Atelier 88

Atelier 88 Mikel Horl Artist in Residence ‘Horl’s Celestial Bestiary’ July 2017

Atelier 88 Artist in Residence ‘Celestial Bestiary’ July 2017

This year we have been happy to host two residencies for practising artists. In April we had the pleasure of working with Stewart Taylor of East London Print Workshop. Stewart made a series of landscape pieces that were printed using the Mokulito process of wood Lithography. Our most recent Artist in residence was another Graphic Artist Mikel Horl also Future Designer Programme leader, MA Future Design, Teesside University, UK. Mikel was working on his new series ‘Horl’s Celestial Bestiary’, drawing and printing (Mokulito Wood Lithography) as a starting point for his new artists’ book.

Mikel writes;

In the summer of 2017, I was invited to undertake a short artist’s residency at Atelier 88 print studio in Alcalá la Real, near Granada in southern Spain. Working with Dr. Pete Nevin in the print studio and surrounding area, I took the time to explore a number of themes and issues that have recurred within my practice. Techniques and processes that I have used in the past to create imagery and printed objects were revisited but with modifications and innovations suggested by the facilities, guidance and inspiration at Atelier 88.

The residency enabled me to reflect upon my own publications and imagery and to make decisions and preparations for a significant new set of works, that will lead to a retrospective exhibition in 2018, featuring new prints, drawings and interventions alongside selected pieces that I have made since my first publication in 1982. My experience as a book artist, printmaker, writer, designer and illustrator informs all of my current activities.

Atelier 88 provided the perfect setting and environment for this exercise. The compact, well-equipped workshop was my home for several days and it provided tools and some excellent materials to work with, adding to my own sketchbook, paper and favoured pencils and graphite sticks. Most of my work was made in the Atelier 88 drawing and print studio, adding the beautiful and inspiring Blue Garden. The plants in this garden inspired me to depict animals and habitats with greater adventure and with new observations of various life forms. At times I ventured outside the studio and garden into the town of Alcalá. I observed and photographed the town from the nearby hills. Further inspiration relevant to my work came from visits to the Reptile Museum and the magnificent Fortress of La Mota, both a very short walk from Atelier 88.

My tuition and guidance were provided by Dr Nevin, now known as Pedro to his friends, neighbours and students. Pedro introduced me to the work of artists and illustrators beyond my immediate terms of reference and we discussed literature, philosophy, poetry, current affairs, the natural world and many other subjects that all somehow related to the work I was making and the thoughts that were being developed in my project work. Our discussions and critiques of the works being made gave encouragement and belief in the directions that were emerging. I had everything I needed to be able to think, draw, make, read, discuss and look again at my work, making informed observations and strategic decisions.

I came away with a sketchbook full of new drawings, establishing a graphic language that could connect with my own history and heritage and to reference the works of others. I also produced a portfolio of prints, exploring lithographic techniques and processes introduced and demonstrated by Pedro. I was able to develop common motifs and characterisation that related to works I produced decades earlier, while also making innovations and considering new applications for the images in the contexts of games design, book illustration and theatre. My thoughts when I left were very different to those I expected. A few days in this work space had allowed me to transform my project direction and establish a new trajectory.

The outputs from this short residency are very significant. I have revisited my own work from the past and produced new works in response to them. My earlier works featuring animals are now being echoed in a new body of work, that I am calling Horl’s Celestial Bestiary. This is taking the form of a set of prints that I may bind into a book, combine into an extended scroll for public viewing or use as inspiration for new games and theatrical works over the next 18 months.

This visit has informed the development of my own research and practice as graphic artist and designer. It also fulfils a need I have to explore design and play in the widest social and cultural senses: developing our understanding and relationships with the natural world, cultures, languages and communications. My teaching in the subjects of Graphic Design and Future Design is also informed by this visit. Students will see the work I have produced and will hear about the observations, discoveries I have made, including mistakes and difficulties in embarking upon this work. My knowledge of European, Chinese and Japanese culture has grown through the making of these works and through extended study. I will now build upon this learning with visits to museums and festivals and libraries and produce further images and writing to document and contextualise the work.

I would recommend a visit to Atelier 88 if you wish to focus on your drawing, thinking, writing or printmaking. In fact, any creative practice can thrive in this space, at whatever stage of development. My work is towards a practice based PhD but the experience and inspiration here can be at any level, with teaching and instruction as you need it.

Atelier 88 provides excellent accommodation and hospitality. It is a comfortable and friendly place to make work and an excellent base for creative studies of all kinds. I will miss the food, the friendship, the inspiration and activities at Atelier 88 and I am already planning my next visit.

Mikel Horl

Graphic Artist and Future Designer

Programme leader, MA Future Design, Teesside University, UK