In 2019 SAW released a publication. The publication was the outcome of many months of self reflection and careful consideration, within it’s pages we sought to explore and explain what SAW is, what it has been, and what it aims to be as an organisation. There are several essays within it that explore different aspects of our thinking and practise- here is one of them.
The art world is often seen as a cut-throat all boy’s club, inaccessible to most aspiring artists and inconsequential to those outside of it. This stereotype can dent the confidence of Emerging Artists and entrench the view that art, and the artworld, is only for a select few. It is important to support Emerging Artists to get beyond the stereotypes and concentrate on becoming brilliant artists, and more broadly influencers of culture and society. Emerging artists may not only be grappling with their artistic development (which may be stop and start, not as it is often described in the glamourous Hollywood movie or neat Turner prize biography), but also their confidence. It takes a certain level of tenacity to respond to small talk questions such as “and what do you do?” with the response “I’m an artist, but I work in Tesco to pay the bills”. Most Emerging Artists will not be able to balance the books by art alone, a struggle that often continues well after the ten year mark. The majority of the team at SAW are practicing artists, with our own creative challenges, which helps us to empathise and provide practical support to Emerging Artists. Our support for Emerging Artists is not only embedded in our own experience, but our desire to give good hospitality. This not only includes a good supply of tea, but a holistic approach to helping build artist’s confidence, alongside developing their arts practice. We do this first by providing opportunities such as Student Open Call, Painting for Fun exhibition and Take Over exhibitions and through these opportunities provide support and mentoring to help artists grow in their development. Our approach is always relational, we aren’t focussed on sales or profit, but on a joint love for art and how it can pose questions in the world. Emerging artists are never clients, they are artists and members of the SAW community with whom we give and share hospitality. Hospitality also includes a vital component of honesty, and we can be honest in admitting our opportunities for Emerging artists are not limitless – we are constrained by funding, time and physical exhibition space. We are always frustrated that we can’t meet every need for every artist. However, our hospitality can be expansive. We can’t support every exhibition proposal, but we can send an email of encouragement, feedback or a book to be inspired by. If you have ever unsuccessfully applied for a job, you will understand how disheartening email silence can be. We never ignore artists. We hope that every encouragement, from a short feedback email, to developing an exhibition together will be beneficial to the artist.
Much of our work with Emerging Artists involves us encouraging them to consider their work within a wider social and geopolitical context. We not only have a commitment to encourage Emerging Artists, but also to push them to think how their art sits in the wider world and how it relates to people. This is one of the key reasons we particularly support Emerging Artists, they will shape culture and its relationship with individuals, politics and communities in the future.