, a new exhibition ‘Receptive Nature’ by one of our resident artists Jess Emsley opened in the Bunker Gallery.
Q: What is your current role at King Edward’s Witley and how long are you working at the School?
I’m here as an artist in residence for the term. I have a studio space in the Art Department where I’ve been working and I’ve been involved in the School’s arts events and activities throughout my time here. I’ve particularly enjoyed being involved in the activities program, running an activity exploring the School’s grounds in which pupils expanded the idea of ‘landscape’, and being involved in Forest School sessions for QMH pupils.
Q: Can you tell us about your connections with King Edward’s Witley?
I’m an Old Witlean myself and attended the School right through from 1st Form to Upper Sixth; I’ve been through the whole process really! My father joined the School whilst I was in my final year so I’ve stayed connected to the School through him and it’s been great to return now, almost a decade after I left.
Q: What are your memories of your time as a pupil?
I have lots of memories from my time here and find they are all layered, a combination of the people and the place that made being here so special. Something that sticks out for me is the fact that I was so involved in Art whilst I was here, despite the fact I dropped Art as a subject after my GCSEs. The Head of Art at the time encouraged me to continue my artwork, awarding me the role student Head of Art. This meant I could come and go in the department as I pleased and could continue making work outside of lessons. I’m sure this was a sign then that it was Art all along for me, but it certainly paved the way for my artistic future now.
Q: What path did you take after School?
I changed paths several times before finding the vocation that suits me. I did my undergraduate degree in International Relations and French and, although I’ve changed subjects since then, this BA has really fed into my artwork. I’m now on the MFA (a two year masters course) at the School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent. Nottingham is a brilliant city for art with lots of artist-led spaces and plenty of creative opportunities. I’ve been able to work with several of the galleries in Nottingham and to undertake collaborative work with other artists and academics. The course itself has really pushed my art practice, encouraging me to engage with local arts institutions, and allowing me to establish myself as a practicing artist.
Q: What is the inspiration behind your exhibition work?
This exhibition is a body of work I have built up throughout my residency at King Edwards. I saw my time here as a chance for a deeper exploration of the woodland local to King Edwards, a place that I know well and have grown up with for much of my life. I’ve been working with the concept of art as research, and understanding my role as both artist and researcher. The work itself is a kind of documentation of my explorations in the woodland, but is also an attempt to make sense of these experiences and describe them to others.
Q: How are you managing an exhibition during these strange times? And how can pupils view the exhibition if they are not on site?
It has been difficult trying to arrange an exhibition with restrictions on public spaces and events, however the team in the department have been very creative in making suggestions and finding alternative ways to facilitate the exhibition. Instead of having a private view open to the public we’ve had a rolling private view for those members of staff in school. This has meant people can drop in throughout the afternoon to avoid any large numbers. I have also set up a visitor’s book within the exhibition, something I’m really excited about. This book is an invitation for visitors to share their own thoughts or experiences of the woodland local to King Edward’s. The work will also be shared digitally on the Bunker Gallery’s new website later this week, which means that those not in school will be able to view the exhibition from home at this current time.
Q: What will you do after you finish your residency at King Edward’s Witley?
In January I’ll be returning to Nottingham to finish my masters and in the Spring, I’ll be doing a short residency at an arts centre in the Peak District whose focus is exploring the rural. I’m really looking forward to resuming my studies in Nottingham and seeing friends again, however I’m sad to leave King Edwards as I’ve really enjoyed my time here and have felt so welcome within the school.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring King Edward’s Witley artist?
I think one of the best pieces of advice I could suggest is that it’s okay to change your mind, that finding what you really love doing is worth taking time over. Even within Art itself, it can take time to work out where your particular interests lie, but the process of trying new things is what allows you to become a stronger artist. If you’re being creative in a way that is meaningful to you then that generally translates to other people, whether it’s in coursework, at university applications or in applying to exhibition opportunities.
The Bunker Gallery opened on 9th December for staff to attend in a ‘rolling private view’, to ensure social distancing, from 12:00 until 16:00. The exhibition will be reopened to visit for both pupils and staff from the start of the Spring Term. There is a guest book, and visitors are encouraged to write their thoughts and comments within (please bring your own pen). In visiting the gallery, please conform to social distancing measures by sanitising hands upon entry, wearing a face mask unless exempt, and avoiding groups of more than 6 within the space.
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