Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is James Weis and I am currently part of the Fine Arts program at KPU. I'm nearing the end of my BFA and I thought this would be an unforgettable experience that would help push my practice forward as well as inspire me for future projects. I haven’t travelled much prior to this trip so I was just really excited for the change of scenery and it has also always been a dream of mine to go to London and Venice. I am very inspired and easily captivated by classical art, especially sculpture. I have always been influenced by and been interested in Greek mythology/mythology in general and I find that these things always find a way into my own work, so seeing all of the paintings and sculptures so far has been a very nostalgic dream come true for me. I mainly work digitally now but I am also very passionate about sculpture/ceramics and I still enjoy working traditionally, mainly with watercolours and ink.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
London exceeded my expectations just by the sheer amount of events available to attend every day. I was also surprised by how interesting and unique every building/neighbourhood was as every corner I took was something new and interesting to visit/look at. I didn't think that I would adjust to London as fast as I did, but it was actually really easy for me to navigate the transit system as well as just plan a full day of activities on my free days including orchestras, plays, street tours and gallery visits. Venice is definitely a different environment entirely, but it’s really exciting to see all of the architecture and attempt to navigate the labyrinth of alleyways. Each island that I’ve visited has been a unique experience and it’s interesting to see what’s going on at different times of the day. For example, my friend Leah and I were sitting on a dock and saw a group of students sailing small boats as part of their class which left me a bit jealous I didn’t do that in school. I was also excited for all of the sculpture and cathedrals which definitely did not disappoint. After this trip, I definitely want to go back to London and explore the places I didn’t get the chance to as I can see myself spending endless hours in their galleries and just absorbing all of the culture available there.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned piece at the Tate Modern was Nan Goldin’s Jimmy Paulette & Misty in a Taxi, NYC (1991). My experience of the piece did not shift for me at the Tate Modern as much as it did for my assigned piece at the Tate Britain. Being that it was a photograph I didn’t feel that I was missing that much information, other than its quality, size and the surrounding images by the same artist. It was better to see it next to Goldin’s other work as they all worked well together. At the Tate Britain, Deanna Petherbridge’s ink painting The Destruction of the City of Homs (2016) was very large and included details where her hand was more visible in the piece up close as those details were lost in the photograph of it. As for Goldin’s piece, for me personally, I think I got most of the information I needed seeing the image even as a photocopy as its original medium is a photograph anyway.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
When it came to my studio projects and being in conversation with my assigned artists (see James’ two art works below) I was interested in the process behind both artists and I mainly focused on adopting certain aspects of their process that resulted in the work I was assigned. It was challenging for me to work with photography as I’m not a photographer and I think that certain aspects may have been missing from my work as I was working with a different medium, but it was an interesting challenge nonetheless. If I would've had the time to I think I would have enjoyed working with actual ink on a large canvas as a way of connecting more with Deanna Petherbridge’s process. The amount of detail and evidence of work put into Petherbridge’s piece that can only be seen in person was really inspiring for me and I think I would have gone deeper into the amount of detail put into my own work.
Today’s activity was located at the Venice Biennale. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Today I went to the Arsenale and also returned to the Giardini to compare the two works created by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster for the Biennale. I was thoroughly fascinated by the Arsenale and found many of the works at the Giardini to complement the main pieces well. I've never been so captivated by such an abundance of artwork so it was slightly overwhelming for me. Gonzalez-Foerster's work was an interactive virtual reality piece and It was a very inspirational experience for me as I've worked with virtual reality tools for previous projects and never thought I’d see a VR headset in a gallery. It was interesting to see their work at the Giardini and how it contrasted their virtual reality piece as it was a physical display as opposed to virtual and worked with a similar theme. I think the most memorable experience of this day for me was just the feeling I got from seeing all of the work and the burst of motivation I had to start working on my own project. It was really important for me to see the new forms of media being placed in an exhibition, especially something as big as the Biennale is, so that’s something I will definitely take with me from the day. After the Giardini, I wandered the streets with my friend Leah and we spent some time working on our journals, freaking out over a pool full of turtles, and ended the day with a picnic by the ocean where we relaxed and watched one of the many beautiful sunsets we were able to appreciate in Venice.