Life after MADA

Life after MADA

  • 22 September 2021, 1–2pm
  • Darcey Bella Arnold is an artist who makes images, objects and organises projects. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) at Monash University in 2009 following her Bachelor of Fine Art (Drawing) at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2007. Darcey’s interests in language, image-making and maternal relationships have been informed by her close relationship with her mother, and her most recent exhibition was me say edit be at ReadingRoom, Melbourne (2020).

    Isabella Darcy is an emerging cross-media artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her practice follows an interest in the systems and flux of value within consumable objects and design, reconsidering and exploring value and the alignment with ways of contemporary culture, material culture and consumption.

    Ricky New is an art director and designer at Maud’s Melbourne studio. She completed a Bachelor of Communication Design at MADA in 2016, where she cultivated her interest in creative direction, identity and exhibition design. Since joining Maud in 2018, Ricky’s experience has been focused primarily on art direction for clients in fashion, architecture and cultural spaces.

    Hayden Stuart graduated from Monash with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in 2014 and is the director of Haydens, a commercial art gallery and studio complex in Brunswick East, Melbourne. Established in 2018, the gallery represents a new generation of contemporary artists, providing a site for experimental, critical and socially engaged art practices. We provide support for early career artists through collaborative exhibition making and by facilitating private and institutional acquisitions. Our exhibition program focuses on creating a dialogue between local and international artists, as well as contextualising early career alongside established artists. The studio complex features 30 artist studios over two properties on Moreland Road, Brunswick East. Built in 2016, they have housed an extensive range of artists from varying stages of their careers, such as John Nixon, Stephen Bram, Diena Georgetti, Megan Cope, Trevelyan Clay, Sam Martin, Darcy Bella-Arnold and more.

    Kelvin Tsang has a Master’s degree in architecture from Monash University, and has an Advanced Diploma in Building Design. His interests lie in using narrative-driven design and image production to convey contemporary and future architecture, as well as reframing its role in climate change. Kelvin has over four years of experience in practice designing residential and commercial projects at a Melbourne-based architectural firm.

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Recent Monash Art, Design & Architecture graduates reflect on their creative and professional journeys since leaving university and share tips and strategies in this live session at Caulfield. How do artists, designers and architects build a network of peers and maintain a creative practice after graduation? Join us for a relaxed conversation about post-study life and resilience.

Form x Content is a mix of live and pre-recorded events featuring the voices of renowned First Nations, Australian and international artists, designers, architects, curators and academics. The program is delivered every Wednesday lunchtime during Monash University teaching semesters, with a mix of live and online sessions broadcast on the big screen at Monash Caulfield and Clayton campus.

Form x Content engages with the ideas, histories, sites and critical questions of our time. The Semester 1 program focused on sustainability, collaboration and the ways in which First Nations artists centre Country in their practices. Semester 2 will explore ideas of disruption and resilience, together with queer perspectives on artistic practice and urban space.

Form x Content is free and accessible to all. Join us Wednesday lunchtimes at 1pm—live or online and on the big screens, Caulfield and Clayton campuses.

Presented by Monash Art, Design and Architecture, programmed by Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA.


Spiros Panigirakis: My name is Spiros Panigirakis, and I'm the Interim Head of Fine Art. I'd like to first begin by acknowledging that I am zooming from Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung Country of the Kulin Nations. And I'd like to pay my respects to Elders, past, present, and emerging, and think about how at MADA we work alongside and in solidarity to a tradition that is 60,000 years old.

Welcome everyone. Welcome to 'Life after MADA', a discussion with five recent graduates from Monash Art, Design, and Architecture. Today I'm joined by Darcey Bella Arnold, Kelvin Tsang, Hayden Stuart, Isabella Darcy, Ricky New. And it's really great to have them all on board and we're going to be having a chat about their professional lives post MADA and really offering a really great opportunity to offer advice to current students. So we'll just go around with small nuggets of advice from everyone for around five minutes and hopefully that will lead to a discussion. So if we can get the ball rolling, Darcey.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Hey.

Spiros Panigirakis: Hi.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Hi. Yeah. My name is Darcey Bella Arnold. I'm a graduate of Monash Uni where I completed Honours in Fine Art in 2009. So a wee while ago now. I'm a visual artist, I make images, objects, and I like organising projects and exhibitions. Currently I'm a Gertrude Contemporary Studio artist and am represented by a commercial gallery, ReadingRoom, in Naarm/Melbourne. I also work for Sutton Gallery, which is another commercial gallery where I am an installer and registrar. We're a small team of four at Sutton Gallery with 36 represented artists in our stable. I'm also a carer and I juggle my time between my caring duties, my own studio practice, and Sutton Gallery.

