One Day Retrospective: Alys Scott-Hawkins (Interview)

In September 2017, Southampton based artist Alys Scott-Hawkins took part in a One Day Retrospective in Arch 04 at the Arches Studios.

Ahead of a new series of One Day Retrospectives in Arch 04, ‘a space’ arts Program and Projects Assistant Mia Delve caught up with Alys to chat about the exhibition and how the experience has impacted her practice.

Mia Delve: Hi Alys! How are you and what have you been up to lately?

Alys Scott-Hawkins: I’m well thanks! I’ve been busy preparing for performances for a collaborative project in Wolverhampton, where I’m making projected drawings live in response to music and dance.

MD: Almost a year ago now, you did a One Day Retrospective at the Arches Studios, how did you prepare for the exhibition, what were your processes?

ASH: I had been thinking for some time about reflecting on work from my past, and I came up with the idea of a One Day Retrospective as an invitation to fellow artists to come and give me their thoughts – to help me get perspective on the work and to contextualise my recent work against that I made many years ago. Part of the prompt for this was moving out of my studio at Tower House, and needing to rationalise the volume of work I’d had stored there, either to put into my loft or to throw or give away.

MD: It sounds like you had a huge amount of work to sort through, how did you decide what to display and how to display it? What was your curatorial approach?

ASH: I was limited on time to install, so it was fairly perfunctory: open up the portfolios and take a look at what was there – trying not to spend too long leafing through and reminiscing! I decided to arrange the works on paper around Arch 04 in chronological order, starting with the oldest work I’d kept from school and Foundation in the 90s, then moving through my BA and MA and the 15 years since. The time pressure meant that I had to make decisions quickly about what to exhibit. Work of interest got laid out on the floor at the foot of the wall, and work I was less interested in got piled up to either go back into portfolios for long term storage, or be thrown away. The works on paper have tended to be more ‘behind the scenes’ as my film work is usually at the forefront. I did screen my film work, but in the room a the back, so this time it occupied the background. On two long tables in the middle of the space, I laid out my sketchbooks: part of the process of making but not normally shown to others.

I asked visitors to respond to the work on show by writing on post-it notes which they stuck onto the wall, or onto the work itself.

MD: Aside from the practical benefits of clearing out your studio and sorting through your work, how did the experience of doing a One Day Retrospective impact your artistic or professional practice?

ASH: With the input from visitors, along with the physical and metaphorical perspective the show gave me, I’ve been able to see connections and themes in my work made in different periods. I’ve always described my work as being rooted in drawing, and I was able to focus much more clearly on the role of drawing in my work, through many different projects. This has led to ideas about new work, and and returning to some earlier themes, so for instance earlier this year I made a series of self-portrait drawings in ink – something I hadn’t done for a very long time, but which pushed my drawing in a new direction.

While I was setting up the show, I felt nervous about the exposure of opening up all this old work, but in fact it was empowering to curate and host on my own terms.

Exhibition opportunities most often require exhibiting work selected by other people, according to their needs, and I enjoyed how the One Day Retrospective process felt different to that – an exhibition with a professional development purpose, but one which visitors engaged with. It’s great that ‘a space’ have taken it on as a format for other artists. I’d devised it in the hope that it would act as a model which other artists could use, and I’m looking forward to seeing the shows!


One Day Retrospective is a series of exhibitions hosted by ‘a space’ arts and located at the Arches Studios. Every other month, a new artist will be invited to install their work in Arch 04 and contribute to a small program of activities and events.

Taking part in a One Day Retrospective provides the opportunity, time and space for an artist to reflect on their artistic career and receive feedback from new and established audiences. For visitors, the experience will provide a unique insight into the processes and development of an artist’s practice.

Our next One Day Retrospective will be hosted by sarah filmer on Wednesday 27th June and will be open to the public from 2pm.