John Kinross Scholar in 2008
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
I applied for the Scholarship I think, during the second year of my PhD, at a point when I was struggling to make room in my studies just for drawing and painting and connect more with the making of art. The PhD schedule was pretty intense – there were lots of deadlines and most of the time was spent in a library or on the laptop. Going to Florence just totally displaced me and gave me back a sense of what my studies were actually about.
During my 3 months, I stayed at a couple of places in the city and in a small village about 45 minutes north of the city. It was Easter and snowing!
Although I made some drawings and paintings whilst there, I spent a lot of time seeking or finding things out. In retrospect, the experience of seeing works of the great artists in the place they were made was probably most impactful – it often
felt like I was looking at a pieces of living history and this gave a sense of
being part of a lineage somehow.
In addition, I looked a lot at (and connected with) the landscape and buildings and the Italian people I met whilst there, have become life-long friends. Although I was only there temporarily, 3 months was definitely long enough to conjure up a sense of proprietary about the city and I continue to feel this when I think about it.
What was the impact on your practice?
Having the scholarship enabled me to connect my academic work much more within studio practice when I got home: it made me feel confident enough to centre the final part of my research in the studio.
Most memorably, an introduction to the Florence City Archives effected by the RSA, had allowed me a scholar’s admission the Uffizi library to view original drawings by Botticelli, Uccello and Michelangelo. This amazing and unforgettable privilege informed a studio project about how artists learn through copying as part of my PhD studies. This in turn created a foundation for my subsequent practice, which is very much based in drawing and how we grow and develop as people through making things.
What would you say the long-term impact has been on yourself and you work?
I think that having been awarded the scholarship at such a foraminal point for me, of itself was impactful. It’s very difficult to see your work from an outside perspective, so it made me feel encouraged and valued when my practice was in its infancy and was an opportunity to make something that wouldn’t have been attainable otherwise.
I’ve returned many times to Florence because of the scholarship. Looking back, the connections and opportunities that came from the experience provided a European context to my work. And whilst I didn’t know it at the time, the rather inexplicable deep attraction to Italian design/painting I’ve developed, could also in part, be explained by my subsequent knowledge that I was in fact adopted from a family with Italian roots.