A Different Kind of Studio: Reflecting on the open studio and the artist-teacher

Dr Daniel Mafe and Charles Robb
2014 Conference

For more than 15 years, QUT’s Visual Arts discipline has employed a teaching model known as the ‘open studio’ in their undergraduate BFA program. Distinct from the other models of studio degrees in Australia, the open studio approach emphasizes individual practice by focusing on experimentation, collaboration and cross-disciplinary activities. However, while this activity proves to be highly relevant to exploring and participating in the ‘post medium’ nature of much contemporary art, the open studio also presents a complex of affecting challenges to the artist-teacher. The open studio, it can be argued, produces a different type of student than traditional, discipline-specific art programs – but it also produces a different kind of artist-teacher.

In this paper, the authors will provide a reflection on their own experiences as artists and studio lecturers involved with the two ‘bookends’ of the QUT studio program – first year and third year. Using these separate contexts as case studies, the authors will discuss the transformative qualities of the open studio as it is adapted to the particularities of each cohort and the curricular needs of each year level. In particular, the authors will explore the way the teaching experience has influenced and positively challenged their individual (and paradoxically) discipline-focused, studio practices. It is generally accepted that the teaching of art needs to be continually reconceptualised in response to the changing conditions of contemporary art, culture and technology. This paper will articulate how the authors have worked at that reconceptualisation within both their teaching and studio practices and so practically demonstrate the complex dialogic processes inherent to the teaching of the visual arts studio.

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About the author

Dr Daniel Mafe is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts and coordinator of the MFA (Research) for the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. He studied and exhibited in London from 1979 until 1990 and since his return to Australia he continues to exhibit regularly. He currently shows with Jan Manton Art in Brisbane. His research interests include creative practice-led research, contemporary visual art with a strong focus on abstraction in painting, and, affect and Lyotard. In 2010 he completed a practice-led PhD entitled Rephrasing Voice: Art, Practice-led Research and the Limits and Sites of Articulacy.


Charles Robb is currently a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane where he also holds the position of Undergraduate Coordinator in Visual Art. He has been a practicing artist for almost two decades and his work has been seen in numerous group and solo exhibitions at venues including MONA (Hobart), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney) an the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia (Melbourne). His research interests include contemporary sculpture, self-portraiture and generative studio methodologies. He is represented by Dianne Tanzer + Projects in Melbourne.