And I've maintained a really strong studio practice post university, which has been hugely important to my practice. And I've tried to seek out studios that are somewhat similar to the university structure of being a communal shared kind of environment where resources and information can be passed around. And you can pull people into your studio and talk to them about what you're making and things like that, with back at Haydens, where I was previous to Gertrude, and where I'll hopefully return after my residency there. Yeah. So that's where I'm at right now.

Spiros Panigirakis: Leading up to being at Gertrude, what are the kinds of differences between, say, Gertrude and Haydens, what kind of opportunities are you kind of experiencing at Gertrude at the moment?

Darcey Bella Arnold: I mean, not that it's not professional in other spaces, but there is a definite level of professionalism that you are a working artist, you are... I sort of try to treat it like a bit of a 9:00 to 5:00 job where I go there regularly at good working hours for mental health. And the team at Gertrude set up lots of studio meetings and things like that, and there's lots of opportunity for dialogue about your work in a professional sense. So you've got to... But like at university you have to really bring yourself, you've got to have that drive, and have that ability to get what you can out of it. And the opportunity to exhibit, you do get a solo at Glasshouse so that is what I'm working on at the moment, hopefully for next year. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: So kind of thinking about maybe comparing that practice that will be exhibited in say something like Glasshouse and maybe an exhibition that you might have at ReadingRoom, what are the kinds of different approaches that you might take for these two different exhibiting opportunities, or is it very similar?

Darcey Bella Arnold: I'd say it's quite similar. I treat an exhibition sort of like a big project, and I'll spend quite some time on that project, like a chapter in my practice. So yeah, I haven't separated that between the studio and ReadingRoom. But I mean, each exhibition is different because of the space and the architecture that you're dealing with so each one is different in that sense, and where you're at in your projects. And mine tend to be a continuation of a conversation that I'm having. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah, I mean, that kind of conversation that you're having with the broader public. Can you maybe tease the kind of conversations you might've had with the ReadingRoom in developing that relationship with a commercial gallery?

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah, that was a long conversation that we started having actually from about 2018 where I had a exhibition at Sutton Projects. And I invited the director, Olivia Radonich, into that so I sent her an email saying, "This is me, this is what I do. I've got an exhibition on if you'd like to come in and have a conversation about it." Which I found really great having something up in the world to speak to.

And yeah, she had seen the exhibition and so we started studio visits from there. And yeah, it was quite a long process of getting to know each other and seeing how each other works, and if we would be a good fit, and then slowly started talking about representation from that, and then having one, a show together, which was at the beginning of the lockdown so that was quite a long process of getting that to happen in the gallery, I think we postponed it three times before it was up in the space. And practically, I like to make models of the space and work out what I'm going to do from there. So yeah, it is quite a long process.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. And when you were at Haydens just before Gertrude, what made you apply for the studio residency at Gertrude? What was the impetus, I guess?

Darcey Bella Arnold: I just really like being around people. I'm a real community kind of person, and the thought of being at Gertrude and being amongst the community, and that community, and that history, yeah, always just seemed like such a great thing. And I had applied two or three times before I was successful, and I tried to get to know... I had a studio meeting with Mark Feary, which was great. So I tried to get to know what they were doing and as much as letting them know what I was doing. Yeah. But it's a great thing to be a part of.

Spiros Panigirakis: That's a kind of good point to make actually is that you successfully were admitted into the program, but it actually was after... This is actually very common among us, thinking about the failed attempts, or the not-so-successful moments of...

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah. Which there's a lot of, I think. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. What have been like... Speaking to that, applying for exhibitions, or grants, or anything like that, what are the kinds of challenges that you've, I guess, faced in the years after Monash?

Darcey Bella Arnold: It would be all the applications... I mean, you can do so many applications that are unsuccessful, and it can take a lot of time, and it can feel really deflating to get just a generic letter back. So I graduated in 2009 and I primarily showed in artist-run spaces solely after that, which again comes back to that sort of community-based art practice which is built on volunteering and all that kind of thing. But it is very, very competitive. And so you might get one application in 10 successful, and that's really difficult to keep the momentum up and keep your confidence up.

But I think you've just got to go into it with that knowledge that it is so competitive and you've got to keep going, if you can. And it's also really difficult to continue where there's little financial support. I haven't been much on the grant train because I haven't had the time, and yeah, I haven't gone down that road. I've always supported my practice either by being a waitress, and before I was at Sutton Gallery I painted pots in a factory, which really utilised my painting skills. Yeah. So just however you can support your practice to keep the momentum up, that's a big challenge.

Spiros Panigirakis: And years on, there's a number of successes, right?

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah, if you stick with it, it can. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: But also teasing out, I guess, the kind of relationships and the kind of the community that gets formed out of all of this, I guess there's not only professional benefits of being in studios like Gertrude or at Haydens, but in fact, a community that gets formed.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Absolutely. Yeah. Because I don't think you can expect to do it all yourself and to know everything yourself. The best thing about studios is being able to pull people in and is other people saying that, "Oh, you should apply for this." Or, "This looks like this work." It's such a rich environment to be a part of. Yeah. There's nothing really like it.

