What we make, where

Page 1

Zoë Carlon Joshua Armitage

What we make, where

A self initiated residency project

Supported by Hyde Park Art Club, Leeds

First published in August 2023

Book design by Joshua Armitage and Zoë Carlon

Published by dept.con.temp

ISBN 978 1 7391471 1 2

All rights reserved © Joshua Armitage & Zoë Carlon 2023

Contents 7 “What we make, where” 8 Our work 12 Why we did it 16 How we did it, how you could do it 20 Learning 26 Acknowledgments

Zoë Carlon and Joshua Armitage are both painters who work in response to their immediate environments using observation and memory as fundamental processes in their work. This self-initiated residency stemmed from a conversation in 2021 / 22 with the aim to use each other’s studio’s as a base, and make work collaboratively, sharing networks and resources.

Along with this booklet the project culminated in the work produced being presented at the Hyde Park Art Club in Leeds and at AMP gallery in South London. The work they made during the residency was in response to West Yorkshire and London, and is the outcome of exploring new collaborative processes.

Through an organic and low pressure approach the project turned into a nurturing and inspiring time for both artists. This booklet aims to serve as a toolkit for how others could initiate a similar self-led residency project as an alternative to the common residency model.

“What we make, where”

Our work

Zoë Carlon (b. Wakefield, West Yorkshire, 1993) lives and works in Wakefield.

Zoë Carlon’s paintings on aluminium depict spaces that are simultaneously public and private. Selected subjects, including unoccupied interiors, views through windows and peripheries of the maintained natural world, are developed from photographs she takes en masse of both her immediate environment and unfamiliar transitory spaces. Compositions are formed of thresholds, creating a boundary between interior and exterior space. Awkward impossibilities are formulated within the scenes through the use of manipulated perspectives and an invented palette. Execution of these painterly devices leave the viewer dislocated and denied resolution. Within her practice she is interested in our capacity for active attention, and experience of solitude, in relation to the rate at which public and private domains are increasingly blurred.


Joshua Armitage (b. Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, 1986) lives and works in London.

Joshua Armitage works primarily with painting and drawing. His painting practice is concerned with the intersections of observation, memory and feeling, combining sensory experience with various approaches to applying paint in the hope of conveying, replicating or conjuring remembered experiences from his past. His work has a particular interest in place and often looks at how architecture is imbued with spirituality, memory and feeling.

He is interested in the mechanics of building pictures, through the use of different approaches of applying paint to canvas and to drawing following in the tradition of artists like Raoul DeKeyser, Ilse D’Hollander and Merlin James - blurring the line between figurative and abstract.

Zoë Carlon, Cafe, Oil on Aluminium, 2022, 55 x 79cm
Joshua Armitage, Bousfield iii, Oil on canvas, 2020, 100 x 80cm

Why we did it

We collaborated on this project firstly because we both have an understanding and appreciation of each other’s practices and recognised parallels in the ways we both approach painting. We were at a stage where we were missing consistent critical dialogue with another artist, we also felt we were in a similar place with regards to navigating the various challenges and demands of the professional side of practice - the ‘art world’ - in the broadest sense, navigating working with galleries and other artists and trying to make our practices visible within a remit we both felt comfortable and able to commit to being in.

Constantly throughout our conversations we spoke about the difficulties of receiving funding for making work without any preconceived outcome - moulding and manipulating the practice to fit an outside agenda from a funding body or organisation. Through our various experiences we were both in a head space of initiating our own opportunity and reclaiming agency over what we wanted to do.

Prior to this month’s exchange we had only really spent ad hoc amounts of time with each other, at exhibition openings and catching up on the phone. It was a new thing to commit to spending a month together, sharing studio space and most days working in close proximity. I don’t think either of us really thought about what the challenges of that would be, but luckily we were able to adjust well to it and quickly adapted to each other’s space. We believe it worked because we were in constant communication, and we were realistic about the amount of activity we could commit to. We didn’t put each other under any pressure and, if we didn’t feel up to doing something or it wasn’t flowing, we adapted and changed the plan to make best use of the time. Spending a significant amount of time in a new environment is both


re-energising and tiring, but the limited amount of time we had meant that we embraced the intensity of it. We spoke about how a slightly longer exchange would feel very different as more time would be built in for rest days - there would definitely be pro’s to this too, but also the intensity of the month meant we were focused in a different way and we got a lot out of that ourselves.

