The practice of “wearing many hats”, or taking on extra roles and responsibilities in addition to working as an artist, is a task familiar to many who operate in the arts sector. This week, we had the good fortune to talk to TNG member Andy Ash – a highly experienced artist and educator, with over twenty years of experience in higher education – to learn more about his work, both as an artist and as an art teacher and researcher.
Having originally studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University, Andy’s artistic practice now encompasses installation, sculpture, objects, photography, film and drawing, with much of his work revolving around transdisciplinarity, collaboration and a dialogic approach. Andy is a member of the Red Herring artist studio co-operative based in Portslade and has collaborated with cultural institutions such as Tate Exchange, Tate Britain, ICA, King’s College Art Centre Cambridge University, Peckham Platform, and Freelands Foundation. Most recently, Andy has been working in collaboration with neuroscientists on a project concerning (dis)location, the brain, depression and dyslexia.
“Collaborating and working with others” Andy says, “has always been an element of my practice. It started in the early days when I was working as an artist-in-industry at a Derbyshire foundry, leading later on to being an artist-in-residence in several secondary schools and universities. Developing a dialogue about artistic practice, including the issues and themes that are relevant to the audiences and contexts, has been valuable in stimulating my own thinking and work. I found very early on that facilitating dialogue, engaging in active inquiry can be empowering to me and those participating and sharing.”
Over the course of his career so far, Andy has worked in three Russell Group Universities and has developed skills as an educational professional in initial teacher education, art education, visual art practice as research and more. He has also worked as an art teacher in secondary and further education.
“Working as an artist teacher in secondary, FE and HE over time” Andy notes, “has also encouraged me to develop a range of partnerships and communities of practice. I’m presently active in the following: Red Herring cooperative studio; Artisteacher Network; Brighton Artists Network; National Society for Education in Art & Design; and the Internal Society for Education through Art.”
Andy is also an active member of InSEA, an international community that provides a world-wide networking platform to members dedicated to advocacy, networking and the advancement of research praxis in art education. The goal of this project is to allow members to share their ideas and engage in dialogue to further the contribution of art to education. As Andy explains:
“InSEA is a non-governmental organization and official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). InSEA membership includes 1184 professional and organisational members in 72 countries… It was my relationship with InSEA, which led to a residency and an exhibition in Japan, and chairing a European wide discussion on post pandemic practice.”
This discussion took place on Saturday, 3rd October this year and covered the long term and far-reaching effects of the pandemic and the development of “new approaches to address some of the inequalities appearing”. The organisations involved worked to “bring art teachers together to ensure that they can play a leading and pivotal role in pushing for change.”
“[InSEA] provides for me an international dimension to my art practice and connects me with a wider range of understanding and insights. The webinar I organised on the 3rd October was designed to bring European art educators together, to form alliances and share good practice for art. We aimed to celebrate innovations and foster interconnectedness as well as move into the next phase of response and recovery post Covid. Over 100 participants were presented with national perspectives and projects from Greece, Germany, Hungary, Finland and UK.” Andy Ash
You can watch the webinar session here.
Prior to the global lockdown at least, InSEA also gives its members the opportunity to meet face-to-face at international conferences. The most recent of these events was the 2019 InSEA World Congress at UBC in Vancouver, Canada, which gave art educators the opportunity to “theorize and practice ‘making’ in art education.” Andy attended this event along with more than 800 other volunteers and delegates.
“It was in Vancouver Canada at an InSEA event where I was exhibiting and presenting that I met a colleague from the University of Tsukuba in Japan who invited me to take part in a residency. Campus Artist in Residence (CAIR) was a 10-day international artist-in-residency project based in Tsukuba. The open call attracted global attention and the CAIR student selection committee identified student artists of interest from Mexico, Poland, Egypt, China and UK.
“Their hope was that the international interactions could be enriching and stimulating to the participants and their learning community. This programme brought together 10 visual artists (5 Japanese, 5 international), along with other Tsukuba students (in particular 4 curators, 2 photographers and 2 graphic designers) for an intense residency and making experience.” Andy Ash
Though perhaps an unexpected outcome to a trip to Canada, Andy’s experience of teaching art to learners at a range of levels allowed him to seize the opportunity presented by the Japanese residency.
“I was invited’ Andy says, “to consult the mixed group of undergraduate and postgraduate artists. My practice draws upon Art-based inquiry to theorize my position and I used my expertise to advise on the planning whilst also leading the studio and gallery-based sessions. I modelled an open approach by placing my own practice at the centre of the communities learning, offering my practice up for critique and discussion. During the residency I exhibited my current work ‘The Art of Walking’ at the T+ Gallery in Tsukuba.”
The exhibition was previously displayed at Monitor Gallery in UCL, where Andy works as an artist educator and researcher in the Institute of Education.
“The exhibition” Andy explains, “asked the audience,‘What does it mean to be out walking in the world?’ This exhibition was a collection of recent works which investigated the relationship between the brain, the body, the soul and art making: a kind of dialogue while walking. Through a series of prints, sculptures and objects a space was created to ask questions, questions about time, space and consciousness of the artist’s world as much as about putting one foot in front of the other.”
While Andy has had fewer opportunities to engage with exhibitions, conferences and other in-person pursuits this year, he has continued teaching throughout lockdown. He has also added a new project to his artistic practice – capturing images of lockdown life from the windows under the flat to create #isolationartviews – and has also continued to work with InSEA remotely:
“By engaging and developing in supportive communities I have felt anchored, it has facilitated opportunities to share success, fears and discover together something new. The people to people connection during Covid, particularly via InSEA, has been a joy and an inspiration. To hear different voices across Europe struggling but being creative in responding and recovering has helped me feed my obsessions, helped me ask questions, and be more resilient in my own practice as an artist, researcher and teacher.” Andy Ash
Article by Toby Buckley.
For more information about Andy Ash and his work, check out his TNG Profile, website (www.1andyash.com), Instagram (@1andyash) and Twitter (@1andyash).
You can read about Andy’s work as a tutor at the Institute for Education in this article.
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