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Posted 05.12.17

Fine Art graduate secures artist residency at Batter Street Studio

By Kat Peberdy

Elena Brake being presented with the Corporation Award by Ivan Sidgreaves at our annual Degree Shows.

The Batter Street Residency, hosted by Plymouth Arts Centre, involves free studio space, tutorials with the Plymouth Arts Centre team and networking opportunities.  As part of the residency, artists are also awarded a £200 budget to go towards hosting public events such as open studios, plus a finissage event at the close of the residency.  

BA (Hons) Fine Art graduate Elena Brake was awarded the Plymouth College of Art Corporation Award at her degree show in 2016, and has also gone on to receive a 2-year funded RSA Fellowship in recognition of outstanding commitment to socially engaged practice.

Since graduating she has exhibited and performed across the UK and has just been named as the latest artist in residence at Plymouth Arts Centre's Batter Street Studio.

We catch up with Elena to hear about the process of applying for an artist residency and her practice...

"The residency opportunity was open to PAC Home members, and I applied with a proposal for what I wanted to do with the space, and why it was the right time for my art practice.  

Elena Brake holds her performance piece 'Tying Knots'

My work focuses on ordinary moments, seeking to enchant them through performance, installation and video.  I transform familiar experiences into re-imagined pieces that stir up all kinds of emotions, from fear and discomfort to joy.  I have a light-hearted approach to my practice and try to make my work accessible so that people who may not usually interact with art or know much about the contemporary art scene can join in and have a unique experience. 
It’s been just over a year since my graduation ceremony at the college.  I studied BA (Hons) Fine Art, and it was during my third year that I decided I really wanted to be an artist.  I made myself a promise that when I graduated I would sustain my art practice for a year, to prove to myself that I could be creative and produce work without deadlines and the structure of an art course to keep me moving. 

"If you allow yourself to be moved in different directions as you progress then you stand the best chance of finding those things that motivate you to create." 

For a year I have worked like this, producing new pieces and planning large performances from my living room, various coffee shops... or just whilst balancing my sketchbook on my lap on the bus.  It has been challenging, but my determination keeps me going and I have exhibited and performed across the UK over the past year. 

In September 2017 I performed 'Metal Detectives,' in Plymouth City Centre, a performance intervention involving a group of performers I had recruited to work with me.  I had been planning this event for almost a year as part of Plymouth Art Weekender.

Metal Detectives (2017) – Performed in Plymouth City Centre as part of Plymouth Art Weekender.

On Friday 17th November, I received the phone call from Plymouth Arts Centre's Assistant Curator Lucy Rollins to tell me that my application to the Batter Street Residency had been successful!  I was stunned to have been selected and the reality didn't sink in until I was handed the keys and saw the space for the first time.
I will be in residence at Plymouth Arts Centre until March 2018 and will be sharing the space with local artist Holly Knowles.  We plan to discuss our individual art practices and look for crossovers that will help us to see our practice from new perspectives.  I am very open to working and researching collaboratively, and we hope that we will be informing each other's practice as the residency progresses.  

Elena Brake's 'it's just a shower', as part of BA (Hons) Fine Art exhibition 'One Year Later' showcase

Over the course of the residency, I will be making use of the resources and mentoring that Plymouth Arts Centre is able to offer me to increase my confidence and further my skills. I plan to use the space to produce a new body of work that has been difficult to produce without dedicated studio space, and I aim to have something substantial to show for the time spent really interrogating my practice. The Batter Street Studio space is fantastic and I know that the next few months will be pivotal for my art career.
My advice for people thinking of starting a Fine Art degree is to keep an open mind at all times. I could never have predicted the route my art practice has taken, and I am glad.  If you allow yourself to be moved in different directions as you progress then you stand the best chance of finding those things that motivate you to create. I also think it is important to spend plenty of time on the course working in collaboration with your peers and building strong networks that will continue to exist and support you after you have graduated."