Meet the Professionals
Artistic practice: Maja Quille is a London-based Danish artist. Her work examines the symmetries, historical narratives, and interconnecting systems that underpin contemporary society, focusing on the legacy of the industrial revolution and notions of the Anthropocene. Continually moving between drawing, printmaking and sculpture, much of her work sits at the intersection between order and chaos.
Maja is currently currently showing work at 101Space, Zhengzou, China and with Gallery Shtorm https://galleryshtorm.com/blog/equilibrium-chaos/ at Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, 5b Pall Mall, London until 16th May 2021.
BA: Visual Arts, University of East London
MA: Fine Art Drawing, University of Arts London
Recent exhibitions include work shown at Saatchi Gallery, London; Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; Per Arts Centre, Orkney and State Museum for Urban Sculpture, St Petersburg. Maja has undertaken several large-scale public commissions and have permanent sculptures installed in prominent locations, including Musselburgh City Centre, Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen and Royal Observatory Edinburgh, where my work also forms part of the Crawford Library Collection.
"The ones that make it are just the ones that keep going you know and just say well Hang it – Hang it?! – I will just keep going and keep trying until something sticks"
Notes and links
Every artist should have a website with a biography, CV and introduction to their work. Have a look at Maja's as a great example!
Edinburgh College of Art is part of the University of Edinburgh and offers 80 different creative programmes for you to develop your practice at BA, MA or as a short course.
Camberwell College of Arts is part of the University of London and offers Foundation, BA, MA, PHD, Short Courses and Portfolio Reviews!
In 2020 Maja was included in the exhibition ‘London Grads Now’ at the Saatchi bringing together the work of graduates from 4 of University of the Arts London 6 Colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins (CSM), Chelsea College of Arts and Wimbledon College of Arts.
The Artists Support Pledge is an initiative that was launched by Matthew Burrow in March 2020 as a way for artists to support each other and sell work through the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Practicing Artist is a way to describe an artist who is making work and being active in pursuing a creative practice.
BA stands for Bachelor of Arts. This is the Undergraduate level of study after school. A BA usually lasts 3 years, but can sometimes be 4.
MA stands for Master of Arts. This is the Postgraduate level of study that can be pursued after a BA and is the opportunity to specialise and advance your skills further. MAs can last 1 or 2 years.
Freelance means that you are working on a project to project basis, rather than being employed full time by one company. This means you work for yourself and are responsnible for your hours, salary and tax. Often, if you work Freelance, you charge on an hourly, daily or per-project basis.
To have Job Security means you know you have work lined up and therefore will definitely have an income coming in. If you are contracted into a full time job, you have good Job Security. If you are a freelancer and your project is coming to an end without a new project lined up for afterwards, you might feel like you don’t have good Job Security.
Inclusive and non-elitist
Here at Hang it we feel like an Inclusive and non-elitist art world is important too! This means an art world where everyone is welcome, regardless of education, race, background or gender for example. We agree that people should feel included and that it should not be a space reserved for the elites.
Public Art refers to any art that is in the public realm and accessible to the public to see and enjoy.
A curator looks after and manages artworks and artists.. Usually the curator is involved with how the artworks are understood and placed within a space. However, the role of a curator is very varied! In this case, Maja is talking about how a curator might help her, as an artist, have her work displayed.
For an artist, one of the most important things is to have your work displayed in a gallery for people to see. This might be a public, freely accessible gallery, or a commercial or ‘selling’ gallery where someone might want to buy your work.
A Grassroots initiative or organisation is one that is being built from the ground up. It means it is in its very early stages of development and is often being self-funded and directed by a passionate group of people!
If an artist is emerging they are in the very early stages of their career and might not yet be well known or represented by a gallery.
Maja Quille: And I think it’s really important to share that you get rejected loads and that’s just the way it is.
Julie Bleas: Hi everyone and welcome back to Hang it, the online platform where we try to navigate the art world. I’m Julie and today I am so excited to welcome artist Maja Quille to find out about her practice as an artist and how she got there. Hi Maja!
JB: Please introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your practice as an artist.
MQ: My name is Maja Quille I am a practicing artist I graduated in 2012 from Edinburgh College of Art with a BA in sculpture and I lived in Scotland for a number of years where I worked predominantly as a public artist mainly making public sculpture, pretty large-scale projects. Then in 2019 I moved to London and I did a one-year MA drawing course at Camberwell and since then I have been working on smaller scale stuff looking a lot at the legacy of enlightenment thinking and industrialisation. Most of my work has an art science angle. I work with a lot of other professions: chemists, mathematicians, physicists and similar, from educational institutions.
JB: So, am I right in thinking you are a freelance artist? Could you please tell me a little bit about what it is like to work as a freelancing practicing artist?
MQ: It depends on what day you ask me because some days are great, sometimes it is a very, very uncertain way of working. That is the downside of it. Some days, you know, there are times when – I have been working since 2012 as a freelance artist – and there have been times when I have to borrow money for my rent, and there are times when I am working on huge projects with loads of assistants, and it is a really exciting way of working. But it is also really demanding with no job security at all.
