It’s not everyday a Turner-prize-nominee asks you to collaborate on a project, moreover, one destined for an internationally recognised art festival. So for MA (Hons) Fine Art student, Camille Biddell, there wasn’t much hesitation.

David Shrigley, the Glasgow-based artist whose comical observations of life and its quirks, is a defining member of the 21st century art world.

Educated at Glasgow School of Art, alongside Kenny Hunter, Programme Director of Sculpture here at ECA, Shrigley and Hunter maintained their friendship after college and now work alongside each other at Edinburgh’s Powderhall Bronze foundry. So when David was forming an idea for the Folkestone Triennial to collaborate with an emerging sculptor, Kenny was the person to turn to.

Kenny described how after hearing about the project, which involved reproducing a lamppost from memory, Camille immediately came to mind. A fourth year student on the MA (Hons) Fine Art programme (a joint honours degree between Art and History of Art), Camille has been taught by academics across both subject areas. With four years of learning behind her, she's got a real breadth of practice-based experience as well as contextual grounding - without the added pressure of an impending degree show (that comes next year!).

In a practical sense too, Camille proved to be a great match for the project. Often working with clay in her own work, she was familiar with the medium; furthermore, her interests conceptually aligned well. Throughout her time at ECA, Camille has been concerned with authenticity and reproducing art, issues which Kenny expresses, are imperative to address.

So Camille and David travelled to Folkestone, with little explanation but plenty of exhilaration. The idea was for Camille to observe a row of lampposts along the promenade for 30 seconds before drawing what she had retained from memory. “That was actually really hard, after just seconds I could remember hardly anything!” She observed for another 30 seconds, before sketching some more. That was the extent of the project research, as from there they headed to Shrigley’s Brighton studio to create scale drawings for the sculpture. The drawings were sent to Powderhall in Edinburgh where they created the armature (frame) for Camille to begin working on, layering newspaper and clay to build up the sculpture.

Photo of Camille working on clay sculpture
Image courtesy of the artist
Camille is a fourth year MA (Hons) Fine Art student
Photo of Camille Bidley working on her clay sculpture
Image courtesy of the artist
Camille has been making her clay sculpture at Powerhall Bronze, Edinburgh

Camille described the extent to which the project has influenced her thinking. “It’s such a great process, I’ve never made anything so big, I feel like I’m learning a whole new skill. It’s great too, because Kenny has a studio in the foundry and he’s keeping an eye on me, lending me tools!”

Working within professional environments such as the foundry is something Kenny advocates strongly for students.

“It’s a big learning curve, but I can't overstate how important it is for students to get their hands dirty. Outward-facing projects create such memorable experiences for students, independent styles become broadened by them. We can get caught up in our own styles and become distinguished by them, but working beside others our identity gets funnelled through a different aperture.”

Taking on such an endeavour whilst juggling an MA is quite an undertaking but Camille seems to have quite remarkably taken it in her stride. “It was a little surreal to begin with, but just such a good way to learn, thrown in. The best way!”

She may have taken a leap into the art world, but it's one which is so clearly ready for her.

Camille's work will be on display in September in the 2017 Folkstone Triennial.


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