Spiros Panigirakis: Thanks, Darcey. I'm going to go get an intro and a hello from Ricky. Hi Ricky.

Ricky New: Hi.

Spiros Panigirakis: Hi, could you start off with describing what you studied and what are your current practices?

Ricky New: Sure. So I'm Ricky. I graduated from MADA in 2016 with a Bachelor of Communication Design. I currently work as an art director and designer at a studio called MAUD, it has offices in both Melbourne and Sydney, and I've been there for just over three and a half years. Before joining MAUD, I worked at Studio Round for just under a year, which was my first job out of university. In both of these studios I've worked on a diverse range of projects involving identity design, packaging, book design, exhibition design, and now my focus is mainly on art direction across fashion, architecture and various cultural clients.

Spiros Panigirakis: And can you give me a sense of how did you get your foot in the door?

Ricky New: Okay. So getting my foot in the door was kind of lucky in the sense that I was working on the grad show with Warren Taylor and an ex MADA student was walking through the building and she came to sort of say hello and she happened to work at Studio Round. And Warren knew that I really was interested in that studio and it was somewhere that I planned to approach after we graduated. So he introduced me to her and she told me to send through my folio, which I did, and I didn't receive a response necessarily straight away, and I kind of had to follow up a few times. But when there was an opening and they were looking for a junior designer, they reached out to me and I had my interview and got the job. So it was a kind of pretty lucky set of occurrences that led me to it. And also kind of just having that sort of network and connections within university and the faculty was really beneficial.

Spiros Panigirakis: In preparing your folio for those first interviews, what kind of, I guess preparation did you undertake?

Ricky New: So I guess it was about collating the work that I had done over the years that I felt proudest of, that I felt that I could talk to, both as a final product and also the process. I think being able to talk through your process in a way that feels confident and well thought out helps you to be able to have a good flow of conversation with the people that you're interviewing with because it kind of gets them a little bit more interested and they're able to ask you questions. And yeah, I think that that's probably the main important piece of advice would be to show the work that you're the proudest of and that you feel represents you as a designer.

Spiros Panigirakis: I'm going to ask everyone about the challenges, the obstacles. What kind of challenges and obstacles have you faced? I mean, I guess that that was a successful first moment, I guess, getting your work seen in that way. But I guess during your work life or potentially kind of a difficult situation with the client, et cetera, what other kind of obstacles have you faced?

Ricky New: Yeah, I think for me the biggest kind of obstacle, especially in those earlier times when you're in that transition from being at university to being in the workplace is that you kind of go from an environment where you're surrounded by peers constantly who are at the same stage as you, and you're sort of learning and growing together and you're developing your skills and experiences together at the same time. And then all of a sudden you are in a room full of people where you are the least experienced, you have the least amount of skills and it can be very intimidating. And you're sort of unsure about when it feels appropriate to voice your opinion about something. It can be quite overwhelming to talk through your work to a room full of people who you know have been in the industry for so much longer than you.

So I guess, for me, the kind of initial challenge was more about trusting the process and kind of realising that, as a junior designer, no one expects you to be more skilled or experienced than you are. And you learn and you grow as you're there, and you learn from the people around you. And being at a studio and being part of a team is also such a valuable and rewarding experience and just helps you sort of build upon your knowledge, your skills and your experience. And then ultimately, you sort of develop your own kind of unique perspective and you feel more confident in yourself and the work that you do, but it takes time and experience to kind of get to that point. But yeah, you get there eventually.

Spiros Panigirakis: When you're in a studio context at university, I guess you can turn to your peer, or to the lecturer, or tutor and ask for advice. Have you found other colleagues or mentors within your workplace, within the studio that you currently work at, or do you actually talk to ex students, or your friends that you made at MADA?

Ricky New: Yeah, I mean, I guess it's a bit of both. I think that having the connections and keeping in contact with your peers at MADA is definitely important and kind of a good way to sort of know what's going on, see what's happening outside of where you're working. But also, importantly, I think that the staff and the teachers at MADA have been the greatest source of guidance for me. They were really invested in us and invested in our journey and our pathway into the industry. And I think that keeping in contact with them and being in touch with them has really helped me further my career.

