all images are copyright the artists

interim 2009 introduction by simon wallis

artschool confidential

Going to artschool was, truth be told, the only option for me - at the time I wouldn’t have fitted in (or been accepted) anywhere else, being neither particularly academic or at all clear about what I wanted to do with my life. Artschool seemed to be a good place to experiment and find a direction. It was somewhere you had to exercise a high degree of self-discipline, as there were no regular lectures to attend, essays to produce, or grades to achieve. It forced you to take responsibility and look outside the institution – to use the city, its museums, galleries, music venues, parks, football grounds, clubs and pubs as part of the ‘syllabus’.

It also meant that you had to forge alliances with other students who would go on to be your peer group. The like-minded people around you who could provide a context for your work, became the critics and audience. If you’re a good conversationalist and listener artschool can provide you with regular immediate feedback on your work, the like of which you’ll get rarely in life after college.

After my UK degree I went on to art college in the States and was amazed to find highly entrepreneurial students who made the time to furnish themselves with marketable skills, so that, if need be, a living was always possible away from the lottery of selling art. It had to be as there was no state support and North Americans are essentially pragmatists. These student artists window-dressed, did graphic and interior design jobs, worked as artist assistants, taught night classes, worked in publishing – things that brought in much more money than the passive shop or bar work I was used to, making life as an artist financially viable.

The means of artistic production have now exploded beyond my wildest Walkman dreams of 1987. We had a department called ‘alternative media’ – essentially a room with a photocopier. I took no more than 30 photos a week as I couldn’t easily afford to develop the film. You’ve never had it so good, I’m jealous – if you’ve got a Mac there is nothing technically you can’t do, but then again a pencil is always pretty good too.

In terms of art history and current events in the artworld it always pays to put in the legwork – see all the shows at the weekends, go to all the openings, buy the magazines and the catalogues, read and write the blogs and reviews. Travel, debate, form allegiances, create supporters, read novels, volunteer, intern - you know the drill: the harder you work, the luckier you’ll become.

It’s great that this small show here is a valuable part of sharing and testing work, I enjoyed thinking about what I did as a student and how I still make professional use of it. But more importantly I value experiencing the work of artschool graduates as they enrich, scramble, contest and rebuild the artworld, contributing to what I consider to be an essential part of a good life. Long live artschool in whatever inescapable changing form it takes.
Simon Wallis
Director The Hepworth, Wakefield
(opening 2010)