On Friday, April 21st, 2017, Glasgow-based artist Graham Fagen conducted a workshop in the Morningside Gallery at the Barbados Community College (BCC). This lunchtime lecture was presented by BCC, the British Council Caribbean and Fresh Milk and was free and open to the public. Graham, who is this year’s external examiner for the BFA students at BCC, is spending some time connecting with several cultural institutions in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago during the month of April. In addition to the artist talk, he gave an experimental drawing workshop to BCC students. He also met with artists while in Barbados to learn about their practice.
Graham Fagen Lecture and Experimental Drawing Workshop in Barbados
After two years of working, failing and reworking, we were all tense, stressed and anxious. Yet the moment Graham walked into the room, we all calmed down. At the time, my peers and I marvelled at the absurdity of it, however now it all makes sense: Graham is one chill dude. As an external examiner, he dissolved the stiffness of the situation and created an atmosphere akin to a dance. Moving back and forth, we followed the rhythm of the work, letting it lead us where it would. Graham perfectly maintained the balance between conductor and conspirator in his experimental drawing workshop which proved to be a great “destresser”. In his talk, he was infectious as his passion flowed throughout his presentation. Ultimately, being able to calm down, let loose and share in another’s passion was the perfect beginning to the end of my degree programme.
During my external exam, Fagen made sure that the atmosphere was light and easy to present my work and was open to the idea of learning a little about my culture which my work is heavily based around. He shared stories and some of his experiences with hearing some of the local sayings that I used in my work and was openly excited to hear about the meanings. Fagen gave a workshop as well as a talk both dealing with his work. The workshop, I would have to say was one of the most interesting workshops I have ever been to. Fagen’s approach to leading the session was great in that he actually participated in the workshop while we all had discussions, made jokes and just over all had fun while sitting around the table creating our pieces. A phrase that came from the workshop that I'm sure we will all remember is, ‘listen to what your tongue is telling you’ and this came about in the first stages of the workshop when we were drawing our teeth. During his talk, Fagen opened my eyes to a little bit of the relationship between Scotland and Jamaica, his approach to finding out more about some things he was taught in school and how he feels about different aspects of his culture. Graham Fagen was enlightening and inspiring and I don't think I could have asked for a better external examiner to end my time in the BFA programme.
As an examiner, I thought Mr Graham Fagen was quite straightforward in his questioning. He paid attention to the technical aspects and special attention to the thought process behind the work. He questioned my views on my chosen subject, which in my case involved the museum, to see how I approached the different dilemmas I was trying to bring forth. While the workshop was fun and interactive; there was no right or wrong on how you chose to perceive the project. We had to draw our teeth only using our tongue as a guide; it was an odd concept to grasp at first, but then later made you more conscious of how you interact with your own body. Through this, he gave us a better understanding of how he approached his own work. Lastly his afternoon talk was informative, through his work, he found ways to connect with the audience through relatable past experiences, history and in the case of us, the third year students, he incorporated what he had heard and seen from our own critiques to further push the ideas and make connections within his own work. Overall it was an insightful experience, with him being approachable and open, with his own ideas and those of others.