The Åland Islands, Finland. Photo © Libby Scarlett
The Åland Islands, Finland. Photo © Libby Scarlett

The Artists’ International Development Fund is a joint partnership between the British Council and the Arts Councils in England and Northern Ireland which opens up international perspectives for artists to expand their horizons.

The Artists’ International Development Fund is more than just a way to put on an exhibition in another country. It gives artists the chance to share their passion with others and get their names out there. Artists build valuable connections and strong networks during their time abroad, as well as immersing yourself in a completely different culture.

Mark Devereux Projects and the Finnish Art Agency

Art director Mark Devereux, founder of Mark Devereux Projects (MDP), has been developing a project in Finland with the Finnish Art Agency (FAA), including the establishment of a long-term collaboration with FAA Director Laura Köönikkä to facilitate research residencies, professional development programmes and presentation opportunities for artists from the North of England and Finland supported by MDP and FAA. This partnership will allow artists to build networks and relationships that can have an important impact on their future careers.

Mark's activities in Finland have included speaking at FAA’s inaugural SHIFT artist development programme in 2015, during which Mark met with 15 artists working in the region and was given the opportunity to find out about their practices, as well as more about the Finnish art scene. 

In September 2016 the AIDF allowed Mark to spend five days in Helsinki, thus further developing the programme and meeting artists, galleries and funders that will potentially be part of the full programme. The Finnish Art Agency also visited Manchester to discuss ways of working together in a structured and in-depth manner, and to develop more concrete plans for partnership.

Borders: Lou Gilbert Scott and Anne Brodie

Lou Gilbert Scott and Anne Brodie completed a two week collaborative project which involved researching and navigating the literal and metaphorical border areas of Sápmi, homeland to the semi-nomadic Sami people of the Arctic. Their aim was to use clay and conversation to explore how borders inform, define and challenge our cultural and individual identities.

By building links with artists and significant art and cultural institutions in Northern Finland and Norway facilitated by the Finnish Institute in London, the Art Producer Kaisa Kerätär, and the AIDF, the project allowed the artists a greater understanding of the Sami Culture. 

Lou and Anne travelled to the Arctic to meet artists and establish new introductions to cultural and visual art organisations in the North of Finland and Norway. Their journey started with meetings and connections made in Helsinki, after which they travelled to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. The trip included visits to Kemijärvi and Sodankylä and across the Norwegian border into Karasjok where they visited the Sami Centre of Contemporary Art. They visited the Sami University College in Kautokeinowas and the University of Helsinki’s Biological station at Kilpisjarvi. 

Libby Scarlett in Collaboration with Ahvaland Print Workshop  

June – September 2016

Libby Scarlett’s project took her to the Åland Islands in Finland, where she was invited to complete a residency at the printmaking studio, Ahvaland. She was offered support in kind to learn new printmaking skills that she was unfamiliar with through the founder of the studio, Edward Johansson, who proved to be an inspiring host. In addition, Libby’s aim was to create a new body of work that responded to the remote landscape of the immediate area. This seemed the ideal time to make it happen. 

The print making workshop of Ahvaland on the Åland Islands was visited over two trips between June and September of 2016 in order to create a professional connection with a studio in a completely unfamiliar country. The project was inspired by notable aspects of the surrounding nature, such as the moss and seaweed which grows and moulds to the islands in abundance. It was whilst exploring the islands by bicycle that Libby noticed this phenomenon but also started to connect it to notions of home. For instance, what is home when one feels no sense of belonging anywhere, when one is always happy to leave and to fit oneself into another new place, or when one is completely alone. But by connecting to the earth can one begin to alleviate a sense of turmoil that often comes with such reshaping, transient exercises? 

During the month of June, Libby started to make prints and wrote a series of texts to accompany each which mainly centred on the theme of fitting to place. The early summer also allowed her to assist a curator hang the summer show, Crossings at Ahvaland, of which Libby was a part, and connect with other visiting artists. In September 2016 Libby printed and made an edition of 10 books, titled Temporary Fittings, which brought together her prints and text. The text was letterpress printed at the studio, after which Libby was inducted and taught how to etch. 

