Media Release: Moray students selected for Italian opportunity

Julija Astasonoka  with Graham Fagen, Hospitalfield Arts director Lucy Byatt and other Scottish art students and graduates

THREE Moray School of Art students have been selected to take part in the 2015 Scotland + Venice learning programme.

The initiative provides young art school students and recent graduates opportunities to develop their skills and make contacts at La Biennale di Venezia – the largest art exhibition in the world.

The students, Julija Astasonoka (25) from Latvia, now living in Elgin, Hester Grant (20) from Inverness and Amanda Lightbody (22) from Stonehaven, who are studying for a BA (Hons) in fine art with the University of the Highlands and Islands, have each been given the opportunity to spend a month at the Venice event between May and September.

They are part of a team of 28 Scottish students and graduates who are overseeing the daily set up of an exhibition by the Scottish artist, Graham Fagen, and providing visitors with information about the artist and his work.

This is the first time the Scotland + Venice learning programme has hosted University of the Highlands and Islands students.

Julija Astasonoka was one of the first students to work at the exhibition.

Speaking from Italy, she said: “Venice is great! It is all going very well – we have fantastic feedback and attendance. For the short period of time, we have seen so many exhibitions and museums and also went to Verona.

:This whole experience has opened my eyes to the diverse and fascinating nature of international contemporary artwork and is one that will continue to greatly influence my present and future work.”

Dr Gina Wall, curriculum leader at Moray School of Art, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Hospitalfield Arts, curators of Fagen’s exhibition, to select students for this ambitious learning programme.

“It’s a privilege to be invited to participate and I hope our relationship grows ever stronger as we engage in future projects. The Scotland + Venice learning programme is a wonderful opportunity for our students to acquire professional skills which are highly relevant to their chosen field.

“Students are at the heart of what we do and we want to support them to achieve as much as they can.”

The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust is providing support to Amanda Lightbody and Hester Grant to take part in the learning programme. Amanda travelled out on 1 June and Hester will go at the start of September.

Founded by the artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), the Trust aims to support to young people and other individuals to fulfil their potential in the visual arts by providing grants, bursaries and scholarships through selected colleges and universities.

Geoffrey Bertram, chair of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust, said: “This is a great opportunity for the students to learn what it takes to exhibit at such a major international event and how to make it a success. Such opportunities are rare.”


Photo caption: Julija Astasonoka (second from right) with artist Graham Fagen (third from right), Hospitalfield Arts director Lucy Byatt (fourth from right) and other Scottish art students and graduates at the exhibition in Venice

Notes to editors:

  • Scotland + Venice is a partnership between Creative Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Council. Representatives of these organisations sit on a Steering Group that oversees the successful delivery of the project. Scotland + Venice also works in partnership with architects and designers from M+B Studio in Venice who provide critical support as project co-ordinators.
  • La Biennale di Venezia (9 May to 22 November 2015), one of the world’s most prestigious visual art exhibitions, is an important context in which to build Scotland’s profile and reputation as an international centre for visual arts. Scotland + Venice 2015 complements further presentations from the UK taking place across the city at the same time. The British Pavilion will feature Sarah Lucas and the work of Helen Sear will appear in the Welsh presentation, curated by Ffotogallery.
  • Scotland + Venice 2015 with Graham Fagen will be open 10am to 6pm, every Tuesday – Sunday, from 9 May to 22 November at Palazzo Fontana (Cannaregio 3829, Venezia; access for the public via Strada Nuova, Calle Fontana). Admission is free. For more information, please visit the partnership’s new website or follow on Twitter @Scotlandvenice, and
  • Graham Fagen is one of the most influential artists working in Scotland today. His work mixes media and crosses continents; combining video, performance, photography and sculpture with text, live music and plants. Fagen’s recurring artistic themes, which include flowers, journeys and popular song, are used as attempts to understand the powerful forces that shape our lives. Fagen studied at The Glasgow School of Art (1984-1988, BA) and the Kent Institute of Art and Design (1989-1990, MA) and is senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. For further information, please visit or follow him on Twitter @grahamfagen
  • Hospitalfield: An Artist’s House, located in Arbroath, Scotland, holds a programme of residencies, commissions and curated projects which aim to negotiate and inspire an interplay between the heritage and history of the site and contemporary cultural ideas and practices. From the semi-rural location on the east coast of Scotland it works with a range of partners to ensure that Hospitalfield plays a significant role within the national cultural ecology and wider international network. The 19th century Scottish artist Patrick Allan-Fraser (1813-1890), inspired by his term of presidency at the Royal Academy in Rome, left his estate in Trust to become a residential art school. The model has necessarily changed over time and Hospitalfield are currently working on the first phase of a 21st century Future Plan, led by architects Caruso St John. For further information on Hospitalfield, please visit: | | @Hospitalfield

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