What a great first half of the residency it’s been! Knowing we’d be rushed off our feet once East Street arrived on Wednesday we began installing and making new work for our open studio straight away, testing ideas around themes of absence and presence, given that we had chosen to split our residency into two parts. Accustomed to making solid sculptural statements it was interesting to see how the work became slight and more ephemeral in many ways for both of us. In particular I noticed how my work turned more towards language, playing with the shared codes and iconography that surround us in a globalised world and the visual literacy this develops.
Mid-week Hondartza Fraga and East Street Arts directors Jon and Karen joined us for a bicycle tour of Bilbao. Easily one of the highlights of the stay so far, cycling along the river past the Guggenheim with a breeze in our faces to cool the intense heat was very welcome! We cycled along the river down to the Zorrozaurre peninsula to meet ZAWP! (pronounced ‘Thap!’) who work in cooperation with the local community and the local council on projects that aim to postpone the demolition of the area and its unique heritage. Amongst other things they offer studio space for international artists in colourful shipping containers!
We then ventured into the older, very rustic part of Bilbao, ‘Casco Viejo’ to meet Bilbao Arte. These guys have an impressive set of studio spaces for international artists, and we had chance to speak to current studio holders and learn a bit more about working in Bilbao as an emerging practitioner. The next day we were up early for a coach to Santander (nope, not the bank). After churros and chocolate the five of us headed over to meet Xandra, who single-handedly set up and runs Alexandra creative space. This happens to incorporate a teaching space, gallery and print workshop. It was inspiring to see how much one person can do. After a tasty meal (including pineapple ravioli) we headed back to our apartment in Portugalete, via the famous Vizcaya bridge.
Friday was spent doing final prep for the open studios. At the opening we were joined by some local students who introduced us to Kalimotxo (50% wine, 50% cola) and then took us to a street party a few stops away on the metro. We’ve now returned to the uk for a few days to recharge our batteries, attend our graduation ceremony, and enjoy an untypically dry British summer before heading back to Bilbao to soak up more of Spain and further develop our work!