finding an audience through open calls (week 3: testing my boundaries)

finding an audience through open calls: i am just back from visiting ‘trasna 8’ exhibition in the courthouse gallery in Ennistymon County Clare, where i had submitted a print for an open call of A5 art works. as part of my regular online search for opportunities, i came across two open call gallery opportunities for A5 art works which offered to exhibit and sell the work at a specified price, the gallery taking a percentage to raise funds. with both of these open calls in mind, i decided to work within this A5 size while exploring lens and digital/analogue processes, which is current to my landscape, body and gender work. i describe the print and its process in a previous post  (

scope and parameters of open calls: since getting my screen printing equipment in my studio last summer, i have begun to regularly submit my work to this type of open call because it gives my focus to my experimentation and allows me to reach an audience – it offers opportunities to be part of a group exhibition, make connections with artists and a gallery, reach a new audience nationally and internationally, share and sell work. it also gives parameters to my experimentation in terms of size, edition number and sometimes theme. as i have said in relation to print exchanges, these parameters can be good to work within but can possibly limit and scope of my experimentation, especially where image size within the paper size is specified. also, open calls are often un-selected so the  group show can be varied in terms of content, processes and quality.

testing my boundaries: print as a 2d format is very suitable for open calls as it’s easy to post, hang and is sellable. although convenient, these open calls are valuable to me in testing my practice with an audience and getting my work out there, but as i have said before, what does it really mean to test your work with an audience – if i let the work off and what do i know of what how the audience engage with the work? in order to test my boundaries of where my work might belong or how the work could engage with an audience in a meaningful way, i also feel that i need to get out there and make my own opportunities and create a context or space to establish greater meaning for my work and therefore for my audience – ‘as well as’ rather than ‘instead of’, as i see a real benefit from these open calls.

boundaries and the task: so going forward, i think i need to take to two directions or strands, one where i find the audience and make the work (open calls, print exchanges), the other where i make the work and find an audience (finding my own space, audience and connections). this way i feel i will have a better idea of where my work sits or vibrates between established and un-established systems, convenient and inconvenient audiences – all the while testing how far i can go in either direction.

a plan of sorts: strand 1) engage with an open call process for a group gallery exhibition (work on display at present (dec.)), push the open call process to a selected process, a larger gallery or for a themed group exhibition relevant to work (jan/feb), engage in an international print exchange and exhibition (in the process (lunch money print, end of jan). strand 2) make work for a new space and audience (idea for outdoor print work (feb), source a venue for print and video work (feb, march – just made enquiries to local pub via email), consider online exhibition, consider invited audience.

testing boundaries through open call group exhibitions: so back to how my work sits within established systems and where my work followed the parameters of a gallery’s  open call brief, below is the work in the courthouse gallery Ennistymon Co. Clare and also in Galway arts centre in the centre of Galway city.

i came across ‘trasna 8’ open call through the Visual Arts Ireland (VAI) website. it simply asked for original unframed A5 art works to be submitted by the 30th of November. the work is priced at 50 Euros with 25% going to the gallery. Ennistymon is a small town in county Clare with a large tourist market due to its proximity to the sea and its old shop and pub fronts. the gallery is in an old stone converted courthouse off the main street with a large exhibition space on the ground floor and a stairs leading to studios and a smaller exhibition space upstairs. this is where the A5 works are exhibited – around 300 works, i’m guessing. the exhibition is running from 7th December (opening night) until the 12th january. my print sits well with other works on a narrow shelf on the main wall of the exhibition space. as most of the works extend to the edges of the A5 size, my print area looks small due the space i left around the print – a framing of the image of sorts (i might like to see that print size on a much bigger page to draw you right in). i left the print untitled, leaving the landscape unidentifiable. although always a bonus, my work has not sold yet but all in all, i am glad to be part of a nice, simply installed exhibition of works which are accessible to a wide audience. while this type of exhibition does not raise my artist’s profile, it does keep my work in the public domain which always feels healthy. in terms of audience engagement, i got a little feedback from some of my family (which counts right?) and heard someone else saying the works were cool.

link to open call:

link to print:

another open call that i participated in was an open call submission for Galway Arts Centre. i also came across this open call on the VAI website and as i had already committed to making a print edition for the Court House Gallery, i sent one of the same edition here too as the brief was also A5. the Galway Arts Centre priced the work at 100 Euro, with 50% going to the artist. Galway as a city offers a bigger audience and the Arts Centre is fairly centrally located. the exhibition ran for one weekend only (30 Nov – 2nd Dec) and sold work was taken down at time of purchase. i happened to be in Galway that weekend and brought some family to see it but as it had been sold on opening night, it had been taken down. the fact that it was sold is a kind of feedback and i was very happy that it sold, although, never my primary reason for participation.

as i was unable to document the work installed in the gallery, i downloaded these images below from their website promotion.

again, a nice gallery and a simply installed an exhibition where the works, including my own were given space. i also thought some of the photographic and drawing works were strong.

link to open call:

final thoughts: in terms of testing the boundaries of my work and audience, while these type of exhibitions have their limits, i think there is also a role they can play in terms of keeping the cycle of my making and audience alive and well. as i said, i feel going forward will include theses somewhat ‘knowns’ as well as making room for some totally ‘unknowns’.

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