Two miles north of the city of Edinburgh lies Newhaven, the home of Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW). Housed in a Civic Trust Award winning build made up of The Bill Scott Sculpture Centre (2012) and The Creative Laboratories (2014), the centre compromises twenty-four studios and five workshops dedicated to the practice of sculpture and facilitating processes such as wood work, bronze and ceramics. Alongside this, the centre hosts an engaging contemporary artist-led sculpture programme, making ESW a hub of creativity dedicated to the development of contemporary sculpture. Each year, the centre offers four Micro-Residencies to artists from across the world following an annual open call. This year, two of those spaces were awarded to Leeds based, Spanish artist Aitor Gonzalez and Noel Clueit, who lives and works in Manchester.
Lisa-Marie Dickinson spoke to Gonzalez and Clueit about their time at with ESW, how their projects have developed from proposal to present day and what their plans are post residency.
[C8]: What led you to applying to the open call at ESW?
[Noel Clueit]: The residency itself is more about research than creating a final outcome. This was the main factor in my decision to apply. When you are asked to show work, your studio practice takes a diversion towards that so I was interested in taking part in a residency that allowed me to research and experiment more openly, rather than work towards producing work for a show.
[Aitor Gonzalez]: I agree, there is an intense pressure in developing work for an exhibition in comparison to experimenting. Experiments still create completely valid work. I was interested in the residency as it provided me with the opportunity and environment to work with materials and processes I had not yet used. My work is often shaped by limits, economic limits or whether things are accessible, so I wanted to come here and be free.
[C8]: In terms of the proposal, did you both have a set idea of what you wanted to explore during your time here?
[NC]: I came with the intention of exploring an idea that has been slowly developing over the past two years. My proposal was essentially a thread of emails exchanged between myself and Dreamstime, a company who license stock photographs and happen to have several of ‘Spiral Jetty’ (1970), a sculpture in Utah attributed to artist Robert Smithson. There are loads of issues surrounding this piece in terms of ownership. The land it is situated on; the land around it, the actual piece itself and the image of it are all owned by different people. I began emailing Dreamstime about licensing photographs of the piece, which became yet another ownership issue. The conversation progressed into a discussion around the use of another artist’s work, in this case the photographer of the stock photo, and how and where that could be used for exhibition purposes. There is a lot of back and forth, part of which discusses the issues of how real life objects are presented online and also imagining the journey to see ‘Spiral Jetty’. These emails form a kind of spine to develop and support further works.
[AG]: My proposal was really to come here and access the different workshops and experiment with materials and processes I have not yet used. The way I develop my work is by creating. The ideas adapt in an intuitive way depending on the materials I am working with, as I often use found matter. In a similar way to Noel, I also arrived here with a project I have been working with in collaboration with my friend Brett, which is a series of emails between him and me.
[C8]: How have you utilised the workshops and materials available to you so far?
[AG]: I have used the metal workshop during and I have really enjoyed the kind of performative aspect of it. In a way, I feel the process of welding is very performative of masculinity. It’s so hot in the workshop and hands on. It is interesting as the result is the opposite of how you have just created the work. What I mean is, after you have created something using welding you try to break the material to test its fragility. I see this as a kind of metaphor for masculinity. I’m interested in metaphors and gestures in my work and also the process itself.
[NC]: I arrived expecting to use everything and to be in there everyday. Turns out I don’t really work like that – it’s like there is this potential to make anything you want but I’m always conscious of time, so a lot of the time I used the workshop to work out a way of doing something and then I just find a product that already existed which I could modify. I think because I’ve been without these facilities for about 10 years now I make things in a specific way. I didn’t want to spend six weeks working on things that I then wouldn’t be able to either finish or make again once I was back in Manchester. Saying all that, I did use the laser cutter, which was accessed through the University, but those technologies are fairly accessible now.
[C8]: Having never met before, has the time on this residency enlightened you to any similarities between your practices?
[AG]: Earlier in February myself and Noel organised a talk here at ESW and invited members of the public and people from the Scottish art scene to come and discuss our projects and practice. This made us realise there were similarities between us both working with the emails and sculpture. But I would say, though, that my work is romantic and Noel’s is sarcastic.
[NC]: Ha, did Aitor say sarcastic? I’m not sure it’s sarcastic, maybe sometimes it can be but I always make sure it’s shrouded a little. I could see some similarities before we met, both in aesthetic and content, and from spending more time with each other I discovered we both have an interest in language, meaning, composition and we both select materials in a similar way – partly down to chance, using found objects against materials that come out of a very specific decision.
[C8]: I have noticed several links between your work such as the idea of fictional journeys, transience and email correspondence which has formed the basis of both of your ideas. Do you see the narrative of these fictional journeys in the emails as a metaphor for your own physical journeys to Scotland and beyond?
[AG]: I had never thought about that until now but yes! I view the emails almost as paper planes. They are based on a fictional concept and they’re always written in a sort of non-place, like the bus or tube when myself or Brett are travelling, and are sent via a non-space, the internet. I like the absence of physicality. The emails started after my friend told me about this recurrent dream he has in which he is a pilot travelling alone for long periods of time. It stuck with me because I have this dream where I am in a lift travelling up and up and I thought it was rather beautiful that he is travelling across and I am travelling up so our paths and the journeys we make in our dreams kind of intersect.
[NC]: I don’t really see it as a metaphor, I started the work a while back and it was never intended as something I would develop over a residency, it just happened to come at a time where I needed a month or so out to concentrate on it. But hopefully at some point I can make that fictional journey a reality – go to Utah. It is good to stay distanced from all that for now as that nostalgia for a place, for a country you’ve never been to, ends up being vivid in a different kind of way.
[C8]: Finally, what are your post-residency plans? Do you intend to show the work you have been creating?
[AG]: I want to keep developing the ideas that are coming from this series of emails and experiments further on an upcoming residency in Canada later this year.
[NC] : I will be working on a few proposals, for various types of spaces really, this is described in the emails, how a certain space affects the work being exhibited – I’m into those murky readings. My email correspondence with Dreamstime developed into this fictional journey to visit ‘Spiral Jetty’, it mentions a lot of different things that will lead off into different works. Like how I imagine getting there in a Greyhound bus. So what is now this twentieth century design icon then feeds into sculptural work, the use of specific materials like aluminium and glass. Also, this is where the lettering I have been using comes from, anagrams of the word Greyhound that have this sort of poetic tone to them relating back to ‘Spiral Jetty’ itself or the idea of these vast journeys.
Lisa-Marie Dickinson is an Artist and Writer based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.