MARY BOURNE RSA
John Kinross Scholar in 1985
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
No question, this was a big growing up moment for me. It was my first time abroad on my own and it gave me a taste for self-determination I’ve never shaken off. I love to explore alone and listen to my thoughts while I do it. It gave me the rare freedom to experience a place uncoloured by deadlines, or the pressure to perform or conform. It was liberating not to be “watched” (as you inevitably are all through your education) and I was able to begin the process of working out who I was going to be (as opposed to who I should be). In many ways the timing was as important as the experience.
What was the impact on your practice?
At the time I was studying the figurative works of Michelangelo and antiquity; my degree show had been all based on the figure. By the end of the residency, however, I felt Michelangelo had this area pretty much covered and I was at a loss where to go with my work. It’s only in retrospect I realise that the things I thought were only of passing interest had seeped into my work. This was especially true of the way buildings were constructed to symbolise ideas, and the way architecture and sculpture worked symbiotically to embody narratives. These are threads I still recognise in my work, and in fact the architectural measuring out of space and time has become an increasing preoccupation.
What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
I think in Florence I began to understand some of the ingredients that make up a place, and how they interact. During the Renaissance and before it there was little distinction between art, craft and architecture, with all being at the service of expressing ideas. This is something that has coloured my approach to public realm commissions. I still like to walk extensively around a place on my own and experience it unfiltered before beginning the process of making work for it.
And I also love to return to Florence. Ideas and ambition are embedded in buildings, artworks and public spaces wherever you look. Seeing it there still, 35 years since I was a Kinross scholar and many centuries on from the Renaissance is reassuring, and if anything, more amazing than ever.