Alumni Services

Karen Guthrie

Karen Guthrie found her mind opened whilst studying at ECA and now works in partnership with a fellow graduate on projects as diverse as a permanent harvest garden and a documentary about the Tudors.

Name Karen Guthrie
Degree Course BA Printmaking
Year of Graduation 1991
Karen Guthrie

Your time at the University

I chose ECA because I was interested to try my hand at several subjects it specialised in at the time - glass and tapestry and in fact I did a year in the latter before turning to printmaking for my degree. And I loved the city and the art college sculpture court full of dusty old statues - who didn’t?!

Printmaking was at this time, in an industrious and intense workshop near the Botanics, alongside post-grad painters, and this was an influential time for me to be amongst mature and motivated artists, to observe them and talk to them. It gave me a sense of both the challenges and delights of being an artist in one’s studio. I loved the camaraderie and the facilities (and lunches cooked on site!) were fantastic. I also had some brilliant tutors - Marcus Rees-Roberts and Elspeth Lamb, and Liz Ogilvie all come to mind. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing or why (I was just 17 when I enrolled) I was encouraged to keep going, to keep on making - and this tenacity has been the most important lesson I learnt in maintaining my self-belief as an artist.

I made lifelong friends and creative collaborators at college -Including Nina Pope (see below) who I met then over the etching baths! The college clearly instilled a strong work ethic in general, as when I survey the careers of many of my fellow students of the time there are lots of notable achievements.

I enjoyed the student union side of life too, going on marches often with rather spectacular home-made costumes and banners, and doing a memorable ‘sit-in’ overnight at the College in protest to student loans.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I’m lucky - and bloody-minded! - enough to have sustained a career as a professional artist since leaving the Royal College of Art, where I did my MA immediately after leaving ECA.

With my fellow ECA graduate Nina Pope - with whom I have made work since the mid-nineties - we founded our organisation 'Somewhere' in 2002 having made several innovative online art projects in the early nineties, including A Hypertext Journal, now hailed as an influential prototype for what became the Blog.

We are interested in the widest possible application of our creativity to the public realm, which is why our projects range in medium and scale so much.

I enjoyed the student union side of life too, going on marches often with rather spectacular home-made costumes and banners, and doing a memorable ‘sit-in’ overnight at the College in protest to student loans.

Karen Guthrie

We won the first Northern Art Prize in 2008 and have completed many major public realm commissions for Tate Modern, the BBC, Grizedale Arts and latterly Cambridge University, amongst others, and our work has taken us to some fascinating places.

Projects have ranged from devising a permanent harvest garden in East London (What Will the Harvest Be? 2009) to a ‘cob’ (mud) site-specific sculpture (Tomorrow, Today, 2014). We have also made three feature documentaries together, Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid of the Future (2005), Living with the Tudors (2007) and Jaywick Escapes (2010), all of which delve deep into little-known communities and their stories.

I am presently artist-in-residence with Hauser & Wirth Somerset and am just completing my solo directorial debut, The Closer We Get, a documentary made with and about my family, following my mother’s stroke. A departure from my other work in being deeply autobiographical, I was elated to raise post-production finance from over 300 crowd-funding backers - including many old friends from University I’m pleased to say!

I feel very fortunate to have been able to make a living out of being curious about the world, being open to new experiences and working hard. My time at university nurtured and rewarded these qualities in me, and they’ve served me ever since.

Alumni wisdom

My oldest niece has just enrolled on the Fine Art BA so I choose to believe that my positive experiences at ECA informed her choice!

Work hard and take advantage of everything that comes your way. Cherish your focused time there - life gets so much more distracting when you’re out in the real world!

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