The work Libby produced at Ahvaland was covered in the local newspaper in Åland. Both the work and the concepts that were developed have led to the planning of a workshop based around the experience to be held at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester in February 2017. 

A picture of the artwork Silence Has Long Shadows by Tiina Pyykkinen, 2015
Mark Devereux Projects and the Finnish Art Agency: Silence Has Long Shadows by Tiina Pyykkinen, 2015 Image courtesy Finnish Art Agency.
Clay "conversations" pots after pit-firing, part of the Border art project in Finland.
Borders project: Clay "conversations" pots after pit-firing. Image copyright: Lou Gilbert Scott and Anne Brodie
Observations around Åland - seaweed. Photo © Libby Scarlett
Observations around Åland - seaweed. Photo © Libby Scarlett
Etching (2 of 3) - prints made from the seaweed and moss which covers much of the Åland islands, Finland. Photo © Libby Scarlett
Etching (2 of 3) - prints made from the seaweed and moss which covers much of the Åland islands, Finland. Photo © Libby Scarlett

About Mark Devereux

Mark Devereux graduated from BA (Hons) Photography and MA Fine Art at Staffordshire University in 2006. Responding to limited opportunities available in the region, immediately after graduating he founded Blank Media Collective and later BLANKSPACE Gallery. During six-years as Director of the organisation he was pivotal in providing numerous early-career artists from the UK and abroad with their first exhibition, performing or writing opportunity. Devereux holds over 10-years experience working across the art sector, working with more than 350 artists, curating over 100 exhibitions and events, publishing 4 books and facilitating numerous artist development programmes.

 

About Laura Köönikkä

The founder of Finnish Art Agency, Master of Arts (Art History) Laura Köönikkä, is a Helsinki-based curator with over ten years of experience from culture sector. She has been coordinating various projects as a curator and producer internationally, for example with Kunsthall Grenland in Norway and Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo in Japan. Köönikkä was the curator for international art magazine FAT Finnish Art Today. She is a member of Finnish Young Artist of the Year committee and a curator team member for global APT – Artist Pension Trust.

About Lou Gilbert Scott

Lou is a potter and itinerant artist. Following an M.A at the RCA in 2003 her work focused on the ephemeral qualities of material and making and the symbolic value of the vessel as keeper of narratives. Her artistic practice has taken her into the landscape through making and walking, mapping geographical and historical journeys using clay as the conduit between people and place. 

About Anne Brodie

Anne Brodie is a visual artist with a cross disciplinary approach to her work. After a first degree in Biology, she completed an MA at the Royal College of Art in 2003. The recipient of Wellcome Trust Arts and Arts Council Awards, her practice is process driven, usually working collaboratively at the boundaries between science and art, with a recurrent theme around notions of absence and edges - from the non-object aspects of working with clay and glass, to the emptiness of Antarctica and ephemeral living light source of bioluminescence and its external relationship with the human body. 

About Libby Scarlett

Based in the North West of England, Libby Scarlett studied at Manchester School of Art, graduating in 2009. Since then she has worked independently and exhibited internationally. Highlights include a solo show at Women’s Studio Workshop in New York in 2014, and group shows in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Italy, UK and the USA. 

Libby has been involved in residencies at Salzburger Kunstverein in Austria, at Women’s Studio Workshop in New York and at Hot Bed Press in Manchester. Awards include: The Phil Thomas Foundation Grant; Honourable Mention (European Artist Book Awards); Publication of the year (Think Tank awards). She has also spoken at The New York Center for Book Arts, and teaches as an associate lecturer at Manchester School of Art. Libby’s book works are held in collections internationally and she is a founding and active member of the collectives Studio Tej and Parlour Press. 

Libby’s work seeks to cultivate an intimacy with oneself, and ask, what is it to be alone but not lonely? By placing oneself in, or seeking out, quiet and solitude, she believes transformation is possible. As such, Libby’s work documents experiments that strive for an inner sense of stillness and clarity. Rather than these being narcissistic or inward-looking explorations, they endeavour to connect with what is natural as opposed to technological surroundings that increasingly rule modern life. 

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