As part of the ‘AA2A Engage’ project, Chris. Dugrenier, Coventry University’s artist-in-residency, proposed a visit to the studio she shares with architect, designer and artist Adrian Baynes.
Chris., Saffron and I all agreed this would be of great interest for many students, as it presented itself as an opportunity to pop outside the academia ‘bubble’ and discuss ideas, worries and future plans with professional working artists. I was responsible for accompanying the participants on Wednesday and Saffron on Friday. According to Chris., this idea came from a conversation we once had about questioning and how relevant this action is for an artist – my question, however, was ‘how/when will we know if we’re asking the right questions?’.
I left Coventry alongside five other students that had signed up. Everyone was rather curious about what was happening as I decided not to overexplain the purpose of the visit. As we arrived to Long Buckby, Chris. and Adrian drove us to their studio. A general ‘wow’ was heard as soon as the studio door opened. The artists then invited us to sit down in their kitchen and, in between cookies, tea and coffee, we introduced ourselves. After this, we watched Chris.’s first commissioned work ‘Ascendance’ (2005).
Group of students that went on the visit. / View of the studio with Chris.'s 'Ascendance' (2005).
The video was finished and Chris. opened up a dialogue about how she and Adrian differ in terms of how they go about their practices – Adrian chose to follow a more commercial path, while Chris. herself dabbles with funding opportunities to succeed as a ‘performance maker’. However, according to both artists, the main feature in any artist’s life is failure and how they choose to face it. Baring this in mind, Adrian, then led us to the actual workspace where he keeps not only his successful work, which widely varies from mock-ups for buildings to prototypes such as the one for Coventry’s ‘Wall of Light’, but also his failures like the ‘traffic jam’ which is a jar of jam with mock-up cars stopped in traffic while little figures clean the jam on the road – before showing this the artist stated that ‘if you’re an artist and you have ideas, you can’t help it, you just have to make them’ and why not?
Adrian holding his 'traffic jam'. / Chris. and Adrian in the studio.
As we walked through the studio, the more diverse items would pop up (some humorously pointed out by Chris.) and Adrian had an amusing story for all of these. It was truly interesting to almost take part in this journey through an artist’s mind. Chris. also pointed out some of the current projects she’s developing and how she is growing an interest in painting. Amongst these and other ‘residues of work’ as Chris. denominated the objects in the studio, we realised how important it is to network, to believe in and fight for our ideas without ever giving up on our ambitions easily – ‘ask questions, show your work, knock on doors, on windows, slide a letter onto the mailbox and write an email, but don’t give up’ said Chris., ‘it’s almost like stalking but with a certain balance!’.
Watching a video about Coventry's 'Wall of Light'. / Chris. in front of a 'notebook' window.
The visit ended where it had started – in the kitchen – and now Chris. and Adrian were interested in knowing about our future perspectives and current practices. Everyone was absolutely enjoying this lovely afternoon, so much so that we almost missed the train back to Coventry! We all agreed that time went by too fast and there were still a lot of questions that we wished to ask – I even had one of the students telling me she wanted to go back again on Friday. Nonetheless, both Chris. and Adrian showed themselves available for further discussions and questions and invited us to return to the studio anytime.
All in all, I believe this was a very valuable and productive learning experience. My many thanks to Chris. and Adrian for taking time to talk to us and give us a more truthful insight into what it means to be a professional artist. Thank you to the AA2A as well for promoting this type of project and to the University for financing the train tickets to get to Long Buckby.
If you wish to know more about Chris. and Adrian’s works please feel free to visit:
Chris Dugrenier – http://www.chrisdugrenier.com/
Adrian Baynes – http://www.baynesandco.com/