LAURA SIMPSON

John Kinross Scholar in 2001

How did the experience affect you as an individual?
Travelling to Italy and spending time in Florence and the Carrara region was one of my first art-related trips.  Being given the chance to travel abroad to follow a line of enquiry was very valuable in refocusing my mind on a new body of post-graduation work and also enabling me to make a break from the employment I had gone straight into after finishing college.

What was the impact on your practice?
My experience in Florence, a city which felt devoid of contemporary art but extraordinary in its accessible collections of historic masterpieces and day to day rococo environments, gave an excellent context for thinking about simulacra, value, fantasy and politics – seeing how all of life goes on outside the Uffizi Palace, streams of Florentines slipping past queues of tourists, parallel worlds on narrow pavements.

I was researching the WW2 Resistance actions near Bagna di Lucca including remains of supply and information routes hidden within dense wooded hills which made me realise that the knowledge which comes from physically roaming a place can’t be superseded by any level of technology. I also visited Carrara, keen to see the roots of the sculptures I had encountered in Florence and in reference books before that. I was shocked to see the poverty of the sparse population and the extreme scale of the marble mines, eating into the profile of hills, exposing dusty, white expanses.

The experience and some imagery from my trip fed into work for the exhibition They Had Four Years at Generator Projects in Dundee.

What would you say the long-term impact has been on yourself and you work?
Having the time to consider a very particular set of social situations in respect to art production and reception was helpful in giving me perspective on the framework I was situated within in the UK. I’ve continued to work within visual art, first as an artist and soon after working with others to run an artist-led space, then to make exhibitions and residencies, and currently to support artist production within Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.