JB: So, you finished your BA around 8 years before you started your MA. Can you tell me a bit about what really motivated you to go back to university and pursue a new degree?
MQ: When I graduated I had very firm belief in the idea of inclusive non-elitist art and I was very keen to try and do the kind of work that would include the public and be not just within a gallery and have a much wider reach. And I got quite disillusioned with public art and I think it is very easy to lose yourself when you are working on big projects and to forget why you’re doing what you are doing. I thought I need to go back and start all over again and really reassemble everything and figure out what I it is that I do and – who am I! As an artist and what do I do now. And that’s why I did an MA which was an amazing thing to do for me because it really gave me the chance to reassess everything and dig right down and start all over again.
JB: I guess my question is: do you think it is necessary to pursue an MA when you want to be a practicing artist?
MQ: Probably not no. I think for me, I finished my MA and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and who I was and I had a bit of a special situation in that I had a baby in my last year of university. Which is not something I would recommend someone do because it is quite a hard thing to – obviously its very hard to have a baby but – to have it when you are trying to work out such a personal thing to become an artist, you have to really dig deep. And to really just throws everything when you have a baby so I think for me definitely I finished my BA being not a fully fledged artist so for me the place where things have started to make sense have been the MA. And it is also the place where there has been any kind of vocational element to it. You know talking about life afterwards and preparing you a bit for the real world. Whereas I think after the BA you were really just kicked out and there was nothing for you.
JB: Well, that is a great segue into my next question because I was wondering – when you finished your BA what would you say were the challenges that you were confronted to? And I guess the second part of my question would be, would you say that you are still faced with the same challenges?
MQ: I think that when you graduate you kind of – especially from the BA and also from the MA – you get kicked out into the real world and you haven’t really been prepared because a lot of what Arts Education is about is to learn about art and figure out what kind of work you are doing. And I think there is a lot of shying away from having to deal with the reality of when you graduate. You just don’t, nobody seems to know what you are supposed to do. You look at curators and galleries and it feels like this closed club that you don’t know how to approach and how to enter and I think especially it has been very much at the moment, it feels like you are on this little island. And you have to just really keep going and try and work out how to talk to people and how to approach galleries which is something that nobody really teaches you. Whereas I was really, really lucky that the second time I graduated I had a tutor who had got what I was doing and people who seemed to like my work. And I got a show at the Saatchi and those things really help, obviously. But a lot of the time it is just a question of finding people who get what you are doing and then talking to them. It is lovely there are so many grassroots initiatives like your own that help people and kind of acceptance among students that you know we all just get to help each other and to find a way to approach this.
JB: And talking about initiatives – you recently took place in the artists support pledge which is an initiative supporting artists in response to Covid 19. Could you tell me a little about it and how you came to join it?
MQ: Yes sure. It is this initiative on Instagram, I think only on Instagram where artists pledge to sell their work but then they pledge to buy the work of artists to support other artists I think when they have reached £1000. And it is a kind of, it is recognition that in lockdown and for the past year, people who are emerging artists, people who are graduating, anybody who is not very established its been very hard for them to make a living and sell work and reach people and this has been a good way to try to help a little bit to help each other to get a little bit of work sold. And I think everybody has really struggled in the past year and I think I was lucky that I at least had some experience whereas I think anybody who had no experience and graduated last year it’s been a real uphill struggle I would think.
JB: 100% and it’s really heart-warming to see such initiatives happening between artists and really acknowledging that it has been a really tough time for people – especially practicing artists – because I think that is something that sometimes we struggle to see that beyond the art there is someone that needs to make a living out of this.
So, I would say that finally, you have been a practicing artist for something coming close to 10 years. What is something that you wish someone had told you after you graduated from your BA and what advice would you give to someone who is in that position and is just starting their career?
MQ: I think the single thing that I found when I graduated from my BA was that I would apply for stuff and just keep getting rejected. And I took it so personally and I just felt like nobody likes me, nobody likes what I do. And you know it is a horrible thing it feels like somebody is rejecting you. Everybody always tells you how they just get all this stuff, and nobody tells you about all the rejections that they have had along the way. And I think it is really important to share that you get rejected loads and that’s just the way it is. The ones that make it are just the ones that keep going you know and just say well Hang it – Hang it?! – I will just keep going and keep trying until something sticks.
JB: That is just such an inspiring way to finish our episode Maja I hope that our audience really understands that we have all been there and you just need to keep on trying and something will come up. So, thank you so much for your wonderful insight and advice Maja it has been such a pleasure to have you on Hang it. And thank you everyone for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please do rate us on any streaming platform that you use and as always, all resources and links will be available on our website. To keep updated on our content please follow us on Instagram at @Hangitcollective all in one word and we will be back soon with a new episode. Bye everyone!
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