Initially, I was apprehensive about going to Groningen to study Fine Art, anyone that knows me well knows around the time of applying to study abroad I was toying the with idea of dropping out of uni completely, then staying and getting three years done with. I am so glad I didn’t follow through with these as going to the Miverva Academy of Art in Groningen was one of the best experiences of my life.
Before deciding on photography as my main medium of art, I experimented with a lot of others, and focused for a long while on painting, and wanted to use this as a chance to go back and explore this medium and others within my work. I thought about “abandoning” photography and focusing on something new. But after advice I worked on mixed medium art using black and while 35mm film and paint. There was a strong sense of freedom in the structure also, which although daunting was freeing and gave my work a life that it had not had before, allowing me to see myself not only as a photographer but as an artist and an someone who is sitting in the international arts community. This is something that has helped my confidence a lot, enough in fact that I was the focus of my project which previously I would have been too shy to pull off. This has made a permanent impact on myself – both as an individual and an artist – and my work.
I even got to exhibit my work three times while in The Netherlands, one a set of mixed media pieces (including a portrait of myself which gave me a lot of nerves in showing), and a painting, and an installation. The installation is what I am most proud of as it is something I never saw myself doing, let alone pulling off and making an emotional impact on Syrian refugees (the work was based on the Syrian Refugee crisis) who saw it over Skype.
It was more than just the learning aspect that made this life changing (cliche I know). Living in a new country with people from all over the world gives you a chance to really step out of your comfort zone and learn about different cultures, which I found extremely beneficial. For example, the Dutch way of life is very relaxed. I am on the opposite end of the spectrum, always rushing around, early to things and annoyingly organised most of the time. I slowed down, learned to relax more and that helped me mentally and therefore there was a domino effect on everything I done and my ability to think on a more positive side. The fact of being far away from home is also a learning curve. Whilst at uni, yes, you are no longer at home but its only a car or train ride away if you miss your dog or feel unwell. Being in a different country makes that a bit more difficult so you learn to deal with stuff more like a grown up.
What I loved was Christmas time in Groningen. Not only was I experiencing a traditional European Christmas (mainland Europe do it better than the UK) including a trip to the beautiful Köln, but I was sharing my Christmas traditions with people from different countries and they was sharing theirs. For example, we celebrated Sinterklaas which is a tradition just before Christmas where children get chocolate and presents in a shoe, and on the controversial side Sinterklaas and Zwart Piet come into the city through the canal on a boat. I also hosted a Christmas dinner where I cooked the staple of every British Christmas/roast dinner – Yorkshire puddings. My friend from Germany cooked up a traditional red cabbage, and we had Dutch Apple Tart for desert. For my New Zealand friends it was their first cold Christmas, so it was interesting seeing how my normal “movie” Christmas was so different to theirs which are boiling hot and spent at the beach. This is one of many times where different cultures came together.
All in all, this was the most amazing experience of my life, one I am fortunate to have had. What I love most about this is how it opened me up as an artist, opening me up to take more risks with my work, to view myself as a practising artist, and not be afraid to say “this is what I think, this is what I see” boldly with my work. I would happily go back to Minerva again, and back to Groningen as it is the most beautiful city. I even nearly stayed there for a whole year, before deciding to use this time to experience even more. I loved experiencing new cultures that people shared, which has changed my way of thinking, opened my mind to more possibilities than just my own predominantly British ideas. It has also helped me solidify what I want to do for a career, document and explore different cultures around the world, sharing my experiences through art. This is what the second half of this year has been, and a post summarising that soon!
To see all of the work I created, visit my website and take a look at What If I Told The Truth, Wonderland, and Home Sweet Home (of course look at my other work too!). alicesophieart.com
And to see more detailed experiences from my time in Groningen, and the trips I took from there, scroll back through my blog posts!