Published July 7, 2022 : Feature Article by Sharon Haward

Pada Studios Residency in Barreiro, Portugal
June 2022

My practice is wide ranging, slippery and often speculative. Architecture, the built environment and places that are somewhere between being constructed and becoming a ruin are of particular interest. The narratives attached to specific buildings often inspire me to make parallel journeys that reflect a sense of physicality, materiality and gender relations.

I make site related installations and a range of large and small objects in different materials and much of this practice is informed by or includes photography.

In recent years I have undertaken a number of artists residencies in Europe and these adventures serve to refresh my practice and lead me into new areas of research and exploration. The appeal is to explore new places and to meet and work with artists from different cultures and backgrounds. My most recent residency was at Pada Studios in Barreiro, just over the river from Lisbon. Eight artists lived and worked on a huge, partly abandoned industrial estate and wasteland, that was not so long ago the industrial powerhouse for Portugal’s wealth and growth. Whilst at Barreiro I began to incorporate found materials and structures into my practice and through a process of removal, relocation and return of materials created a kind of circular process. We had access to many abandoned factories and the exploration of the old paint factory led to a photographic project that entailed the group of artists reacting to the architecture in a performative way.

This site was both visually appealing, hugely photogenic and historically interesting; the see-sawing between early 20th century industrialists, right wing dictators, and a more socially aware politics has wreaked havoc on the stability of the region, which is now experiencing a creeping influx of artists, photographers, street artists and galleries. This opportunity was open ended and I was able to access technical and professional support on site, no idea was considered too strange or potentially cumbersome. We worked with a local curator to create an exhibition and the various steps in the month-long program were documented by a professional photographer.

More solitary residencies have led to rather introspective outcomes that have enabled me to explore different media. A quiet 3 week residency in rural Norway led to me photographing a modernist building in Oslo and more writing than art making, and a month the long residency outside Paris led to the adoption of fabrics and textiles into my practice. Of the more sociable residencies, those in Dordrecht and in Plovdiv entailed exploring new territories, meeting and working with artists from all over Europe and led to a range of street-based works and gallery exhibitions.

Artist’s residencies are a great way to revitalise my practice or to reinforce particular themes whilst reframing them. They also offer the chance to make friends, build new networks and gain a greater understanding of life outside the UK.

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Article by Sharon Haward | @sharonhaward
PADA Studios  |  @padastudios
Image: Installation at PADA Studios © Sharon Haward

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