As in, for example, when I started off at MAUD, I was reached out by Dominic Hofstede, who was a teacher of mine while I was at university and we sort of kept in contact over the years. And MAUD was initially a Sydney-based studio and then he was then going to be creating the Melbourne base of the studio and then approached me to be part of that initial team. So I think maintaining those relationships and connections, and really the people who have been in the industry and have all that experience is really such an invaluable thing, and one of the greatest benefits to being at a university like Monash and having such invested teachers. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: I guess that's a really... I'm going to segue to Hayden in a moment because I'm thinking about the cross-generational relationships that emerge in art, design, and architecture and how important they are for all of our, I guess, for the creative growth of all of our practices. And anyway, so I was thinking about Hayden and I guess some of the comments you've made, well with me, I guess, but I guess on social media in regards to the passing of quite significant mentors in our Melbourne art community recently and how important these cross-generational relationships are. I know that's a, quite a big segue, but hi Hayden-

Hayden Stuart: Hi.

Spiros Panigirakis: ... you don't have to answer that question immediately, but yeah, it really is front of mind at the moment.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah. I should probably start by just introducing myself. So I'm Hayden Stuart, I studied at Monash from 2010 to 2014 where I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts and then a year of Honours as well after that. And I guess my transition to where I am now, I run a commercial art gallery called Haydens and a studio complex as well across two buildings, which have, in total, 30 artist studios. And I opened those in 2017, that's when I got started on this. So do you want a bit more context, Spiros, or do you want me to kind of dive into that question?

Spiros Panigirakis: No, give people more context, sorry, I jumped to the heaviness all of a sudden, but give us... Yeah. So maybe, after you finished Honours, give us a sense of the kind of projects that led to Haydens, the gallery and the studio because I guess there was some smaller projects that I feel connects that moment to what you're currently doing.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah. So after I finished art school, I was dead set on being an artist, and what I wanted to do was find a way to live and work as an artist. And I knew the starting point is a studio. So I needed a place to work and I asked around everyone I knew in the art world and just said, "Hey, I need a studio. Where do I go? Who do I talk to? Where do you begin?" And I got pushed in the direction of Geoff Newton who runs Neon Parc, another commercial gallery in Melbourne, it's been running for a long time.

And he had a warehouse adjacent to the place where he was working in a studio. And it was the same landlord as where he was leasing. It was a short-term thing before the warehouses were about to get demolished for apartments and he told me, "If you want to take the lease on this building, you can grab a few other recent graduates, people you just graduated with, you can rent it out..." Rent was really cheap, "And you can have a space to work in."

And so I took on the lease for that for about nine months, where we had very provisional studio spaces and there must have been about 12 of us. And I kind of managed everything and everyone would pay me and I'd pay the rent. And then eventually, towards the end of it, there was a bit of a space at the front where I put on a couple exhibitions. It was my first time ever doing anything like that. I wasn't a curator, hadn't organised exhibitions before so it was a bit of a learning curve doing that. But we put on a few shows, it was a lot of fun, the building got knocked down.

And after that, I thought I gave it a good go, I kind of figured out how a studio runs on a very provisional level. And I thought, "Well, I'll keep my eye out, look for another property, see if I can take the lease on somewhere else and set it up again a bit more long-term and a bit more sustainable." And yeah. So in-between those years of graduating and taking on the lease of the building that we're in at the moment, I had that little short run, took about a year and a half after that for me to find the right property to move into and set up what is now Haydens.

So I guess I took on, and the way that I approached the situation, is I realised that I wanted to be kind of working within the arts as well as practicing. And the best way for me, or the way that I wanted to engage in that, was by running studios. The gallery kind of came about quite accidentally. I always wanted a little project space, but it evolved into something much more. Yeah, so I guess I've been doing this for a few years now and things are still running.

Spiros Panigirakis: Can I point out, there's a little project that you had years ago of almost like where your body becomes a kind of gallery. I'm thinking about like the gorilla gallery that you presented as part of Spring and how you had a jacket, I think, or some kind of jacket that actually showed off lots of artists' work. So in a way, could you, I mean, describe that project.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah, sure. So the jacket project wasn't mine, it's actually something I've heard of someone else doing as well. But my project was a little ring binder, which was I guess something you'd have in high school or whatever. And when I was young, I would collect collectible cards, like Pokémon cards. And so you'd have these little cards and my idea was I curate an exhibition by giving artists a sleeve full of little card slips, and they can put their artworks into it, like a mini exhibition.

And I took it along to the Spring Art Fair. I carried it around with me, got someone to design a ring binder as well. And I showed it off in the hallways, kind of wandered around with it like a traveling salesman kind of thing. So I guess I took an opportunity to where I knew there would be a lot of people, a lot of art people, and made a traveling portable exhibition.

Spiros Panigirakis: It was an absolute delight. And I just wanted to contrast that moment with the real estate. But both of them, I think, are really important actually. So maybe we do go to the kind of cross-generational dialogue that emerges out of Haydens.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah. So when I was starting up the studio complex, I was going around telling everyone what I was planning to do, to try to spread the word, let people know that if anyone was one wanting a studio or needing a studio that I was setting something up. And so I'd spoken to ex tutors, people who taught me at Monash, and so a couple of people very fortunately jumped on board early. So someone like John Nixon who taught me throughout Monash, he came onboard and he brought some of his friends along as well as Stephen Bram and Diena Georgetti. So they all were on board as soon as I started the studio complex so I gave opportunity as well for people, in the early stages, to pick however big the studio they wanted and I would build it for them.

