University of Leicester eBulletin

Artist in Residence at University Arts Centre

May 2003
No 137

[Photo: Karen Welsh] The anonymous ceramic objects on her studio shelf are small and rather delicate, with a harmonious symmetry. The group of interested people gazing at them seem slightly stunned to find they are of pigs’ ovaries. But to Karen Welsh, Ceramic Sculptor and current Artist in Residence at the University of Leicester Richard Attenborough Centre, this mix of anatomy, science and art is one of the fundamental influences in her work.

Karen has been awarded a bursary as part of a national programme of artists’ residencies co-ordinated by The Art House in collaboration with partner organizations and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. These residencies have been specifically created to help disabled and non-disabled artists to access paid work opportunities.

The Richard Attenborough Centre is an arts centre which is open to everyone and which strives to provide maximum access for people with disability. The purpose of this three-month residency is to enable Karen Welsh to produce a body of new work culminating in a significant solo exhibition, as well as to create opportunities for the public, artists and university students to interact with a practising artist. Running until the end of May 2003, the residency also involves working with new audiences, including women from the Ni’mah Centre in Leicester through an Adult Learners’ Week Activity Grant from the European Social Fund.

The daughter of a doctor, Karen Welsh grew up with medical journals and medical images, and developed an interest in how the body works and its parts react together. In exploring this, and other issues, through the medium of ceramics she was aware of the potential to shock.

Karen commented: “The strength of my images shocked people to the extent that the original meaning of the work was partially lost. Creating work with a strong element of beauty, with a hidden angle, attracted the audience to visually and intellectually interact with the work.”

Engineering and the physical sciences also play a part in Karen Welsh’s work. A ceramic piece showing a tangled, yet choreographed, mass of bodies was actually constructed through virtual reality techniques previously only used as an industrial process. She is very interested in developing this further and plans to incorporate virtual and digital techniques in her work, while also, conversely, working from life and using traditional sculpture skills to create something more technical.

Other influences on Karen’s art include cultural concepts, issues around the body, physical form and gender, stereotypes (often hidden) and ancient mythologies. She is fascinated by the transience of history and the interaction between the male and female psyche. She feels resistance exists around the traditional English viewpoint that clay represents craft, rather than a sculptural medium.

Intra -, a solo exhibition of new work arising from Karen Welsh’s residency, will run at the Richard Attenborough Centre, University of Leicester, until Friday, July 11, 2003. There will be a viewing and reception with the artist on Saturday, May 31, between 4 pm and 6 pm.

Biographical Note:

Karen Welsh originally studied Chemistry, but felt the theoretical subject lacked room for personal creativity. She subsequently read art at the University of the West of England, graduating in 2000. As part of her degree course she studied at the Kunst Akademie in S-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, on a SOCRATES placement. There she felt inspired by her teachers and able to express herself freely. She worked for a while with the Dutch artist Thom Puckey, as his assistant at the European Work Centre for Ceramics, where he created two large-scale ceramic sculptures to international acclaim.

Karen is currently on a studio programme at the Yorkshire Artspace in Sheffield, and is artist in residence at the University of Leicester Richard Attenborough Centre.

She has applied for an Arts Council Grant to work with arts and engineering and has further plans to work with the Loughborough University, Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department on an exploratory project.

NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information on the exhibition or on the Richard Attenborough Centre please contact Tim Feasey, Richard Attenborough Centre, University of Leicester, tel. 0116 252 2455, fax 0116 252 5165, email

The Art House is a membership organisation for visual artists and craftspeople that is dedicated to creating equality of opportunity for people with and without disabilities. For further information, please contact David Gilbert at The Art House on 01302 368555.

Further information is available from Karen Welsh who can be contacted via Tim Feasey at the Richard Attenborough Centre, tel 0116 252 2455, fax 0116 252 5165, email

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