My Experience in Venice 2018
Updated: May 1, 2020
I chose to travel to Venice and work with two different artists because I wanted to challenge my perspectives on the production and approach to art-making and understand the artistic concepts that drive the Italian art market, and to experience different culture. I aspire to work and live as an artist in Italy when I have achieved my degree and wanted to use the trip to gaining insight into how the art world operates in Venice, especially during a Biennale summer season.
A week before leaving for Venice I was informed by the two female painters, with whom I had organised to work with over the summer, that due to personal circumstances they were no longer able to host me as an assistant in their studios. Using a family friend connection in Venice I began to research into other possible artists with whom I could work, as I did not want the cancellation to discourage me from taking the amazing opportunity. My perseverance proved to be fruitful as a family friend introduced me to Paola, an art critic and teacher, who introduced me to printmaker Roberto Mazzetto who was based in Tintoretto’s old studio. Having proved myself worthy of working with the materials through a series of small tests, Roberto agreed to have me as an apprentice helping him run his workshops. Gaining confidence in my ability to communicate with a person who didn’t speak the same language as me and persuading them to let me help them run their workshops, gave me the courage to reach out to two other artists: Moulaye Niang and Matteo Lo Greco. Matteo is the only sculptor currently working in Venice and he has also got studios in Tuscany and Palermo in Sicily.
Researching the appropriate artists linked to my practice, phoning them and organising informal introductory meetings helped me to build my networking skills, and I quickly learnt the value of building a rapport with a professional and gaining their trust by showing them my dedication and passion for art. My success in obtaining experiences in another country by simply approaching and presenting my ideas and my work to an artist made me realise that I can create opportunities for myself regardless of circumstances.
My apprenticeship with Roberto and assistant work with Moulaye required me to work in a collaborative setting. Myself, Roberto and painting tutor, Davide Dalla Venezia, had to work together to decide the structure of the lessons and organise the space where lessons took place as two classes ran parallel with one another. I also did smaller necessary jobs such as setting up the materials for the class, cleaning the space and preparing the cooked lunch every day, and I helped to lead some of the activities to make sure students were following Roberto and Davide’s teachings and had everything they needed at their disposal.
I also monitored the time for each activity, making sure that both of the classes were on track as the workshops were spread over a five-day period. Working behind the scenes to organise the classes and then creating a positive experience during the workshops gave me an insight into the amount of work that goes into running a project and the importance of organisation and transparent communication with other team members. Organising and executing a workshop with other professionals taught me about the power of multitasking and being able to run two separate projects in the same space. A key thing I learnt from this team working experience is the importance of trust and making quick collaborative decisions under pressure of time.
Similarly, during my work as an assistant glassmaker, I collaborated with Moulaye to create extraordinary glass beads from which a designer could then create a piece of jewellery. Moulaye would create with particular colours and bead shapes in mind that were designed for different markets, for example African and European.
Working with glass taught me to recognise the medium’s strengths and weaknesses which influenced or dictated the way I was able to collaborate with Moulaye. Creating glass beads requires the artist to become especially aware of gravity and give full attention to one thing at a time as it is necessary to be relaxed when twisting and melting the glass. Pressure to create a certain amount of beads of high quality each day meant that Moulaye and I had to switch tasks approximately every six beads, to give each other physical rest from constant concentration. Understanding a project’s requirements and supporting each team member throughout the production will result in a more pleasant collaborative experience and a better end product. Once beads were created they had to cool down and be prepared for the designer. I have learnt that each project is unique and will require its own specific approach.
One of the most surprising and key things that I’ve learnt from my experience, is the power that personality and passion has in building networks and opening up opportunities. This may be more specific to Italian culture, where there is a larger emphasis on family and community, however, I believe that these qualities are applicable to any situation. Furthermore, I was surprised by how much I managed to achieve by myself, as I had to get acquainted with the city whilst searching for and convincing artists to work with me and organising myself accordingly between the three of them each day.
Travelling and living abroad by myself for the first time was an invaluable experience, as I learnt a lot about who I was as a person as well as the way I function in professional circumstances. Two of the biggest queries I had about living abroad was feeling isolated because I couldn’t speak Italian and making friends. However, having learnt the basic Italian words and phrases prior to the trip, I was able to understand vital information regarding food and transport. Furthermore, having to work with artists who spoke little or no English encouraged me to learn Italian much quicker and as a result, I could almost always understand what they were saying and only used Google Translate to answer them.
As well as gaining professional knowledge and skills I have also developed my practical art skills, learning how to work with glass and creating large sculptures out of plaster and metal. As a result, I have printmaking techniques under my belt that I could not have had otherwise and I am now looking to collaborate with a Glass Foundry in Bath to create a glass sculpture.
I am incredibly grateful to have been given the financial support to do my placement in Venice, as it was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Having completed the placement, I have developed a hunger for other cultures and I am looking to travel abroad again next summer to work on a creative group project or in a gallery. I would strongly encourage those wishing to travel and gain experience to take the opportunity whilst they can. Everyone’s journey is different and there will be highs and lows throughout the trip, and in my case even some tears when you are late for your plane and can’t find your passport, but it is all worth it in the end! Why wouldn’t you want to travel and learn about the world in which you live in?
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