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Work by Geri Loup-Nolan
Image courtesy of Geri Loup Nolan

Geri Loup Nolan studied at ECA as a mature student, graduating from Painting - BA (Hons) in 2010. Recently, she took part in a residency and exhibition in China. We talk to her about China, juggling waged work and creative practice, and the value of artists' residencies.

As a mature student with many years of working in the magazine publishing industry, Geri had worked with words and pictures for prestigious glossies, medical journals, and literary and independent publications. During those years, and while raising her two young sons, she also continued to draw and paint.

“Going to art college late provided a focussed momentum which enabled a wonderful coming together of all my interests and concerns,” Geri said, “Going to Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) forced a discipline and focus to my art making. Being there demanded a self-motivated commitment to work, exhibition-making and creating opportunities to show work. When I graduated, I was selected for New Contemporaries by the RSA, and for the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Travel Award, which enabled me to fulfil my ambition to explore Japan.”

Since graduating, Geri has continued to be self-motivated and to seek out new opportunities.

“I haven’t stopped the juggle between waged work, making art and exhibiting throughout UK and Europe,” she says. “I can work independently, but I’ve also come to appreciate the huge influence a residency period can have on your work. It’s a professional and supportive environment, which of course is hugely validating, but shifting the location of your work also opens up a much freer process.”

Towards the end of 2016, Geri participated in a two-month residency at a health resort called Charcoal Home, formed around charcoal-producing kilns, on the outskirts of Zhanjiang in South China.

“The residency was relatively remote and in the countryside, but the host spoilt us with trips, many visits and many visitors,” Geri said, “There was so much that it’s hard to convey everything: trips to museums, private collections, art shops, markets, a calligraphy master’s studio, wood workshops, numerous diverse social events - many different locations for experiencing Chinese culture. Charcoal Home itself was surrounded by tropical plantations, ferns and bamboo, old brick kilns, vegetable plots, shellfish farming, sugar cane and banana fields, all set in richly pigmented soils. The work that I made had much to do with these elements, the people, the ritual, the earth."

At the end of the residency she took part in a group exhibition at Lingnan Normal University.

“Though our work was completely independent, the show was a fantastic collaborative effort alongside four other international artists, with the whole space transformed and enhanced by the curator, Oliver Lui. The University Faculty of Arts Dean and associates, city dignitaries and an extensive group of arts and crafts peoples we had made contact with during the residency came to the official opening. This was followed by a panel discussion in the auditorium, to an audience of 200, after which I gave a workshop to students training for careers in art teaching.”

And what does the future hold for Geri?

“Over the last couple of years I’ve been teaching various art courses to adults in Edinburgh, I love it and want to do more. As well as the skills, it would be great to pass on some of my experience, from publishing and theatre work. I thoroughly enjoyed giving the various talks and workshops in China, at the studio and the University. I feel a strong connection with the cultures of Japan and China, and I want to continue to deepen that relationship.”