Scattered rectangular pieces of fabric with smudged images of faces on a white background work by Darcy for Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Our Journal

Review: KARST opens up Test Space for BA (Hons) Fine Art students

BA (Hons) Fine Art students Stella Olivier, Ashanti Hare and Darcy Meades talk about their experience exhibiting at KARST

Back in the second week of June, students from Plymouth College of Art’s second year BA (Hons) Fine Art degree were presented with the opportunity of using the KARST Gallery in Plymouth as a test space to practice showcasing their work. Students moved into KARST on 7 June, and after a brief introduction on KARST’s safety measures and tools available, the group was allowed to test out different modes of display for their multidisciplinary art works, that ranged from installations to video art.

Students set up an exhibition in a white room with large pillars Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Students set up an exhibition in Test Space. Photo by Eloise Dodsworth.

For many, this was their first time properly setting up an exhibition space. Student Darcy Meades said, “ It was a good first experience as I felt like I had a lot of space to work with and went into it with lots of ideas that I wanted to try. I think this freedom of space, and having prepared ideas beforehand made it easier to work in the short time frame we were given. I learnt that installing pieces can be labour intensive (or I’m just extremely unfit!) and I found that an important element of the installation work was being patient, as there was a lot of trial and error. I installed my work in slightly different ways over and over again until I was happy with the result. This also meant I had to carefully pay attention to details because the difference between one installation and another was often something very small. It was interesting to identify these minute differences and address them. For example, the difference between mounting something to the wall with tape or with pins. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t matter that much, and I would do whichever was easiest but for this type of environment I learnt that I had to factor in more than what would just be easiest.”

Sculptural installation of casts of hands surrounding a small circular still life set up featuring a shell work by Ashanti for Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Work by Ashanti Hare. Photo by Eloise Dodsworth.

With the supervision of staff and KARST technicians, second year BA (Hons) Fine Art had four days to organise the space and transform KARST from a workspace to an exhibition that opened to the public on the evening of 10 June. Due to covid restrictions, a limited number of visitors were able to access the gallery. The set up of the shared venue generated a rich collaborative atmosphere where all the students were able to immerse themselves in one another's practice.

Scattered rectangular pieces of fabric with smudged images of faces on a white background work by Darcy for Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Work by Darcy Meades. Photo by Eloise Dodsworth.

Stella Olivier, who participated in the show remotely, was helped by fellow student Libby Fox in the set up of her QR poster. Digital communication but especially discourse on site resulted in a very pleasant work environment. Darcy continued: “Helping others with their installation meant that we became more involved with and learnt about the work we were installing, in a way you wouldn’t when simply viewing the work during the exhibition. Experiencing and aiding in an artist's thought process and reasoning for installing their work in a certain way opened doors to deeper understanding of the artist and the artist’s relationship to their work. On the other side of this, getting help from fellow students forces you to explain why you want your work installed in a particular way. This was good practice for the private view because when the audience asked questions about your work, we were all well prepared to talk about it. In this way, the installation itself became a sort of dress rehearsal for the opening of the exhibition. It definitely helped build a rapport between students, and after the installation was finished I felt like we understood each other's work much more than we did before KARST.”

A long piece of delicately folded blue fabric sits next to a circle of glass ramekins holding various small objects work by Ashanti for Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Work by Ashanti Hare. Photo by Eloise Dodsworth.

The second year BA (Hons) Fine Art cohort are now studying in their third year, grateful for the mentoring and support received throughout this project. The KARST residency culminated in a private crit session with curator Ben Borthwick, after which students cleaned the space and removed their works.

One of the things I really value about programming exhibitions in Plymouth is how the conversations around different shows - and across a programme - have a very tangible effect on conversations and, sometimes, artistic practice. Plymouth is small enough that it is hard to miss anything, meaning everyone here shares common points of reference. If it is good we can talk about how, why and how to make it better, and if it is not good enough then we can all moan and complain collectively.
Ben Borthwick, Curator
A curved form sits on a white background work by Eloise for Testspace at Karst June 2021 Photos by Eloise Dodsworth

Work by Eloise Dodsworth. Photo by Eloise Dodsworth.

Many students of the course have now taken the work from the show forward by entering their art in open calls and by publishing their work online. Ashanti Hare, one of the second year BA (Hons) Fine Art students who was selected for an instagram feature on the KARST account as part of the show, was recently selected to showcase their art on the platform dore.collective.