Thomas Flint in Speyer residence. Thomas: “Here you can see me standing in the doorway to one of the two large galleries/workspaces. The other is on the right. I had both of these to myself, plus the courtyard. There was a large bedroom above where I’m standing, and behind the brown wooden door that you can see was the bathroom and kitchen. It was a great opportunity for me.”
Working In Speyer
Over the next few days I explored the wonderful city, cycling along the banks of the Rhine, walking the streets, studying the ancient cathedral and finding places to buy food. A steady stream of eminent local artists stopped by, taking me out, giving me history lessons and introducing me to local food, wine and customs. I was told that no one expected me to make any art in such a short space of time, that they were sorry not to have been able to give me longer, and I should use it as an opportunity to explore the local area and relax.
The thing was, I had been working so intently on labouring and academic study in recent years that I was itching to do some art, and had arrived with lots and lots of ideas. Instead of touring, I was determined to make the best of the opportunity I had been given, and immediately began gathering materials to work with.
After a week or so, the visiting committee members were astonished at how much work I’d done, and asked if I would like an exhibition at the end of my stay. Naturally I jumped at the chance, and worked even more furiously. I had two huge exhibition spaces to fill and I intended to try and do that.
I learnt first-hand how resourceful it is possible to be when you are out of your comfort zone. You are far more willing to ask for help and, without the usual distractions of home, more able to focus on what need to be done.
On one occasion, using one of the bicycles that were left in the studio store room for residents to use, I went on an excursion and I found a television set that had been put out on the street for collection the following day. I rushed back home, used some string and wood to make a television-sized rack for the back of the bike, and then cycled back to get the television. The parts from this went into several sculptures. On another day I noticed that all the high street shops left their cardboard on the streets for collection, so the following week I was able to gather a huge quantity with which I made more work. I had taken the glue gun with me for this very purpose.
One of the cardboard sculptures was photographed in various configurations, and I had the resulting pictures blown up to A2 size, mounted on board, and displayed for sale on the walls of one of the galleries.
I made two other wall pieces which required framing. For this I bought some wood and hooks at an out-of-town DIY store, and cut and joined the wood to make frames using some basic tools I then located a local glass cutter who cut me some panes to fit.
The banks of the Rhine were great for materials such as wood and pieces of metal.
I didn’t have many tools with me so I had to find unusual ways of joining materials, which added to the detail of the works.
In the third week a friend came to visit, which was very timely, as she spoke German fairly well. Through her I could communicate a little easier.
By the end of the month I had been to more social events, dinner parties, exhibitions and artists’ studios than I would normally have done in a year. My exhibition took place and there to cover it were reporters from three newspapers. Speeches were made, pictures were taken, wine was drunk, hands were shaken and some work got sold.
I probably would have found a way to stay out there longer had I not had an MA and dissertation to complete when I returned home.
But the key to my success in Speyer was using found materials. By using local objects I was able to make the work relevant to the city in which it was being exhibited. In a way, I was responding to the environment, and its always good to be able to do that.