A great deal of change has occurred in the way people practice as artists, since I first left college. One of the most pronounced ways is in how artists actively lead their early career themselves. Sometimes this is through formalised artist-led spaces such as transmission in Glasgow and Pallas Heights in Dublin which led the way in introducing new artists, as well as more ad-hoc artist-led / curated projects. In a way it is inevitable that generations of artists tend to identify with each other then form allegiances, be they aesthetic or social, as a form of support. Being an artist can be immensely isolating, so becoming part of a community encourages discourse, reflexivity and exchange.
For me open submission exhibitions were a key way of getting work shown initially. There are a number of these in Ireland such as Claremorris Open, EV+A and Tulca. It is really crucial to enter these (even if you don’t get selected) because you are exposing the work to professional curators. They may not select you for the show you have applied for, but may remember the work for another project.
Curators talk to each other, ask each other for advice and recommendations. The best advice I could give someone starting out is what not to do. One of the biggest mistakes one can make (and I have made it plenty of times) is to not be clear about what you want to make / or have made. Knowing in your head does not mean communicating that knowledge to another person. Putting forward a chunk of art theory or mangled half-hearted explanation of your work does not do you any favours, be clear and concise, rather than confuse or baffle.
Another key way of introducing your work to others is to curate exhibitions. This creates new networks and develops existing ones as additional artists are added into the mix. To reach out to others is very important otherwise things can be, and will remain very insular. So be brave and ask those that you don’t know to work with you.
Soon you realise you have created your own community, which banishes in some measure the post college void and soon others will approach you.
Extract from: George Bolster talks about constructing his installation Reckoner at Mass MOCA. Visual Artists News Sheet, Jan/Feb 2010.