Stu Hansom is a photographer, printmaker, researcher and curator. In 2017, as well as beginning his studies for the MA in Curation Practices, Stu co-founded Aire Street Darkroom, one of only a small number of analogue darkrooms in the North of England. During his MA he set up a Micro Residency Pilot in Ravenscar on the North East Yorkshire coast working with artist Fritha Jenkins. Stu studied MA Curation Practices graduating in 2019. 

Here’s what Stu had to say:

What made you decide to study MA Curation Practices?

I resumed studying nearly 15 years after graduating from my BA in American Studies which had allowed me to tackle a wide range of subject areas. I focused mainly on cinema, post-modern philosophy some politics and art history. My undergraduate dissertation was written on gender roles within Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book panel paintings. I had wanted to go straight on to an MA but my personal circumstances meant this had to be shelved (for quite some time as it turned out). 

Image: Stu Hansom, from Hot House, a Bare Collective three month residency project with East Street Arts, 2018. 

Image: Stu Hansom, from Hot House, a Bare Collective three month residency project with East Street Arts, 2018. 

While I wasn’t able to continue my studies during the next 15 years, I was able to build my creative practice, learning to shoot, develop and print black and white film as well as learning to screen print. I moved to Leeds with a job within health sector IT in 2009 and got involved with a number of art projects, such an artists space project at Temple Works in Leeds.

Questions around curation had been a reason for me to get back into the black and white darkroom, I wanted to understand how to sequence a narrative and tell a story within an exhibition. This led to me seeing an advert for a Curation Practices MA open evening. The course, like my undergraduate degree, seemed to offer an expansive field to interrogate, and a non-prescriptive approach to learning, strongly rooted in practice, which immediately appealed to me. I applied and joined the first cohort of students to take the course.

Was there a particular project that you remember during the MA? 

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about the course was that each of us had largely different interests and motivations for the MA, but that the course enabled us all to focus on our own area while giving us a common framework to work from. As peer-to-peer learning was so important, it enabled us to share our individual perspectives and gain a wider understanding of the field as a result.

Image: Stu Hansom, from TCL Group Show curated by Stu at Coffee on the Crescent, 2018-19.

I had applied for the course with an idea for the experimental residency project set in Ravenscar which became my final project, but I was also able to build this research focus into several modules along the way. This meant that not only was I able to realise a really rich and rewarding final project working with the artist Fritha Jenkins, but also I was able to expand this project by producing an audio tour based on the site and archival research, and a short film interwoven with a Robert Louis Stevenson text about an artists’ colony in France.

This expansion of the residency project enabled me to do a greater degree of research, and this really enriched the experimental residency by opening up the wealth of history and the historic narrative layers ‘buried’ at the site. During the residency I was able to provide a researched knowledge of the site as well as providing meals, enabling the artist to focus on their practice.

Is there an area that you would like to specialise in?

My curatorial practice is very focused on process and collaboration, I particularly enjoy working with artists to realise projects and to better understand their practice. I am interested in the research aspects of curation and how knowledge is generated and shared. Primarily I use narrative inquiry as a method within my practice, using conversation as a tool for learning and reflection.

During the MA I travelled to Tenno in northern Italy with a group from the MA Creative Practice course and another Curation Practices student. The residency trip culminated in an exhibition, however I was most interested in what residencies can offer artists, and how artists engage with residencies. I recorded a series of interviews with artists during the residency which then informed how I approached my final project.

Can you tell us about what you have most recently been working on?

Obviously 2020 was a particularly strange year. I had organised and run a residency at Aire Street Darkroom with local photographer Nigel Allison in partnership with Village bookstore in Leeds. The residency itself included a spot on the darkroom’s introductory printing course and printing sessions, and was planned to end with an exhibition of Nigel’s prints and a zine launch in July. Due to the pandemic, we will have to look at another way to deliver this project.

I’m also continuing to work with Fritha Jenkins, the artist who undertook the experimental residency I produced. As it was intended to support experimentation within Fritha’s practice the initial iteration was designed to be non-transactional, it wasn’t an exchange of a residency for a new piece of art. Instead it was a space to generate experimentation which would ideally lead to something in the future. We have continued the conversation and are planning to pick up the threads which started in the residency.

I’ve also been auditing the Advanced Practices PhD programme at Goldsmiths and have enrolled on a PhD with the programme. My research will build on elements within my MA residency project, but will be more closely focused on conversation and miscommunication. Wish me luck!  

Header image: Stu Hansom, Ravenscar Project, 2019.