Case study

Why established artist Adam chose to study a masters at Derby

Adam Neal is already an established exhibiting artist. He is Graduate Artist-in-Residence at Grand Union, Birmingham, and presented his solo exhibition, In Loving Memory Of, at Arcadia, Coventry. He is also a postgraduate student at the School of Arts.

Why Derby?

The freedom to create, the freedom to take risks and produce work that is personal - all within a supportive environment. That’s what Adam was looking for. And it’s what he found in our School of Arts.

“I’ve been given an unprecedented amount of creative licence over my own work for the first time in an educational setting,” he explains. “I don’t feel like my direction or development is being dictated by anyone but facilitated and supported. That’s a crucial part for me, as I am truly able to create work that reflects and interests me."

Adam wanted to study a Masters to enhance his technical ability and also to strengthen his research and contextualisation of his artistic practice.

A visit to one of our open days gave him an insight into what was possible. He was impressed with the facilities and equipment at our Markeaton Street site and was “inspired by the quality of work being produced”.

Photo of a man standing in front of a painted wall
Adam Neal

A supportive environment

Adam has taken this inspiration to make new, challenging and exciting work, supported by our staff and his fellow students. "We have a close-knit cohort and we relate to each other on a personal and creative level that has made the course immensely enjoyable,” he says.

"The teaching and technical staff are dynamic and responsive. They’ve improved my knowledge of studio photography and I’ve developed my studio practice so much within the space of a few months.

"They’ve helped me to look at my practice from a new perspective and through a more critical lens. They’re truly engaged in my work which in turn means I’m more invested in making it. Their knowledge of photographic processes and also contextual references have developed my understanding of my work."

A 'perfect' structure

Adam has also been impressed by the structure of postgraduate study at the School of Arts. “It works perfectly for me,” he says. “It’s mostly self-directed which, at postgraduate level, is crucial as you bring your own identity and approaches to the course. 

“The teaching has been varied and with guest lecturers, visiting artist talks, individual tutorials, group seminars and trips. Having that diversity is important, as it feeds into your practical and theoretical development in a much more engaging manner.”

Photos on a wall in an art exhibition
In Loving Memory

Adam's work

Adam is working on a project called Decorating Data. He explains: “It is an attempt to examine and interrogate ideas of conventional masculinity and working-class masculinity through the lens of my own male family members, so my father and my grandfather. 

“I'm using their occupations, the objects and environments that surround them to build up an archive of what conventional masculinity looks like and how this sits within contemporary shifts in masculine thinking and understanding." 

Close up image of a bristle brush on a black background
Close up image of a well used powerbond adhesive tube
Close up image of a well worn blue and black cardboard box branded 'Brakeworld'

Future plans

Adam is looking to stay within education after completing his MA to continue studying film and photography in-depth. He’s also looking to further develop his technical ability to support his freelance work, “as well as making me a better artist”.

Black and white image of shells, a horseshoe, animal skulls and wood

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