Our locations were also integral to the decision to initiate the exchange;

Josh: I grew up in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, a small town about 10 miles south of Leeds and just west of Wakefield where Zoë is based. I moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art in 2010 around the same time my mum passed away from a short illness. This left me with nowhere to return to when I graduated and I ended up settling in London. The landscape around Kirklees is etched into my memory and ever since starting to paint I had a need to return home to paint the landscape I had grown up in. I was curious to know how I might respond to a landscape that feels older, that is somewhat taken over by its rural surroundings and that was constructed in a different way to what you typically see around you in London. I also have a somewhat romantic view of art in Yorkshire and wanted to acquaint myself with the artists working there and the work they were making.

Zoë: For a while now I have been going back and forth between London and Wakefield and developing a wider network in London. Time pressure always meant that these were fleeting visits and I wanted the opportunity to spend a significant period of time there, with a studio base so I could make work, and connect with other artists. Partnering with Josh meant that I could land there and instantly be brought into


conversations and connections. Supporting one another meant that things were just much more efficient, it’s not like spending a few days trying to navigate a new place, you’re with someone who knows it inside out, so you can hit the ground running.

I also wanted to learn from Josh’s approaches to research and methods of working and to have the time to develop a sustained dialogue about the ways we both work and what challenges we are facing. Over the last year or so I have felt increasingly isolated within my geographical location, and I was conscious of the need to discuss painting with a fellow painter who has an understanding of what I’m trying to do. Practically, I also wanted a dedicated amount of time away from other commitments to make work without any preconceived outcome, or reason to do it, other than the doing of it. That time and space for speculative exploration was something I hadn’t been prioritising in my practice. Josh has a really committed drawing practice so I knew I could learn from him, and artists he frequently works with, in approaches to drawing. Lastly, I was looking forward to time in a completely new studio environment - kind of a re-set and jolt out of my routine, with the hope it would re-energise me.

Zoë Carlon, Flowers (After Bonnard), Charcoal on paper, 2023, 15 x 20cm

How we did it, how you could do it

We began discussing the possibility of a studio swap in late 2021 and at some point in early 2022 Josh was at an exhibition opening at Stoppenbach and Delestre gallery and mentioned in conversation the initial idea of the studio swap project. One of the people there became a key support to the project and was very encouraging and excited by how the exchange could develop. That initial encouragement really pushed us to pursue and plan the exchange.

We would like to emphasise that the project evolved in an organic way through multiple conversations around what we wanted to get from it and what would most benefit our practices. Our original idea was to do a straight swap; Josh would be in West Yorkshire while Zoë would be in London. It was through our conversations that we realised we would gain more, and be able to support one another more efficiently, if we were in the same place at the same time.

The timing can be flexible and suit both artists without putting them under too much external pressure from other commitments. It’s a good idea to be realistic about this and try to plan it intentionally, even if you could only commit three days or a week - it’s probably better to have that time dedicated to the exchange than two weeks or a month where you have to spend days on other commitments. We spent approx two weeks in each location because this was what we could realistically manage alongside work commitments / affordability.


We were going to have a few weeks gap between each residency but due to accommodation arrangements Josh came to Wakefield directly after Zoë’s time in London. This meant that there was a good flow between each exchange and we could keep the pace going, however, being flexible and having time off in between may work better for other commitments / responsibilities.

We tried to time it to be as efficient and useful as possible - you could plan it strategically to coincide with any exhibition openings / meetings / availability of other artists who you may want to connect with. We had around a year of planning which meant we could wait until the time was right. The dates coincided with beneficial things like London Gallery Weekend and also an appropriate time in our jobs that meant we could commit to the exchange. Josh is a self-employed associate lecturer and has less work in the summer months. Zoë took annual leave from work for her time in London.

How we self funded our project

We both saved funds to enable us to self-fund this project. We did apply for two lots of funding but unfortunately we were unsuccessful. We subsidised this expense by reaching out to potential supporters to purchase work from us made during the residency. We met our first supporter - a collector who has supported both our practices previously, through South Parade gallery. The initial encouragement from this person gave us more confidence to reach out to others for further financial support. Supporters pledged a certain amount to receive a


drawing and / or print in return. The total amount of received support was £1150.00. We also received an artist fee from Hyde Park Art Club for the exhibition of £150.00.

Total : £1300.00

Budget breakdown

We worked out an approximate cost to cover transport and expenses for each day of the residency, including subsistence and materials.

Zoë total expenses in London: £272.00

Josh total spend in West Yorkshire: £297.00

Materials costs: £120.00

Studio rent Wakefield: £65.00

Studio rent South London: £160.00

Expenses for exhibition: £117.49

Total: £1031.49

Total left over: £ 268.51

In kind support

Accommodation in both Leeds and London

Hire of HPAC venue for exhibition and In Conversation event, support from HPAC team.


