Visual Artists in Residence

For summer 2018, Glyndebourne and the University of Brighton have once again collaborated to provide a residency for two students undertaking the PGCE Art and Design course. The successful applicants have attended rehearsals and explored the Glyndebourne estate and archives, drawing inspiration and researching their creative practice. As well as being able to observe rehearsals the artists have attended education events and performances, producing sketchbooks and pieces of work based on their experiences.

Zoe Jones and Orla Toner were the two successful artists selected for 2018 with Zoe starting a teaching position in a local school in September 2018. We caught up with them to talk about the experience of taking part in the residency as they approached their final exhibition where they shared the work they have produced during the summer with friends, family and Glyndebourne staff.

Zoe Jones

My first impressions of Glyndebourne have been exploring the variety of colours, textures and shapes in the gardens and grounds. I have used photography and a range of pencil and paint media to draw from direct observation looking at close up flower details.

An area I have been interested in is how the audience interacts in the gardens during the intervals from the conversations had about the opera performance, to how the audience moves across the large green spaces almost mimicking movement on the stage.

After exploring the wealth of creativity in the gardens I want to explore the human form on the stage and particularly the movement of the figure. In an artistic sense I want to explore movement through composition including negative and positive space. In an operatic sense I wish to explore the meaning of movement on the stage such as the importance of symbolism for the characters and how this affects the audience’s perception and experience whether they are at the front or back of the auditorium.

My initial concerns for the residency are recording movement for the first time in my artistic portfolio. In my practice I regularly attend life drawing evenings where I draw a static model however, this will be my first experience of drawing moving figures on the stage. I will tackle this challenge by using charcoal and pencil mediums so I can quickly record the figure. Most recently I attended a rehearsal of Pelléas et Mélisande which was quite an opposite experience to Madama Butterfly in terms of lighting, colour and set design. In contrast to Madama Butterfly I was seated at the front of the auditorium where you could see the singer’s expressions and the whole orchestra underneath the stage. I felt that being this close to the opera made you feel more involved in the story and brought to life the orchestra whereas further back you get a wider view and picture of what is happening on stage.

Orla Toner

Like many others, my first impressions when visiting Glyndebourne came from its grand and elegant gardens, home to an abundance of vibrant and beautiful flowers. I was lucky to begin my residency in June, when the sunny rays were showing an early promise of a warm summer and this year, seeming to make a special effort not to break it. Taking advantage of this weather, I started off by roaming through the gardens, hoping to capture the delicacy of the petals as they glimmered in the sunlight, and the sturdy complexities of the seed-heads, barely wavering in the breeze.

I was struck by how the experience of Glyndebourne starts before you even arrive at the grounds. The sloping fields of the South Downs give you a knowing nod as they guide you along the country road; you are about to embark on something very special and without a doubt, it will not disappoint!

With an array of opportunities to lead my artist’s brief forward, I suddenly found myself in awe of this place which I had very little experience of. I had never been to an opera before going to see Così fan tutte at Glyndebourne during the end of last year with Brighton University, so I felt apprehensive with my elementary knowledge. However, inspired by the vitality of Georgia O’Keeffe’s words, ‘making your unknown known is the most important thing’, I turned it into curiosity and let it lead the way. So far during my residency, I have been extremely grateful for the opportunity to watch rehearsals on stage and gain invaluable insights into the level of work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes to create such spectacular operas that excite guests who come from far and wide.

I have always had an affinity for nostalgia and so when I came across the Archive Office early on in my residency, I made note that I had to visit. Julia has been so helpful and welcoming, guiding me through the various folders and files on the shelves which suddenly feel like treasure boxes when opened. I feel like the Archive Office is one of Glyndebourne’s hidden gems and somewhere I could spend hours. The handwritten notes, scribbled on the margins of the lighting plot pages of Così fan tutte in 1952; a boot print on the technical stage plans of La traviata, and a smiley face sketched on the delicate, stained pages of a call book are all little reminders that these were once operas full of music, colour and movement, and yet are still as much alive now as they once were on stage. As I am approaching the end of my residency here at Glyndebourne, I am thoroughly enjoying focusing in on the elements that have inspired me, and I hope to capture as well as showcase this experience and influence in the exhibition at the end of August.

You can see Zoe and Orla’s work in our online gallery.

Photos: Kate Simner