Gaining clarity on your art practice

  • Feedback Room (Audio Play), 2010, Irish Museum of Modern Art

FuelRCA talks to Martina Schmücker, a 2005 sculpture graduate who spoke at our Life After Art School event on Wednesday 29 June

Feedback Room (Audio Play), 2010, Irish Museum of Modern Art

What did you do immediately after graduating? 
Well, I graduated in 2005 and after that immediately went to work full time for Mike Smith Studio. They were then based in south London and I worked for them straight for 18 months. So in a way after graduation I had quite a break. It was a deliberate decision but also forced on me because I didn’t have any other means of supporting myself, I was in quite a lot of debt. My decision was just to work and do nothing else, although in hindsight that probably wasn’t the best decision.

Why is that? 
It would probably have been better to not work full time, but in a way I didn’t have the feeling I could say no to that or that I could do it in another way.

Did you feel you lost momentum by taking a break?
Yeah, I think so, but at the same time it gave me some time to watch things going on from outside a bit, which in a way is good. What you do after college is what you do and some decisions get made for you.

Did your practice change a lot after you graduated?
Not that much, I think it kind of got refined quite a lot after college. I think for me the Royal College was more about learning to communicate or trying to learn to communicate my work rather than anything else, rather than making a lot of work – I didn’t make a lot of work while I was at the Royal College. I only really started making work again two or three years after college, then obviously you kind of start out from a different position. 

How long after graduating did it take you to feel clear about your practice and what you wanted to do with it?
I think that is still going on! I’m probably quite slow burning in that respect, I think that I’m still figuring that out. For myself I can say, that teaching actually helped a lot – teaching fine art to other people, which is a weird combination, but it made sense for my practice.

What made you want to participate in our Life After Art School event?
The sculpture department is quite an odd place, it’s very much about the people who are there rather than the teaching that goes on, so I have the feeling that it’s a bit of a void sometimes – you want to go back in and sort the place out! It sounds harsh but it’s meant in a caring way – to talk to these students coming after us, to give them a bit of perspective… There are people who studied with me who are much more settled and more commercially successful, but I think I have some things to give to people who are just starting out that might be useful. Also I think commercial success and artistic success don’t necessarily go hand in hand. You can have the one without the other. And still there might be something lacking in one area. You kind of still have to deal with that. 

Martina Schmücker is an artist based in London. She will be appearing at FuelRCA's Life After Art School event on Wednesday 29 June to discuss the realities of life after graduating.