We did not pay ourselves a fee for the residency, therefore, we acknowledge that we were able to make this work due to our financial situations as enabled by the savings we put together to afford this.

Accommodation / accessing in kind / financial support

If possible you could host each other to save accommodation expenses, or maybe there are other artists / friends who have the space for this. Zoë was able to stay with family during her time in London which significantly reduced the costs, Josh was able to stay with friends in Leeds.

Who might be able to help you with both financial and in kind funding?

Could you crowdsource and offer work in return for each donation?

As artists we often have skills and resources that we take for grantedasking others for advice on what could be monetised to support your practice could be useful, also the infrastructure of your own studio practice could be costly to access for those without it. Be aware of your specificityvalue is a lot about what we need access to at any given time - maybe that’s what we can offer each other as artists in the absence of funds. This could include (not exclusively) space, networks, equipment or skills for example.


Z: I think we both felt empowered by taking the decision to initiate the exchange with each other - it was a symbiotic, interdependent thing. If you hadn’t suggested it initially it’s not something I would have gone off and sorted on my own. I really learnt how important that mutual support is, how we carried each other along with it. I think so much emphasis is put on artists to continuously apply for external support. Institutions and organisations are this hierarchical space where they simultaneously provide for, but also extract from, artists. Often artists are pulled into working in a way that meets the organisation’s needs rather than their own. That lightbulb moment of actually what do I need within my practice, what does the practice need, and can we just sort this out ourselves? This is something artists have been doing forever, so I understand it’s not a new or pioneering concept. However, it’s still important to note that’s it’s difficult to reach that point of realisation. Particularly when you are doggedly turning up to the studio, whilst juggling work and life commitments. So being able to mutually support each other to do this collaboratively was re-energising.

J: The key feature of this project that allowed it to be so successful was that we had the ultimate amount of freedom to adjust as we went along. A lack of hard deadlines allowed us to wait until it felt right to do it. This is a feature that is rarely present in residencies that might be tied to timetabling, availability of space etc. Artists often learn to be agile and adaptable as part of the job and we can learn to harness this quality in a project like this one.

As an artist you have to have a very thick skin; you are the only person that keeps you going. You receive a lot of rejection in your career. This can obviously be disheartening but it is important for us to learn that it is not a measure of our work. I work on a continuing project of research and discovery into a deeper understanding of my life and the meaning it holds. This project really showed me how you can make your own


opportunity and that it can be just as fullfilling as any other kind of collaborative project or artist support initiative.

Z: What do you think the impact was of us being able to introduce each other to artists? How does this help us sustain our practices?

J: I think we were both aware that there is a disconnect between the network(s) in London and the rest of the country. I really wanted to make links to painters outside of London, especially painters that had parallels in approach to my own. London has a huge art scene making it even easier to sometimes feel lost, or even excluded from it, even when based there. Having a dialogue with someone who has similar aims or struggles can really help you feel less alone and that what you are doing has some validity. You also increase the chances of useful knowledge you hold being passed on to others. Art school takes things so far but one of the most common complaints is that art students are not taught the practicalities of being an artist that can support themselves - I think this is because each of us has to do it in our own way and that there is no one way that can be taught. The more variations of this you encounter the stronger your own approach can become.

The aim of art as I see it is to spend time looking at the world, in a way that most people might not have time to do; for the betterment of society and life as a whole. The importance of artists working outside of their own location and finding connection with artists from other cities and networks allows for a sharing of different perspectives and of mutual learning.

Z: The economic situation is making it increasingly challenging to sustain practices and the expectation / assumption that all artists can afford to be in a city centre just isn’t feasible anymore. There needs to be more thought given to how we can help support each other and sustain these dialogues when we aren’t all in the same locations. Although recently it feels like things are becoming more open and the emphasis


on being in London is waning, the infrastructure and thinking is still so centralised. Obviously there are huge barriers to being there. I think for artists not based there, it’s increasingly difficult to access those conversations and networks and it can also feel intimidating. For artists based in London, I feel like they are rarely experiencing the networks and communities in other places across the country. This kind of two way exchange enables cross pollination and opening up to alternative perspectives / possibilities.

