Outer Spaces

Venice Fellowship

Earlier this year we began working with the British Council as a partner on their Venice Fellowships programme. From a

national open call to Outer Spaces studio holders and affiliated artists, Edinburgh based artist, Rachel Hutchison was

selected as Outer Spaces Fellow. She will embark on her journey to Venice in August 2024.

The Venice Fellowships programme is a unique opportunity for creative individuals to spend a month at the Venice Biennale. Rachel joins a cohort of 66 Fellows who will conduct a self-directed research project alongside engaging with international visitors as Exhibition Ambassadors at the British Pavilion during John Akomfrah's exhibition Listening All Night To The Rain.

Catch-up with Outer Spaces Fellow, Rachel Hutchison 

We caught up with Rachel ahead of her trip to Venice.

What have you been focusing on in the studio since you were selected for the Fellowship?

Since being awarded the Fellowship, it’s given me such a burst of motivation, to keep going and create. One highlight was completing my first large-scale figurative painting since graduating. This piece and a few others were recently showcased at the Wester Hailes Open Exhibition, in collaboration with Westside Art Base, The GOSSIP collective, The Working Class Creative Database and Outer Spaces. The exhibition marked a significant moment as it was my first public display since my graduate show in 2022.

How have you begun to prepare for your time in Venice? 

It's been a blend of introspection, reflection, lots of thinking and some practical skill-building.

In terms of practical skills, I recently participated in a course led by Gillian Murphy at Edinburgh Printmakers on painterly-screen prints. This is part of my preparation for exhibiting, and for replicating images for publication, posters etc. I'm drawn to the tactile quality of handcrafted images, a sensation that digital art often lacks. 

Rachel Hutchison, Wester Hailes Open Exhibition, Edinburgh

As the spring heats up and summer approaches I will be taking to the streets of Edinburgh and surrounding areas to begin dusting off and practising figurative drawing ‘en plein air’. But for now, I'm rekindling my life-drawing skills through ‘Reconfiguration’ classes at Summerhall, aiming to refine my ability to doodle the human form. I’m planning on embracing the Venetian summer and spending time drawing and capturing how people are making themselves comfortable and taking up space in the environment.

Studio wall, Outer Spaces Wester Hailes, Edinburgh

I've been delving into fundamental questions, exploring their resonance and significance to me. In a recent mentoring session, I was prompted to contemplate what unique experiences and perspectives I bring to Venice as an individual. This introspective journey led me to confront questions of identity and representation, particularly in terms of labelling myself as a 'Queer artist.' It's a complex and deeply personal exploration. Straight after the mentor session, I was left with a feeling I had to try and figure out why I felt so much about labelling myself, and in fact just sharing this part of myself. I let myself write some words out to explain to myself what was going on. It was a narrative about othering, about having to come out again and again every time I meet someone new, and not knowing how they are going to perceive that aspect of myself and if it is indeed the only thing they now see. 


I brought this to my counsellor, and we had a magically awkward and funny 5 straight minutes of giggling because she shared with me that she too is part of the acronym (LGBTQ+). This isn’t the only thing I see in her, but knowing it is a part of her made her much more colourful in my mind (bearing in mind that counselling is part of the profession that self-disclosure should be kept to a minimum) 


I’m not sure how I feel about this now. I think I'm still sitting with it as it is, and it may move and change, it may stay the same, but I'm so looking forward to meeting others to talk about otherness, and how they are othered. My art has had a central theme of connecting for a while and it has taken me until now to figure out that what I'm really talking about and exploring is community. What is community? Why is it so necessary to humanity? And why is it so clumsy and awkward and missed by society now? 

The outline for your initial project included taking inspiration from your surroundings in Venice, considering the emotional journeys, displacement, and shifting identities you encounter along the way. Have your plans evolved or changed at all since you made your application?

My project for Venice has begun to shift, with a newfound emphasis on storytelling. At the start of this journey, I felt a lot of pressure in terms of creating the most perfect, thought-provoking project of my career so far. I decided that wasn't the most helpful method and have since clarified what shape the visual outcome will take. Recognising August in Venice as a sinking sunny island of diverse narratives, I'm shifting my focus towards facilitating the collection of these stories. I'm beginning to embrace the role of being a listener, making space for, and sitting with the voices of people (and myself). Ultimately it is the people I will meet, their stories and feelings of otherness that will spark how I process and create a visual outcome. 

I have no idea what will come up for me emotionally while living in a new city, undertaking what feels like my first professional artistic role, and meeting and connecting with so many others. I'm beginning to embrace the unknowing of it all and I'm really excited about that aspect, particularly as I'm usually a person much more driven by a visual outcome yet this time I don't know what it's going to look like.

Wakey wakey, Rachel Hutchison. Screen print on card.

What do you plan to focus on in the studio over the next few months?

I plan on testing out this process of facilitating listenings and then creating visuals, with the people around me. I will be asking those who are in my shared Outer Spaces studio, my family and friends and anyone who wants to get involved.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Header image: Because I fear it is the only thing you will see, and yet you cannot see me without it, Rachel Hutchison. Letterpress on seeded paper.

Look out for updates on Rachel's experience as Outer Spaces Fellow on our social media.

Full details of the Venice Fellowships programme can be found on the British Council's website here.

Listening All Night To The Rain, John Akomfrah’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion will run from 20 April – 24 November 2024. More details here.

Find out more about Rachel Hutchison