Curating an exhibition in this academic year has been a strange yet rewarding process. Hours and hours have been spent on zoom in bedroom bound discussion. An eternity was lost trawling through the internet as we searched through online exhibitions, degree shows and artist representation websites for upcoming artists, artworks and ideas for the exhibition.

Now that our exhibition has opened, we wanted to share the story of our journey.

Our dream team

Working with a large and diverse curating group provided its own challenges.

Communication and compromise were crucial to the early stages of planning. Mood boards, mind maps and presentations helped us harmonize tastes, ideas and differing expertise.

Common to the group was a love of expressionism and landscapes. Inspiration came to us in the guise of philosophical texts and our own lockdown experiences. Norma; a member of the curatorial group, brought forth the idea of the inner garden, a concept with French origins. We had found the basis for our exhibition.

Sourcing our artworks

Clarifying our stylistic preferences as well as our aims and hopes for the exhibition enabled the discovery of the show’s artworks. We gathered works from the UK and around the world that we loved and fit with our aims. Expressionist, subconscious painting, dreamlike photography and intimate soundscapes dominated our finds.

We Compiled A lists and B lists of artworks and sent letters describing the show and our reasons for wanting each work to every artist on our A list. Procuring these works was no simple task. Negotiations between ourselves and the artists, manufacturers, framers and more were lengthy but fruitful.

Juggling priorities

While this process was ongoing, we all had essays, modules and, in some cases, dissertations happening alongside. Time flew by. The final months before the start of the exhibition were some of the busiest of my life.

Many of us worked double shifts, creating exhibition content and corresponding with artists and designers. Two members of the group were even pursuing their own artistic endeavours at the same time! The final month before the beginning of the exhibition was especially hectic. Never before have I sent so many emails!

Rising to the challenge when things went wrong

So many curve balls were thrown our way. Issues with designs, payments and people plagued us. Two weeks before the show began, a key artist pulled out because of unforeseen Covid-19 related circumstances. We had to scramble to patch up a newly opened gaping hole in our exhibition.

New designs had to be made as the work that fell through had featured heavily in promotional materials. The piece was central to our ideas for the exhibition and inspired many of the colours and formulations that we had used.

In the end, the loss truly became our gain. Thankfully the extremely kind and talented Jan Valik, whose work we already intended to exhibit, became the focal point of the exhibition. Upgrading from one Valik piece to the Triptych proved to be a masterstroke.

The finalisation of designs and installation proved the brilliance of the works that are titled It’s About Time, Fragile Veils and Fragile Veils II. The new works provide a brilliant metaphor for the blurring of spaces that prevails across our exhibition. It’s About Time became our lead image for posters and invites. With the arrival of Valik's work, we were able to better orientate the space and allow the work Blue Water more room.

Finally, in the gallery

In hanging each piece, we were greeted by old friends. Finally, face to face with the familiar artworks that have enlivened our laptop screens for many months. Their warmth, vibrancy and character finally freed from the confines of limited pixels.

Unwrapping all of the works revealed so much more. The strength of the works on display is unbelievable. The eyes of all in the room continually drifted towards Rebecca Gilpin’s Road To The Stars. Truly this piece has a memorising aura in person.

In-person reactions inspired constant rolling changes to artwork placements. These changes had to keep being relayed to all members of the group. Our presence in the space was limited because of guidelines. Surprisingly effective decisions and matchups occurred, such as the combination of Dreaming Wall B and the Soundscape in the back room.

Opening the gallery doors to our audience

After installation came opening night and our launch party. Finally, we got to share what we have curated. The opening event was a great success, and it was lovely to hear so many glowing reviews.

Visitors loved the colours, the atmosphere and the quality of the pieces. We have achieved what we set out to. We have provided a moment of suspension, introspection and escape that everyone needs right now.

Our fears have been averted, and our efforts rewarded. The joy of art has led us through the mire of 2020, and we hope it can help you out too. This show is a by-product of the struggles that we as students and curators have faced. A struggle that we have channelled positively into an exhibition designed to aid us and others.