My name is Harvey Rutter, I am in my final year of the BA (Hons) Fine Art programme.
I work mainly in print, collage, video and sculpture, exploring themes of sexuality, popular culture and fashion. My work is very much related to me and my experience living as a young gay person in the twenty-first century.
My studio practice before the coronavirus pandemic was in its most exciting stage. I was experimenting across all mediums, making as much use of the facilities in New Adelphi before I graduated and building up a portfolio of the best possible work I could produce to hopefully launch a career in the creative industry. Although I was still experimenting, I felt like the aesthetic and subject matter of my work was beginning to level off and I was feeling ready to take my work beyond my studio in New Adelphi.
My studio environment at home, a shared student house, is very limited. I have a scanner, collage materials, a hot glue gun and a polaroid camera. My usual practice is very much based at University so the thought of living and working in such a small space for who-knows-how-long, was very daunting at first.
The enforced lockdown has changed my studio practice in numerous ways. Rather than forcing myself to carry on making the same work with limited supplies, I decided to let myself make whatever I felt like, to see what I would produce during such a strange time of my life, that may never happen again. I found myself doing anything to fill my time as positively as possible. I was no longer making art just for submission, but using my practice as an escape from the bombardment of negative media and as something to fill my empty days. I have particularly enjoyed experimenting with polaroid emulsion prints, a process which involves removing the image from the polaroid frame in hot water and printing it on a paper surface.
As well as this, my interest in popular culture, celebrities and social media has flourished as the use of the internet in everybody’s lives has skyrocketed. I have had more time than ever to listen to music for hours on end, watch films that I’ve never got round to seeing and re-watching those incredibly inspiring documentaries that have previously driven my practice forward. I have felt overloaded with information but also completely inspired. My appetite for popular culture has been well and truly fed.
I have had to be resourceful to keep creating. When lockdown was first announced, I ordered a roll of lime green paper and created a make-shift green screen in my bedroom so that I could continue with my video collages. The paper cost £10 and I have enough to cover a whole room! I also found myself delving into my boxes of materials and my collections of keyrings, postcards and handbags which I have been hoarding for a couple of years now. I finally had time to play around with crayons and keyrings, painting on to fake designer bags and making super-kitsch, sickly-sweet fashion accessories, things which I struggled to fit in to my studio practice.
Luckily, with the internet, everything is available to us at all times. I tried to refrain from ordering new materials and stretching myself, but to look around at what was already available to me and work with what I already had. Its really surprising what you can do with so little.
For the first five weeks of lockdown, I was completely on my own in the house. When my friend returned to Salford, she helped me take polaroid images and I taught her how to create prints from these. I returned the favour by helping her with her music, by editing her cover videos together and she taught me the ins and outs of recording audio. Our creativity definitely bounced off each other.
With everything now going online, there are lots of online opportunities for exhibiting work. Although these don’t make up for the excitement of seeing your work on a gallery wall, I think it’s important to get involved. Looking at it broadly, the internet will always be here, so these online shows will serve as great documentation of this challenging time. We shouldn’t dismiss things because they’re a bit naff compared to the real deal, but try and ride the wave!
The first thing I’m going to do when we emerge from the lockdown is go and give my Mum, who has just been given the all clear from breast cancer, a big hug. And then I’ll go to Canal Street.