And so that's when people like John came on. And then as the word kind of spread around, there were more people. So I guess, like Damiano was another person, Damiano Bertoli who came on from the beginning. And some other artists such as like Sam Martin who is another Monash graduate, he came on, and Trev Clay as well, an artist represented at Neon Parc. And then I guess, as it filtered down, there were more people that I studied with who were interested as well. So they kind of, from the beginning, started out with a good mixture, a good demographic of people across generations.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. Thanks Hayden. We'll come back to that in our general discussion in a moment, but I'm keen to get onto Kelvin. Hi Kelvin.

Kelvin Tsang: Hi. So my name's Kelvin. I am a very recent graduate of Masters of Architecture, graduating only last semester. But my post MADA experience has being sort of a unique and gradual transition because right now I am also practicing architecture at a firm in Brunswick called Newman, formerly known as Design Practice Architects, who mainly do residential projects. So I've been working there for the past four years, but now I'm also teaching at MADA for the Foundations Studio so you can say that my MADA experience hasn't really ended, but evolved. It's a work in progress that's been going on, yeah, for the past four years.

And before studying at MADA, I got my Advanced Diploma in Building Design from Melbourne Polytechnic, and then I was working at Bunnings headquarters in the store design development team. And so what I brought on to MADA when I started studying there, I took on my past mistakes, and my lessons, and challenges that I faced after graduating and getting my advanced diploma, finding a job, it wasn't that easy, I didn't have the skills developed necessary to find a job efficiently. So I took those lessons in while studying at MADA and I was lucky enough that my current boss is also... He was one of my tutors when I was studying at MADA so he saw that I have the skills to do modelling and documentation which is everything required to take a project from schematic to construction stage for a house to get constructed. So, yeah, that's where I'm at.

Spiros Panigirakis: In your final year of your master's program, were you engaging I guess work outside of the university context, or did you, once you graduate, get the job? Were you working in some capacity?

Kelvin Tsang: Yes. I was working at Design Practice Architects, at the firm in Brunswick, while studying at the same time. And there was a bit of challenge balancing that out because master's workload, especially last year, was quite heavy, working via Zoom, and studying via Zoom, and having to work out the schedule with my boss. Yeah, that was quite difficult.

Spiros Panigirakis: Let's talk about that kind of transition from working somewhere whilst being a student and then working there after you've graduated. What's the differences? How has your role shifted, I guess is the question?

Kelvin Tsang: I've gained a lot more responsibility. So my boss is also, I consider as a friend and mentor, because it's a quite small practice, it's just me and him really. And he's kind of training me to be more of a project manager managing the whole project and making decisions on my own before taking it up to him. So, yeah, it was mainly about getting more responsibilities and getting trained to be an actual architect eventually.

Spiros Panigirakis: Because the thing is, the training of an architect doesn't just finish once you graduate, right? Can you kind of go through some of the steps that you need to go through now?

Kelvin Tsang: Yeah. There's a lot more contacting consultants, like structural engineers, and manufacturers, and that sort of stuff. Contacting clients, I am a bit more engaged with the clients now, setting up meetings and presenting the design and working on the process with them and that. So yeah, that's really mainly that.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. And how does it feel coming back to MADA to teach? What do you know... I mean, yeah, walk us through how does it feel, how different is that from being on the other end of the studio or the teaching context.

Kelvin Tsang: So yeah, this semester is mainly online. We had only one week on campus. So that, in itself, was really different from how I expected things to go. Being on this end I just realised how focused I need to be, alert, like listening and trying to understand where the students are coming from. These guys are first years and just most of them came out of high school. So I really had to dial back my critical feedback and sort of just try to remember what it was like for me to be a first year and relate to that so I can deliver constructive and actionable ideas and concepts that they can build upon. So yeah, also just trying to learn from the mistakes I've made in first year and relaying that, conveying that information to them, and try then to guide them out of those design blocks that they have throughout the process.

Spiros Panigirakis: The design and creative blocks that we all have. Yes.

Kelvin Tsang: Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: I'm going to pass over now to Isabella. Hi Isabella.

Isabella Darcy: Hi.

Spiros Panigirakis: Hi. Do you want to give us a broad overview introduction to your practice?

Isabella Darcy: Yeah, so I'm mostly a cross-media emerging artist based in Melbourne. I work with ideas of systems in flux of design and objects, and also looking at ways of alignment and value within contemporary and material culture. And also, I'm very interested in that trope with human consumption as well. My work at this point has used a lot of refound or used fabrics. And also, I've been working on a project that involves an image archive as well, which comes under this concept around connecting art and fashion, but also collective behaviour as well through those two mediums.

