Julia Swarbrick - winner of the Public vote 2011

We were extremely impressed with how many people voted for Julia's work, making her the clear winner of our Public vote 2010/11. She completed her AA2A scheme at University of Central Lancashire's (UCLan). Julia's work has also been featured as our Pic of the Week (our showcase of artists work from AA2A Dotbiz on Twitter and Facebook).

Julias practice is focused primarily on painting and drawing. With a love of the medium, and the ways of exploring a line, she was keen to find out how some of her ideas might be developed as etchings. As luck would have it she heard about Artlab, an artists printmaking group based at UCLan. This offered Julia the chance to explore print and meet other artists working with the medium. During her time at Artlab she found out about the AA2A scheme which would allow her to further develop her printmaking while the painting and drawing developed in parallel. In this way, ideas and techniques were able to feed each other.

Contact with students
Whilst on the AA2A scheme Julia was in contact with students working in the department including Kelsey Stead (the AA2A student rep at UCLan). Julia found the benefit of working in an environment with art students cannot easily be replicated. The students clearly benefit from having the AA2A artists around. They were grateful for the informal skill sharing which went on and we all benefitted from the mutual interaction. More students needed to know about the existence of AA2A. I introduced myself to various students who were unaware of the AA2A scheme and very interested to know more. I really believe we add value to the students learning experience. Its also great to spend time with the students, they inspire the imagination and working in the same space means we spark off each other and generate new ideas.

Julia's project
"While my work is wide ranging I find myself returning to the universal theme of decay and renewal. It is an expression of my own fixation with mortality, not just my own but of people, plants and even everyday objects. My early paintings such as the semi abstract Life and Death explores this. In my childhood I performed elaborate funerals for birds, mice and cuddly toys. Perhaps less conventionally I also performed resurrection by digging up little ted (though not the dead animals) after a couple of days underground in a shoebox coffin. Clearly not pinned to one tradition, despite my catholic upbringing, I also mummified insects and kept my collection in a bottom drawer. As a child these rituals were a comfort of my own creation. These apparently macabre, Wednesday Adams type behaviour shows how the creation of ritual assists with the process of life. The making of art represents a similar ritual. My representations for this theme currently include images of dead birds, hollow trees and winter landscapes; drawings, paintings and etchings of flowers in the process of decay, explorations of stagnant ponds and funghi. These images have associations with death but are also essential to new growth and all possess a certain beauty. I attempt to capture some of the beauty of that which is clearly transient."

Through the AA2A Dotbiz networking site Julia shared image albums as her work progressed, she also blogged on other sites. With image album titles such as Journeys in Print we could tell Julia was using her AA2A scheme to explore new mediums; I used the scheme to experiment with techiques I hadn't used such as lithography (stone, paper and plate). I was also able to experiment with working on a larger scale.

During her time on the scheme Julia produced 15 plates (or stones) and a number of multiples. Albums on Dotbiz included: Broken Nostalgia ('Big Ted Rages Against the Dying of the Light'), Dark Endings New Beginnings ('Life & Death'), Journeys in Print ('Big Ted' series, 'Daughters of Archaeopteryx') Aspects of Landscape, Glimpse ('Memorial Bears').

How AA2A has furthered Julias career
Whilst on the AA2A scheme Julia had the opportunity to deliver a talk to students and the TUCAN (The UCLan Creative Arts Network) and Artlab groups. "This was a really good challenge for me given that I am not used to delivering public presentations about my artwork. It helped me think about my practice, enabling me to assess my direction and focus. I felt the talks were also important for informing the students about what the AA2A artists were about. This helped raise awareness of what we were doing and gave students a flavour of different approaches to professional practice. I now feel more confident to deliver talks about my artwork and feel encouraged to do more of this in future.

AA2A has been great for helping focus my ideas and practice while increasing my skills set. I faced some unexpected challenges and they have been of real benefit to my learning. AA2A has helped increase my association with other artists with whom I hope to work in future. A number of exhibition opportunities have arisen as a result of AA2A, including the chance to exhibit internationally. I was very pleased to be included in the global touring exhibition Global Echo which I couldnt have entered without my AA2A placement.

More about Julia (including more image albums) available on our AA2A Dotbiz networking site.

Selected Exhibitions

  • 'Glimpse', PR1 Gallery, UCLan, September 2011

  • 'Representations of Landscapes', Rossendale Museum & Art Gallery, August - October 2011

  • 'Global Echo', Artists in Print, venues in UK, US, Australia, Canada. An exhibition for 10 Universities internationally with staff and students exhibiting together June 2011 Ongoing

  • Ink-Coherent, Artlab, UCLan, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, April June 2010

  • 'LET', Empty Shop Project March 2011 (self-curated group show) March 2011

  • 'Big Ted rages against the dying of the light' digital print (from a series)

    'Memorial Bears' paper lithograph

    'Daughters of Archaeopteryx' etching

    'Life & Death' acrylic on canvas