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Posted 18.05.17

ELSEWHERE - An international cultural exchange with Montpellier, France

By Phillip Buchan

Over the last 12 months, the college has more than doubled the number of opportunities for international exchanges for staff and students.

As part of our Erasmus+ bilateral agreement with the prestigious Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier Agglomération (ESBAMA) in France, students created ELSEWHERE/AILLEURS, an international multi-site exhibition by BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking and MA Painting students from Plymouth College of Art, and by BA (Hons) and MA Drawing & Painting students from ESBAMA.

“Having been a participant in both this project and international study abroad previously, I can only recommend it as something positive and would urge anyone who gets the chance to work on something similar to give it a try.” – Alex Lee, final-year student

The idea for ELSEWHERE/AILLEURS originated in 2016 when BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking lecturer Majella Clancy visited ESBAMA to teach as part of the Erasmus+ exchange. During her time at ESBAMA, Majella met Miles Hall, an Australian artist who trained at Queensland College of Art and at l’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts, Montpellier, where he now lectures in Painting and Drawing.

“I find Plymouth College of Art to be a wealth of diversity where the visual art students can truly benefit from working alongside of other disciplines and forms of creation such as textiles, fashion and photography. This kind of atmosphere creates significant exchanges between people and encourages a more expansive open minded attitude towards creative research and production.” – Miles Hall, Lecturer in Painting and Drawing at l’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts

Together the lecturers discussed the history of trade and cultural exchange between England and France. Miles said, “we started to think about how drawing could be used to examine place, difference and alterity - particularly in relation to the geographic and cultural specificity unique to the south of France and the south of the UK.”

Using drawing, the project explores the idea of elsewhere and questions the interconnected condition of contemporary culture. It aims to initiate new dialogues between people and places that operate beyond dominant forms of communication technology. The project examines how a foreign object sent from elsewhere can influence and affect the outcomes of each participant’s existing artistic practice.

“After doing much research into art schools in the UK, I was impressed by the independent autonomy of Plymouth College of Art - its respect for traditional skills and approaches to learning while being simultaneously open towards new technologies and contemporary forms of expression.” – Miles Hall, Lecturer in Painting and Drawing at l’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts

Students from the college and ESBAMA exchanged objects through the post and created visual responses through drawing. Discussing the project, Miles said “People once wrote messages and placed them carefully inside a bottle, throwing it into the ocean in the hope that one day it would arrive on another shore - found by an unknown recipient. Today with the internet this kind of poetic gesture seems completely marginalised in face of instantaneous communication.

"In the internet age, Majella and I wanted to think about how drawing could question new forms of dialogue between unknown recipients - some kind of exchange that existed outside the dematerialised instantaneity of digital technologies.”

Final year BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking student Alex Lee, who joined the college in 2013 as part of an Extended BA degree, said: “I was keen to get involved in the project, having been on an Erasmus+ exchange to Spain in my second year at the college. The benefits of responding to different cultures through art can be huge and for this particular drawing exchange I and the other 11 participants from this side of the channel were certainly challenged.”

Participating artists from Plymouth College of Art included: Sam Berzins, Marie Taylor, Amelia Webster, Alex Lee, Michelle Burns, Ratna Saksena, Terry Channell, Natalie Rawling, Beverley Roache, Jessica Shellard, Jane Pine, and Vanessa Allen.

“My time at Plymouth College of Art to date has been nothing but inspirational, so much so that I plan to stay with the college when I finish my BA, potentially as a Masters student in Painting.” – Alex Lee

Participating artists from ESBAMA included: Mona Young-eun KIM, Léa Sanchez, Pauline Bergman, Nicolas Aguirre, Alice Saadi, Huan Liu, Geraldine Goyet, Naomi Heinrich, Valentine Zivanovic, Léa Casacci, Alban Delbourg, Elise Rougé, Laurent Soula, and In-Hee Ma.