Pushing past the comfort zone

by Josephine Boesen

Artist Julie Stavad has left the safe haven at The Jutland Art Academy. Now it is time to leave new traces and get familiar with the complex machinery of the art scene. ARTLAND met with the young artist to talk about entering the art world as a newbie, no longer being under the protective influence of the art academy and her next step outside of her comfort zone.

Julie Stavad graduated from The Jutland Art Academy in 2015. Since then, she has received attention from both private and public art collectors. In Summer 2016, she was invited to participate in Skulpturlandsby Selde, a community-driven art project on the outskirts of Jutland, that encourages artists to work in and with the local community. During the summer of 2016, her work could also be experienced at Skovsnogen Artspace, a ‘deep forest artland’ project near Herning. Within the framework of public collections, Julie Stavad’s works have been sold to The Danish Arts Foundation and Aarhus Kommune (The municipality of Aarhus), two foundations which have also decided to support the young artist financially for her first solo exhibition The Mobile Sleeve at Charlotte Fogh Gallery, January 2017.

In her execution of the sculptural element, Julie Stavad works with form and the rendering of texture in materials such as concrete, candle wax, soap, clay, mirrors and aluminum. She is persistent in her approach of the sculpture as a minimalist object. Her artistic practice is therefore consistent and endlessly transformative due to her curious processing of the material. Julie Stavad’s work is almost always an investigation of the imprints that people and objects leave behind during everyday life. A footprint, a fleeting reflection in a mirror, a worn down bar of soap.

First of all, how has it been working on your first solo show The Mobile Sleeve, applying for funding, curating the exhibition and putting everything together?
Julie Stavad:  My first solo show is going to be a bit of a venture into the unknown, first of all because it is my first time exhibiting alone, not having to consider sharing the same space with other artists. Secondly, because I am going to move a bit outside of my comfort zone with this show – making new works with paper and more furniture-like sculptures. It can be a complex assignment to make it all fit together financially and creatively. Funding has been necessary since I have chosen to make large scale work for this exhibition. If I hadn’t got the funding, the exhibition would probably look quite different.

Right now, I am imagining the exhibition as one grand installation project, with all the small pieces being a part of one whole. Subconsciously, I believe that my ambition with this solo show has always been to make an installation that would be worthy of a museum exhibition. The stakes are high, but I hope to succeed. As a recently qualified artist, it is also very new to me to work within a commercially driven art space such as a gallery. Within the gallery, the primary focus is on experiencing the artwork, but also to sell the selected goods. Basically, it is an art shop, a scene which I haven’t earlier imagined my work to fit into and this is interesting. 

Working with the gallery, do you experience it as a financial and artistic adviser?
JS: Yes, but I am still trying to figure out the gallery. During my academic training at The Jutland Art Academy, I have not been advised to associate myself with the commercial partakers of the art world. So, everything I have learned about working with galleries and collectors, putting a price on my work etc., I have learned in cooperation with the gallery. I don’t have a lot of people to consult with about selling, so it is something that I am still trying to grow accustomed to. That being said, what I really want is to be able to make a living doing art. I like having a say in the sale of my work (like committing to the price, knowing who is buying my work etc.), but at the moment it doesn’t really interest me that much to be a salesman. I am happy to leave the financial part to the gallery and selling some of my work surely supports the ideal of being able to live of it professionally, but it also supports the ideal of my work being present/out there.

If you take into consideration the rising interest in collecting young unestablished artists, would you not be better of as a newly qualified artist, if the art academy focused more on preparing their students for the encounter with the commercial art world?
JS: Yes and no. On one hand, art does not benefit from taking part in a competing environment, at least not in the fragile steps of developing a project. Money, use and function, and making everything fit together can be dangerous for the free arts. On the other hand, a commercial focus could and can make sense concerning my own work, since I actually make objects that can be touched, handled and perhaps sold. Even though I tend to use some awkward materials, it is not nearly as awkward as some of my great artist colleagues, where the subject matter might be a happening, a phenomenon or a debate club. There would be no sense in processing that within the same financial framework, unless the galleries and the art collectors start rethinking ways of collecting intangible arts, that is. And that would be interesting!

In the end, artists, galleries, collectors and museums have a joint responsibility in preserving art for posterity. That is why it could be seen wrong of the academy to simply ignore the commercial partakers of the art world. It has to be a collaboration even though it can be hard to process the fact that I, as an artist, share art as subject matter with a salesman and a costumer – galleries and collectors. It can seem like our approach is very different, sometimes it seems we come from opposite worlds.

Extracts from artist resume

B. 1987
Currently based in Aarhus, DK

2010 – 2015  The Jutland Art Academy, Aarhus, DK

Future projects and exhibitions
2017  The Mobile Sleeve, solo show, Charlotte Fogh Gallery, Aarhus, DK

Selected exhibitions
2016  Skovsnogen Art Space, permanent outdoor installation, Kibaek,DK

2016  Skulpturlandsby Selde 2016, group show, Selde, DK 
2016  UDEN TITEL 16, group show, Kunsthal NORD, Aalborg, DK
2015  Afgang15, graduation show, Kunsthal Aarhus, DK

2016  The Danish Institute in Athens, Artist Residency, January 2016, Athens, GR

2014  Residency Unlimited, New York, USA 

2016  Danish Arts Foundation’ s Working Grant
2015  The Jutland Art Academy’s Grant of Honor 

For more information visit: http://juliestavad.dk/julie%20stavad/about/index.html