I studied at Monash from... So I started in 2014 and finished in 2017. And then last year I did my Honours at Monash in 2020 and graduated last year. Yeah, that's my journey at Monash. And I've also been very heavily involved with MUMA as well. So I volunteered at MUMA as a student in 2015, and then started working as a gallery assistant with MUMA since 2016. So I've been there a while and that's also been a very important opportunity for me and my practice to keep continuing because I've been able to see a different side of the art world and how museums and art galleries function and how they work with artists as well, which has really inspired me to keep continuing my practice after graduating.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. I've seen your work online and in exhibitions, post Honours. So that's only last year. I guess how did your work get placed in those exhibitions? Give us a...

Isabella Darcy: Is there a particular exhibition that...

Spiros Panigirakis: I'm thinking about the outdoor project.

Isabella Darcy: Yeah. So that project was called 'On the path'. And at the time, I actually moved into a new house with a friend who had recently become very interested in art and writing about art. And so we lived near this path in Thornbury and it was kind of in the stages of lockdown where you can only really walk with the person during the time of May and June in Melbourne. And we were walking one night on this path in Thornbury and we were also talking about paste ups because my housemate was actually doing a paste up project, and we kind of came to this idea to conduct a paste up exhibition on this path, and inviting artists from the local community of Thornbury and Darebin to participate.

And it was a very snap decision, but it was kind of one of those moments where you realised... I realised that I really want to be conducting this, and I want to be doing art, and I want to be bringing it to new spaces. And it actually made me realise how important community is and how important it is to look around you and keep those people close to you because they're the kind of people that are going to be nurturing your projects and practice. The exhibition was a huge success, it felt like there was a great energy that came to it after lockdown where everyone was able to get a coffee and walk on this path in groups with friends and kind of interact with work in a public space. Yeah. That was a really exciting project to do.

Spiros Panigirakis: What projects are you working on at the moment maybe in terms of curatorially, or in terms of the community, or in terms of your own individual practice?

Isabella Darcy: Yeah. So at the moment I started a project in 2019 called 'Reworked'. And I started it because I was doing a residency in New York in that time for three months, over their summer there. And I decided to start working in a new medium so I wanted to start... I was collecting these images of clothing and very interested in sort of the fashion industry. So I started to work in a screen printing studio in New York where I developed these mood board projects. So they're all these photographic screen prints where I'm just relaying and organising my photo archive.

And currently, I worked on this project through my Honours. So it was a really good opportunity to develop the project a bit more and see what other kind of mediums I could bring into the project as well. Yeah, and at the moment I do have a studio at Haydens as well, and I have an exhibition on this project currently at Haydens that Hayden's curated with me. And that's also been a really important relationship as well to have the studio at Haydens and also work with him in the gallery context as well.

Spiros Panigirakis: Ah, okay. So I'm going to segue, and this is for everyone I guess now is because there's an exhibition on, and I guess we're all in lockdown. So this is just a question for everyone. How has, I guess, lockdown, the continual lockdowns, or the current restrictions, how are you all dealing with them, creatively, in terms of your practices? And this is for everyone. So maybe we'll go to Ricky first and then we'll go around.

Ricky New: Sure. Yeah, well, I think initially the sort of working from home lockdown scenario was a bit of a novelty, and there was kind of something nice about not having that morning rush and getting onto the commute, onto the train, and in the city, and everything all feels pretty hectic. And I think initially it kind of... In being able to sort of slow down with your day and not kind of have that rush was actually quite nice and sort of gave me more time outside of work to do things that you enjoyed, whether that was walking, cycling, going to the beach, the things that we're allowed to do.

But I think that by the time we got to lockdown five and six, it was rough. It was really rough. And I think because we work in such a collaborative way that not being able to sit next to your colleagues and see what they're working on and all the kinds of ideas that you generate just by being in the same room and bouncing off each other was lost. And I think that that's been one of the biggest struggles in lockdown.

And obviously we try to maintain as much of a studio culture as possible and have these sort of Zoom hangouts as often as we can and try to check in over Zoom calls pretty often, just kind of maintain that connection and maintain that sort of creative collaboration. But having said that, I can't wait for it to be over. And I'm really looking forward to having constant human interaction again, and being able to kind of work in the way that creatives are supposed to work, which is collaboratively.

Spiros Panigirakis: Hayden, so there's an exhibition on at the moment, how is Haydens, the gallery, dealing with that?

Hayden Stuart: Yeah, I guess we had a few interruptions at the start of this lockdown. I mean, first of all, we were participating for the first time in the Spring1883 Art Fair. So when that got shifted from being at The Windsor to these satellite booths around the city, we set up the art fair booth in the city, we presented that for two days before the lockdown happened. And then I think on that week, we had just opened Isabella's show at the gallery as well, alongside Jordan Halsall, another recent MADA graduate.

