KARST’s Graduate Residents… One Year On

By Katherine Hall

Gemma Mackenzie- Out of Sorts (Disassembled II), expanding foam and silicone, 2017

Gemma Mackenzie- Out of Sorts (Disassembled II), expanding foam and silicone, 2017

Every year, KARST gallery provides a Fine Art Graduate Residency to one graduate from Plymouth College of Art and one from Plymouth University. The 6-month long residency allows early career artists to begin establishing themselves in a supportive, artist-led space. Made in Plymouth contributor and KARST admin intern Katherine Hall catches up with last years graduate artists, Charlie Knight and Gemma Mackenzie, to see how the experience has influenced their career.


Katherine Hall: What made you decide to apply for the KARST Graduate Residency?

Charlie Knight: It was an easy decision for me to apply for KARST’s Graduate Residency. I had already been at KARST for two years as a volunteer and intern so having gotten to know the space and, more importantly, the people there I couldn’t think of anywhere better for me to go following my degree.

Gemma Mackenzie: I decided to apply for the graduate residency at KARST as it sounded like the perfect opportunity to continue my art practise after graduating from university. As I had the experience of being an intern at KARST previously I knew that the team/ studio artists are all supportive and give good advice which I could learn a lot from. I wanted to be in an environment with strong creativity and creative people which after university can feel like you’re missing.

CK: Additionally, while having left the education environment of Plymouth College of Art, the Graduate Residency still provides a huge opportunity to observe and learn. Working as an equal in the same space as some very talented and experienced artists, and seeing what they do as well as understanding why they do it, was for me a crucial part of my development during the residency.

GM: After university it can be difficult to find space to continue your art practice, especially if your work is sculptural. Having your own studio space makes it easier to continue practical work where your art practice isn’t compromised by space.


Charlie Knight: 10 Sluttiest Girls on Maury Povich, paper, 2017.
Gemma Mackenzie: Out of Sorts (Concern), expanding foam, 2017.

KH: How has your experience at KARST developed your career?

GM: One of the main ways that I developed as an artist during the graduate residency was that I gained a lot more confidence in my work and art practice. Within the 6 months residency you’re given a number of opportunities to present your work through presentations, critiques with lecturers and an exhibition. Having these opportunities to talk about your work with a variety of people which gets you more comfortable with talking about your work to others.

CK: I think that everyone going into the Graduate Residency has an expectation to continue on as a career artist, but for me at least that isn’t the direction where I’m headed now. Given how beneficial the residency was to me as an artist that may sound surprising, but from having had the opportunity to work as a career artist for six months with the residency I believe it is in my best interest to now be spending time developing other careers and returning to art at a later time.

For a young artist I think it can be easy to build up an idealised future where you can survive as an artist and not have to worry about having some boring job, it’s certainly how I felt coming into my Fine Art degree. But having come out of education and having finished the residency I have made the decision that it is more sensible for me to have a primary career and to be an artist as a secondary career only.

KH: What have you been up to since your residency

CK: Since the residency I have been getting involved with the Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange down in Penzance. It is a much quieter life down there and it has given me the space I needed to really plan out what I want to be doing next…

…Which turns out to be marketing! Hopefully in 2018 I will be doing an MA in Digital Marketing, and from there I would like to see myself working with creative companies within the South West.

GM: Since completing the graduate residency I have been applying for exhibitions and trawling through open calls for opportunities to get involved in. During the summer I took part in the Fringe Arts Festival in Bath where I exhibited in the Bath Open Art Prize exhibition at 44AD Art Gallery. I have also been continuing work, progressing on the ideas that I was developing during the residency at KARST whilst fitting it around my job.


Gemma Mackenzie out of sorts 20017
Charlie Knight 10 sluttiest Girls

Bubblicious Rave Review Family photo, credit Kate Denkinson

KH: Do you have anything exciting planned for future work?

CK: Yes, my big things now are interpreting images into sounds and vice-versa, as well as scanning objects with my phone to turn them into virtual 3-D models. The main theme of my artistic practice is how we interpret information presented to us.

In addition, there is also a video that I am currently editing which consists of me playing the video game Lemmings for eight and a half hours!

I really enjoyed this year’s Plymouth Art Weekender so I’ve set myself the task of putting together a mini-exhibition for next year’s Weekender featuring these new ideas. I haven’t set up a solo exhibition before so it seems like a bit of a daunting task, but I’m confident in my work and looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

GM: I’m thinking about possibly doing a masters degree and have been researching various arts based courses. I am also planning to continue making work and to develop my practice further. I feel the time I spent at KARST has given me great grounding for future endeavours within the arts field.

Gemma’s website can be found here: https://gemmamackenzie.com/ and Charlie’s here: http://www.c-r-k.co.uk/