J: Individuality is a problematic thing for me in the art world - which is very much focused on individual success. What I see as more beneficial, would be for artists to work like scientists in collaborative and democratic ways with the aim of expanded learning. In a world where individualism is emphasised I think artists need to push new ways to reach success together and find ways to succeed sustainably. Meeting people and sharing knowledge is key to this. Until this project I have not found an opportunity to move outside of London even with a strong interest and desire to do so. It seems like a lost opportunity to the art world at large for us not to be aiming towards this kind of cross regional approach to working.

Z: We both wanted time to just make work without worrying about what it would be. It took a bit of time to get used to that. I think we are so trained now to be outcome-led and emphasis is always on maximum productivity; putting in x and getting out y. We both had to remind each other that whatever we made in that month really didn’t matter…whether it was good or could lead to something beyond the exchange. It was the process that was the most important thing.

J: It is sometimes difficult to step back from your practice to inject new experiments and explorations because you get bogged down in the idea of making finished work with the aim of showing or selling it. That is commonly what residencies offer - time and space to experiment. The difference for us was that we were working from studios that one of us

Joshua Armitage, Viaduct, Monotype on paper, 2023, 20 x 25cm

had some familiarity with - we were using our own materials and this perhaps led to us making more work.

Z: I valued the time to learn from you and the way you approach thinking through and making work. It was really fulfilling and reassuring to talk through that and find where we had overlaps and also differences. As you say it’s so easy to get into a habit of finalising work for a public outcome that you forget how to feed your practice and go off on tangents, find things out. I think we encouraged each other with that and it’s something I’m going to really try to make time for from now on.

We both spoke about how isolated we were feeling within our practices, despite being part of substantial studio communities. We also wanted honest and critical feedback which is really hard to access. During the exchange we continuously discussed the processes or thinking we’d been having around the work or what we were finding difficult. That discussion helps you to clarify your intention with the work, become more attuned to what matters, and be selective about what you can throw away. For example, I was feeling quite stuck, making work really slowly and overthinking every step. Spending a couple of days with you and watching / listening to your approach which is really instinctive and fast… you don’t hesitate, you just dive in and produce at such a rate. It kind of shook me out of it. You know that rubs off on you and is really helpful.

J: We all have different approaches to making work, different ways of thinking, different speeds of processing and our own unique ways to explain what it is we are trying to do. Working beside someone who is doing a similar thing can really illuminate how you can adjust your own way of working to take account for certain aspects like control, imagination, playfulness, seriousness and so on. For me, seeing how you spent time thinking over the outcomes helped me to slow myself down and think a little more, and to aim to get a good outcome earlier.


Z: Thinking about what the recipe might be for a beneficial exchange and what made the project so fulfilling; it’s mainly about being very open to where it might go and also thinking intentionally about what will be of benefit to your practice.

J: I think that the open and relaxed approach we took along with the simplicity of our aims meant that we managed to organically form a period of time for us to both concentrate on our work, expand our knowledge, experiment and learn from each other. The added benefit of meeting lots of new people in both locations really cemented the whole project into something that we are both proud of. In terms of challenges I think it is really dependent on the individuals but I think that all of the challenges we faced, from being tired, work interruptions or lost phones we managed to overcome them and in the end they did not sway the project enough to really make a difference. I hope that others can take a leap in a careful and calm way and achieve even more than we did.

Z: In both London and Wakefield / Leeds, the other artists and supporters who we spent time with, made work with, that was key to the time we had and made it what it was. In that way the exchange extended beyond two artists and became a much wider interconnected network. That’s something you can’t really force but that this type of exchange enables in a really genuine, natural way.



What started as a small project has turned into something we are very proud of through the encouragement and support of a number of people. The artists we met and worked with were integral to the rich learning and development that took place, welcoming us for studio visits, sharing technical and practical support, sharing their studio spaces and time. We want to emphasise how important this ecosystem was to the project.

Thank you to Isaac, South Parade and Emma, Stephen and Laure for their encouragement and support. To The Art House, Wakefield and Cell Studios, London. To Sarah, Simon and Jack, and the Hyde Park Art Club team and Georgia Taylor Aguilar.

To artists Martin Jackson, Freya Croissant, Frances Stanfield, Karolina Glusiec and Jamie Temple (Deptford Contemporary), Kin Ting Li, Mary Herbert, Ellie Way, Hannah Way, Helen Thomas, Diana Terry, Dido Hallet, Alix Phillipe, Aaron & Stephen, Hazel Owen, Kassia Karr Photography, Dan Powell, AMP Gallery, Maverick Projects, family and friends.

Unless otherwise mentioned all art works by Zoë Carlon and Josh Armitage reproduced here are ©Zoë Carlon 2023 and ©Joshua Armitage 2023.


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