So we just opened two new shows at the gallery and an art fair, and we had suddenly had to shift to, I guess, online display. And we're kind of used to shifting in that way. So basically I decided that I was going to do a fairly minimal shift and basically focused on making digital catalogues. I made a few little catalogues from all the exhibitions, sent them around to our mailing lists, and I guess that's when sales are our key goal for the exhibitions as a commercial gallery, that's a very traditional way of circulating the images. And we post things on social media as well.

I guess outside of that, it's very hard to engage people in online activities. Yeah, we find it quite difficult, I find it personally difficult that's probably why I take that position of not trying to do too much online because it takes quite a lot of energy. And it doesn't kind of translate to the kind of experience that I enjoy from engaging in art.

Spiros Panigirakis: And this current lockdown really comes at an end after you had a very successful design fair, right? Like, yeah.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah, which actually, we would never have guessed because it was with full audience, customers, et cetera, right?

Hayden Stuart: Yeah. So I guess we snuck in a few really amazing events earlier in year, like this Merri Market. It was an art and design market at the gallery where I designed and built a bunch of partitions in the gallery space, reached out to a bunch of local artists, makers, designers, and rented out booths to them for a modest fee so that I could cover my expenses for advertising. So we did social media campaigns, we did print campaigns around the city. And yeah, we managed to get... It was on Mother's Day weekend and I think we had over 1,000 people through the gallery on that weekend, which was amazing for us because, as a gallery, viewership's very small. Where the studios and gallery are in Brunswick East, by Moreland Road, it's a bit of a quiet area in terms of foot traffic. It's not somewhere you'd stumble upon it, somewhere you have to actively go out and find, so to have over 1,000 people through it over a weekend was incredible.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah, yeah.

Hayden Stuart: And then we followed that up with a large group show, 'Cooking with John', which was dedicated to John Nixon and curated by Amalia Lindo and Jacqueline Stojanović. They both worked as assistants for John Nixon and they organised this exhibition with close collaborators of John's, both of his generation and the younger generations. So Isabella was a part of that as well. And we managed to sneak in an opening for that too, where we had a lot of people through the door, which was amazing, great celebration for an amazing artist.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. That was an amazing show. I'm glad to have caught that. Darcey, Gertrude Contemporary's got a kind of series of really interesting events that they're posting online and hosting online, right? And they've been doing that for the last 18 months. Have you been part of some of that online, I guess, platforming of art?

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah. I think that they've tried to keep their sort of curatorial events clicking on like all of us. And it was interesting when Isabella was talking about the paste up, Gertrude Contemporary did something very similar where our studio show was a paste up show around Darebin. So we each had a poster that was... I think there was about 500 of each artist that was pasted up around. So the idea was that you could walk around and still see all the studio artists' work, which was quite successful, I think. I really enjoyed seeing the work in the wild and not just to a gallery audience, which is really nice.

And other things that they've done is they had Odes... Which was like artists were encouraged to write something that they longed for during the first lockdown so I wrote about an artist that lives sort of near me, Ola Cohn, she did live, she's now passed on and buried in a front yard near my place. So I was just talking to that history and about being sort of stuck in your small 5k radius to that. So yeah, that's been good that they've kept the engagement and kept us busy somewhat.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. I thought having been part of the studio program at Gertrude in the past, I feel like that group show needed, in a way, a bit of a shake.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Okay, yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: And the restrictions brought about with the posters, I actually think all of a sudden demanded a different response to the group show, you know.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: And I think in a way those kind of restrictions created a very creative response, I guess, to the idea of the group show, and where it's located, and that it's located across Darebin.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah. And I think with their move from Gertrude Street to High Street in Preston, they've really tried to open up to the community and be like, "This is us. This is what we do." And I think that was a great way of engaging with that community as well.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah. And also, I mean, I guess, Gertrude's also hosted a number of the studio artists on digital radio, I think have been fantastic as well.

Darcey Bella Arnold: Yeah. That's been good. I haven't engaged with that one just yet. I'm not so great with the tech so I'm trying to catch up on all of that stuff.

Spiros Panigirakis: Thanks Darcey. And Kelvin, how's it going with... What are the kinds of shifts that you have to make in your practice?

Kelvin Tsang: So the lockdowns and this pandemic in general has definitely slowed everything down, the impact on the building and construction industry, that slowed down and therefore it slowed us down with our consultants and with the building materials that were available, prices going up, and it's also affecting our clients. I think, yeah, we lost a project, the clients had a financial situation that was brought on by this pandemic. So, jobs lost.

And in teaching, it's definitely very difficult... Especially with the first years, trying to convey things that they are definitely not familiar with via this screen in front of you, trying to convey scale in a drawing. So things... Using a pen, on campus right in front of them, and annotate, and drawing with them would have been very beneficial, which is now lost.

