UNIT(e) occupies our whole gallery space for the summer this year, building a temporary studio community that can foster and support artists at any career stage. It is a project in it's fourth year and continues to grow in importance for the artscene in Wales.
The model for the season is simple. The space that is usually used for the presentation of works is given over to the production of art. The building is given over to a selected group of artists and a programme of talks, peer events, social events and workshops are offered. It is a model of working that has spread throughout the country, from projects such as Open School East to the School of The Damned and Islington Mill. They were set up by artists who could not afford rising course fees and were dissatisfied with the structure, ethos and curricula of traditional art degrees. Ryan Gander is about to set up the Fairfield academy, concerned at the narrowing class and finance restrictions faced by many artists who would previously have been supported in study.
This proliferation of alternative models is timely and responds to a set of conditions that the artworld finds itself in, but it is by no means a new idea:
In Wales during the 60s and 70s there was a little-documented project that took place within a vacated school on the South Wales coast. Barry Summer School was a coming together of artists musicians and performers on a scale that was unheard of at the time. The painter Jeffrey Steele was one of the tutors and says that he believes Barry Summer school to be the battleground of an art ideology – taking art education back from the Academies. At the time Kenneth and Mary Martin, Harry Thubron, Tom Hudson and Leslie Moore all taught, believing that 'students of all persuasions, the teacher at any level, the gifted amateur, the untutored professional, could benefit from working side by side. More could be accomplished by aiming for an intuitive rather than a specific objective, and greater gains could be made by all the students through their association with each other.' Elizabeth Matthew Lewis, A Summer School for Wales 1967
This year UNIT(e) has taken some of the elements of The Barry Summer School in a creative and innovative approach towards art production. The focus of UNIT(e) is on experimentation, research and developing new directions through peer dialogue. The studio programme is supplemented with a rich and varied programme of visiting artists and curators who deliver talks, workshops and one-to-one sessions, including input from some of the previous UNIT(e) alumni. Through the programme we hope to emphasise an awareness that the artworks that are shown in stripped white galleries comes from somewhere, it is produced and developed somewhere that is not white or pristine, but equally important. The studio, the workshop, the library the laptop – wherever they are situated, urban or rural are all sites of production.
We’d like to invite you to an evening at UNIT(e). Because of our longer summer format this year we’re taking an opportunity for to invite in the public for a mid-point review. This is a chance to see what the artists have been doing so far, a chance to see the studio spaces, the artworks, the work in progress, and the research and ideas that have been developing here. Within this UNIT(e) programme we are also hosting the Wales in Venice Invigilators and the Made in Roath community gardens project, so this will be a chance to find out more about those projects too.
The gallery is open every Saturday, and will conclude on 9 September with an open studio event.