Martha Oatway - joint winner of the Student vote 2011

AA2A are delighted to profile Martha Oatway, joint winner of the Student vote for 2010/11. She completed her AA2A scheme at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Originally from the USA, Martha has made excellent use of the opportunity to develop her work, exhibit, interact with students and network with other artists in the UK.

Martha graduated from the University of Southern Maine (USA) with a BA in Art. Now based in Washington DC, she is president of Washington Printmakers Gallery, a collaborative of 35 printmakers. In July of 2009 my husbands company sent him to Preston to work in their UK office. I discovered the AA2A scheme at UCLan first through their Artlab Wednesday evening printing project. I decided AA2A would be the perfect thing for me to do the following year. I followed last years AA2A artists and saw their work come together in September at the AA2A exhibition.

In the US I cant afford to get a Masters in Fine Art, its way too expensive. An average two year MA is 30,000 so, having a school year to work exclusively on one project, one train of thought, was priceless. I had access to processes I didnt have in my own studio and technicians to teach me what I needed to know. My work has taken a new direction both from my experience in AA2A and my experience of living in the UK.

Contact with students
The AA2A scheme allows students to interact with practicing, working artists. Not only do the students learn techniques from us but they also see a level of commitment to the discipline. It gives them a chance to see how a project is realized over time and to observe the thought processes that go into the completion of the work.

Martha was in the print studios on a regular basis and put prints in progress on the walls in the drawing studio and interacted with both the undergraduates and the MA students. Wed discuss colour, printmaking techniques, problem solving. We discussed all sorts of things and spent time looking at each others work. I was able to teach several students my particular printmaking method which was not taught at the university. Paper lithography is a real inking process often called 'gum arabic transfer'. The toner based copy from a photocopy machine is the 'plate' that is inked. Its a basic process which takes lots of practice to do well. My being in the studio frequently gave the undergraduates an idea of what a committed artist does; spend time working. I also learned from the students and enjoyed interacting with them very much.

Marthas project: Maps
Martha is fascinated by the UK landscape. In the UK people have been living on the land for thousands of years as opposed to only hundreds of years in the US.
I love how landscape in the UK can change in a matter of miles. How the stone in Lancashire and Yorkshire breaks into perfect shapes to make dry stone walls. How the dry stone walls creep over moors and valleys. How some maps actually record the stone walls. Its amazing to see farmers carve their fields around ancient burial sites and that cows and sheep graze around stone circles.

My self-imposed AA2A project was maps. Not actual prints of maps but abstract prints that looked like maps layered over maps. Some of the prints combine these maps with collaged pieces of paper that indicate stone walls. Some have circles, which symbolise stone circles and Bronze age homes and burials. I started the year with complex images which over time became simplified into my final work, maps with walls. The walls move off the print indicating that what you see is just part of a much larger landscape.

How AA2A has furthered Marthas career
Marthas time at UCLan was highly productive, not just for her but also for staff at the University. I've been able to establish a network of printmaking friends through the AA2A scheme. I will be showing with the senior UCLan technician in Washington DC in December 2011. I plan to do a residency at the Bluecoat print facility in Liverpool in fall 2012. Martha also facilitated a residency for UCLan staff at Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring, Maryland (US) April 2011.

Martha says of AA2A:
The level of commitment from the UCLan staff is what makes this Universitys AA2A scheme so successful. The printmaking technicians Tracy Hill and Magda Stawarska-Beavan provided a fantastic environment for printmaking and it will all lead to other opportunities down the road.

More about Martha (including blogs and image albums) available on our AA2A Dotbiz networking site.

Selected Exhibitions

  • Long Night part of the 2010 Liverpool Biennial

  • AA2A exhibition at PR1 Gallery UCLans AA2A show in conjunction with the MA final exhibition September 2011

  • Light Night Liverpool May 2011

  • Lessedra International print show in Bulgaria

  • Global Echo an exhibition of 10 international universities with staff and students exhibiting together in 10 places around the world

  • Facilitated a residency for UCLan staff at Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring, Maryland (US) April 2011

  • Proposed residency at the Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2012

  • Field of Vision a collaboration with Tracy Hill of UCLan: two printmakers, two countries, 10 walks - Washington Printmakers Gallery in the US in December 2011 and at the Harris Museum in Preston, UK in February, 2012

  • 'Aerial View 2' etching, collagraph, screen print

    'Map 5' etching, collagraph, paper lithograph

    Martha and press, in the workshop at UCLan

    'Field 6' collagraph, collage