But, it has also given us some opportunities to explore things that we don't normally do in architecture, for example, my graduate project last year. My working partner and I decided to take advantage of this online digital space and present our project as a website narrative, because normally in architecture, we print and pin it up and present, but last year we thought, as things continue to change, we need to change with it, and decided to test this new medium using websites to convey a story of architecture and for people to interact with the architecture in a different way.

Spiros Panigirakis: That's... Kind of thinking about those kinds of shifts that we all have had to have made, I guess, and those kinds of generative shifts, I guess. It's really kind of important to kind of value those, I guess... The positive aspects or kind of seeing the silver lining, right?

Kelvin Tsang: Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: To kind of wrap things up, I kind of want to ask another general question is, it's about hindsight, I guess, and I'm thinking about what you all know now that you wish you had known... I'm not going to say like in Honours, but say in second year, when you were in the midst of your art school training, and I guess the pressures of the professional world are still a little bit in the distance, what do you wish you had known that you kind of know now? Isabella, do you want to start off. I know it's a... Yeah.

Isabella Darcy: Yeah. I think what I would tell myself then, or tell current MADA students is, take a really good look at the people around you because they're the people that are going to be there through your whole practice, supporting you. And to never be afraid of asking for help or feedback. I think when I was in undergrad I was quite apprehensive to do so, but I've really realised now that reaching out and asking for feedback, people love to do that. And also, it just enriches your practice so much and it actually makes you want to continue as well, post study.

Spiros Panigirakis: Hayden?

Hayden Stuart: I guess there are a few things that I could think of that would be good for me to hear in, I don't know, second year or so. But one of them perhaps would be to take a good, hard look at, I guess, the industry that you're working in, if it's the arts, and quite critically look at the landscape that you're going to be emerging into, and try to find out how you can situate yourself within that. And for someone like me, when I came out, I wasn't too happy with the way things were so I actively went out and tried to make a space for myself and for the kind of artwork and experience that I wanted to get in the world. So I think when you come out into the world outside of university, yeah, there might be already existing structures that suit you and fit you, but if not, I think you need to go out there and try to make a space for yourself.

Spiros Panigirakis: Yeah, that's kind of what you did with that folder at the art fair.

Hayden Stuart: Yeah. It can come out in all sorts of different forms. It doesn't have to be a studio complex, a gallery, it can just be an online space for yourself, or your friend's work, or a publication. There's all sorts of different ways that you can engage with your community and try to reach out to other people. And yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: Kelvin?

Kelvin Tsang: My advice to students would be to build and maintain a good rapport with your tutors, lecturers, and mentors throughout your studies at MADA. Get your foot in the door in the professional field as soon as it can because it will make that transition out of graduation after graduation so much easier, and you will know what skills you need to develop and make yourself invaluable in whatever field you choose.

Spiros Panigirakis: And that's a common thread with Isabella, and Hayden, and yourself in that, I guess, you're working, or volunteering, or doing something within a kind of professional context while studying, I guess. Yeah.

Isabella Darcy: Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: Darcey?

Darcey Bella Arnold: I guess some advice I would give is to a university student and to me when I was say in second year is to not be too intimidated, not let that intimidation of those that you admire stop you from talking to them and to reach out. And if you see someone who's on a path that you wish to follow, just to talk to them, just to see if they're open to having a coffee, and doing that kind of thing, and learning from them in that way. And to keep, as we've all sort of mentioned, keep that community close because they will be the ones who help you through your career. Yeah.

Spiros Panigirakis: And last but not least, Ricky.

Ricky New: Yeah. I agree with everything that was just said. A few points that I also would advise. I think specifically for somebody doing the comm design degree is that because it's a degree that encourages multi-disciplinary design practice, I think that it can kind of be overwhelming as to what it means to be a multi-disciplinary designer, and not thinking that that means that you have to master every discipline. I think that there is such a wide spectrum of design that you're exposed to over your time at university, and kind of trying to be in tune with the things that you gravitate towards, to the things that interest you, and the things that you enjoy and find rewarding.

Because I know for myself, I was pretty caught up in trying to create a folio that felt really diverse and portrayed a really wide range of skills, but I'm not sure that I stopped to think about whether there were certain aspects that I necessarily enjoy the process of, or kind of wanted to make a career out of, but then there were also parts that I did. So I think sort of being able to kind of trust your intuition about the kind of work that you want to be doing out there in the real world, and really cultivate that, and have a folio that sort of represents you and the work that you want to do.

Spiros Panigirakis: I think on that note, that's a great, self-affirming note to end on. I'd like to thank you all for spending the morning recording this forum. Darcey, Ricky, Hayden, Kelvin, Isabella, thank you. And I guess we'll wrap up there. Thanks very much.

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