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Gen Residency Guest Blog: Katy Cole

Interview with the Artist

Introduce yourself

My name is Katy Cole, I’m an artist. I live and work in Newcastle, I’ve lived there for over 10 years. I’m from North Yorkshire, in the countryside.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

My mum is an artist as well so I think I was influenced. It was the only thing I always wanted to do and thought I was particularly good at. I was always useless at anything like science or maths or anything like that so I think it’s always been a given that this is what I was going to do!

What kind of art do you do?

Over the last few years my work has changed quite a lot. I concentrate on drawing and quite recently have started painting again, I used to paint years ago. I work on a very small scale and I make drawings and paintings that are quite often of disasters, whether it’s natural or manmade explosions, freak weather situations… I also work a lot with images of space and galaxies and the universe in various different ways. I work in a time consuming, kind of laborious way which is good for me as it requires discipline.

What’s the meaning of you working with all these explosions and disasters?

I became interested a few years ago in these images I was seeing every other day in newspapers and TV and how we flick through magazines and the news. We are always confronted with this pictures of pretty terrible things going on around the world. We are so desensitised about them because we see them all the time and we don’t think about them very much. People ignore them but if you stop and look and think about it you are looking at something devastating. But when it’s held in a still moment it can be really very beautiful. Explosions, storms or other destructive forces are often very beautiful in a picture with a lot of colours and intricate patterns so I became interested in that and also to take something that is huge and bringing down into an object you can hold on your palm completely changes the way you look at it.

How would you say your work has evolved?

When I was studying I was very much a painter, I used to paint very big canvases. I’ve always drawn too, that’ always been pretty vital to my practice. For quite a long time after I studied, things changed, I was trying to make work, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I needed to change something in my work but couldn’t put my finger on what it was, I went back and started drawing from everything I found interesting and it evolved into the fact that I enjoyed drawing and was pretty good at it. It’s been a year since I started painting again but I now do it on objects and in a really small scale.

Big influences in your life that affect your art?

I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been really encouraged and supported and I know a lot of artists who don’t have that from their family because people think you are never going to make any money out of this, you need to get a “proper” job. I’ve got a studio group in Newcastle called the New Bridge Project and I’ve been there for some years. It’s basically a huge office building with 5 floors. It’s run by artists and it offers affordable studios for rent. We have a gallery space downstairs and another big area that you can book if you want to do something different… there are lots of evetns, talks, a book shop… They have supported me hugely.

What do you think is the importance of your surroundings?

It’s incredibly important. This is the first residency I’ve done and it’s fantastic because it gives you the opportunity of doing work while being financially supported. This is a very inspirational place to do work so when I was looking at opportunities it was top of the list because it’s Venice and it’s history of art and Renaissance artists and it’s a fascinating place to be. It’s been great to be here, the staff have been amazing, it’s been fun and we have enjoyed a very supportive atmosphere.
Residences in general are massively important because you can’t support yourself while focusing on your work and it’s not like there are people in every corner willing to buy art.

Had you been to Venice before?

I came for a day a couple of years ago and it was incredible but frustrating not to be able to stay! In my time here I’ve been to all the obvious touristy things, I’ve been to a couple of galleries to visit the Renaissance paintings which everyone should do if they have the chance. I’ve spent most of my time walking around the place and experiencing the city. It’s an unusual place and it’s very different from the last time I was here as it was summer. If anything it’s even more atmospheric in the winter. It’s misty and quite dark. You walk around the city and find these crowded places and suddenly you find yourself in a completely empty square. It’s quite a strange feeling because you are surrounded by ancient feelings and you feel you are in another time. The other thing that has influenced my work has been tourism. I knew it was going to be very busy but I’m interested in how a lot of people think it has become a bit of an amusement park, especially in the summer but even in February is still quite overwhelming. If I had a bit longer I would probably keep studying this phenomenon, how people spend time in a city always behind the lens of a camera without paying much attention to what’s happening around them which is a shame.

What is the piece you are leaving behind?

I have some building blocks, a progression of some works I’ve been doing. I’ve been painting galaxies in them and, in this occasion, there are satellite images of Venice. Almost as if you are looking through the stars towards Venice. I want to hang them in different areas.

Post one: Thursday 06/02

I am an artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North of England, I am staying in Generator hostel in Venice for two weeks to take part in the artist residency programme. Time has flown so far and the first week was an exciting time of exploring, gathering ideas and materials to work with. My practice involves projecting unsettling and often disastrous events onto landscape and architecture. I combine found images and objects with painting and drawing to create these science-fiction type environments.

Since being in Venice I have been overwhelmed by the level of tourism in the city. Thousands of people who seem to experience the city for the most part from behind the lens of their cameras. I have begun the residency by making a series of ‘alternative’ postcards, depicting the city under a deluge of catastrophes that seemingly go un-noticed by the gondola trippers and Carnevale spectators. Here are a couple of examples of work in progress:

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‘some inspiration from Piazza San Marco during Acqua alta (high water)’ 

Post Two

During my two weeks in Venice i have spent time to getting to know the city and attempting to create a response to the environment in the work I have produced. 

I was particularly inspired by the phenomenon of Acqua Alta, when the water  rises above the edge of the canals and floods into the piazzas and narrow streets of the island. A normal occurrence at this time of year, it barely raises comment from Venetians who don wellington boots and go about their everyday business. As a visitor however it is quite a strange experience, and is a reminder that on we are on an Island surrounded by water and therefore exposed to external forces potentially beyond our control. 

This idea led to the series of postcards featured in my last blog post, which has now developed into quite a collection. By creating imagined environments I propose to raise some unsettling theoretical (if far fetched) possibilities.

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Some new ‘Postcards’ 

Other works made during the residency include a progression from previous work which documented  real galaxies, painstakingly painted onto toy building blocks. I wanted to capture a scene of unimaginable size into an object that can be held in the palm ones hand. For the residency work I used found images of Satellite maps of Venice, which I pasted onto the building blocks before painting tiny galaxies over the top. I intend to individually hang these pieces, as if they were little habitats encased in the cubes. I like the idea that the viewer of the work sees Venice through a veil of stars as if they have been transported away from the earth.

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An ariel view of Venice 

Although sad to leave Venice after two weeks that have flown by, I have had an incredible experience and am am glad to be returning on the 21st of February for the display of the final work created by all four of the residents. I will be completing some works over the next week to bring to Generator when I return, including more postcards and a piece inspired by a light map over Italy. No doubt there will be photos to follow after the 21st! 




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Generator Gen Residency Guest Blog: Katy Cole

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