Carla Smith - BA (Hons) Contemporary Art Practice

Carla Smith - Contemporary Art Practice
Contemporary Art Practice student Carla Smith’s final year project focuses on the simple act of having a meal, believing this is a moment of connection and care that should be nurtured.

21 year-old Carla Smith from Edinburgh is graduating with a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Art Practice. Whilst Carla had heard Gray's was great, she'd only ever visited Aberdeen once for her interview and hadn't expected to end up here. Now that she's graduating, she says she's so glad she ended up here, describing her experience at Gray's as amazing.

“The best thing about Gray’s is the staff. With Gray’s being the size that it is, they get to know you, fast! You can tell they care, not only about your work but also about you as an individual within the School.”

“I was attracted to the Contemporary Art Practice course because of all the workshops and was really excited about the broad scope of the course. As someone who’s art practice is very multidisciplinary, this really appealed.

“Contemporary Art is diverse and exciting. Art is a powerful tool to articulate nuanced topics which can be hard to discuss in words. It’s a way of thinking about the world, and Contemporary Art brings people together in ways that do not rely on language.”

In her time at Gray’s, Carla has had so many opportunities that she never thought she’d have.

“I’ve learnt so many skills from the workshop and facilities at the School. I’ve had the opportunity to attend talks by leading practitioners through the Guest at Gray’s programme. 

“This year, I was the Communications and Engagement lead for Gray’s Contemporary Art Practice Society. I’ve organised student led workshops, social events, and even a ball! This has given me vast experience in event organisation and really built my confidence for speaking in front of large crowds. After Covid, the society was a great way to bring back the social aspect that makes Gray’s the Art School that it is.” 

Carla's efforts haven't gone unnoticed. She recently won a STAR Award from the University in recognition of her commitment and efforts within the Contemporary Art Practice Society, being nominated by her peers and staff.

Reflecting on her work, Carla says: “My art practice revolves around the ways we understand the world. I work across a multitude of processes to explore how our experiences shape what we believe.

"For my degree project, my work focuses on the act of having a meal. ‘The meal’ explores this as a moment for connection and communication. Stemming from my childhood, where all social gatherings were centred around food, I grew up making sense of the world in this rich social environment.  I believe a meal offers a moment of connection and care, that should be nurtured.

"I create tender, impractical cutlery which forces the user to slow down and not take themselves too seriously, believing that play and curiosity are crucial to an enjoyment of life. The meal provides care and sustenance in family recipes, creating chocolate cutlery and playful knitting with sweets. The meal thrives on joyous laughter as play is extended beyond childhood and offers celebration and a moment to connect."


"My work revolves around an engagement with life. Fascinated by the ways in which we exist, communicate and understand the world around us; I hope to create work which invites the audience in through both sensory and playful elements. 

"Audience engagement forms a huge part of my practice, as I hope to extend these interactions beyond simply viewing an artwork. I work across a multitude of processes, and enjoy ways of making which are tactile and often time consuming. My work is greatly shaped by this, with physical characteristics of the work being a reminder of its hand made creation.

"I believe what we experience, either confirms or challenges what we already know. From this, I explore moments which celebrate the beautiful complexities of being alive. 

Carla says Gray’s has really prepared her for life after University and opened her eyes to the opportunities available in the arts. She particularly enjoyed the creative futures modules and careers workshops on ‘Life after Art School’.

“The staff at Gray’s are amazing and there is a real sense of care, going forward after graduation. I am so thankful for my time at Gray’s and to everyone I’ve met. It’s lovely to know that this is somewhere I will always be able to remember as home.  I even completed a classroom assistant placement whilst at RGU which has given me invaluable work experience.

“It's amazing how even during something as isolating as a pandemic, Gray’s still found a way to hold onto the support and community that thrives within it. Since being back on campus, there's been a strong reminder of how wonderful all the technical tutors are. Especially when dealing with CAP students their knowledge and ability to embrace ideas and experiments is something that I know everyone in our year really appreciates, especially as we were without their wisdom for so long. The skills we have learnt and relationships we have built whilst at Gray’s, will be the fundamental building blocks for our careers as artists.”

Looking ahead, Carla says: “I've had amazing opportunities to run workshops and events at Gray's which has allowed fresh ways of thinking. I really enjoy working creatively with younger people and recently ran some children's messy play art sessions and workshops with Second Home Studio and Cafe. 

“It's exciting. I'm looking for residencies and other open call opportunities. Whilst I don’t have a set plan for the future, I’m eager to test opportunities and to find out where I'll end up! I’m part of an art collective which includes other students who’re about to graduate from Gray's. We’re working together to host workshops, an exhibition and a giant mural on Bedford Road Footbridge, Aberdeen that will be displayed at the end of June. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

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