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Warwick Stafford Fellowship Recipient - Laurence Kavanagh

In 2015, Laurence Kavanagh became the 3rd artist to secure Northumbria University’s annual Warwick Stafford Fellowship. The Fellowship provides early career artists with a package of support to develop their professional practice - including a £20,000 bursary, studio space, technical assistance, and networking opportunities with international artists and academics. We chatted to Laurence seven years on, to hear about the lasting impact on his career.

Laurence Kavanagh uses sculpture, drawing, collage, and installations to respond to ‘loaded locations’ and ‘reflect a slice of society within them’.

A graduate of Fine Art at Newcastle University, Kavanagh was motivated to ‘continue the conversation’ with the Northeast of England when he applied for the Warwick Stafford Fellowship from Northumbria University.

The financial support provided by the University allowed Kavanagh to focus fully on creating a body of work, rather than being distracted by other demands on his attention.

‘This sort of opportunity can only happen at a university like Northumbria. To not only be supported with the making of the work, with the studio, with materials, etc. but to actually be paid to do it… that’s vital. And those opportunities are very rare. As an artist, you often get taken in a number of different directions that are not always central to your core practice. And you end up with less because your energy's taken away. Whereas - with the Fellowship - I could be very focused.’

As well as financial support, the Fellowship included studio space at Baltic 39, an artists’ community run by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The studio allowed Kavanagh to embed himself in both the artistic and academic community of the region. ‘Artists work in isolation most of the time,’ he reflects, ‘so to plug into the network in Newcastle was incredible. It set up long-standing conversations that still manifest themselves in real terms today.’

Sadly, Baltic 39 is no longer operating. But Kavanagh found the set-up ideal.

‘Baltic 39 was the crossover between public art, academia, the gallery, and practice-based research. You got everyone there - from students to academics, artists, directors, curators, and the local community. You could be challenged and challenge back - it worked very well. It’s a model that exists in Europe, but we need more of in the United Kingdom.’

The result of Kavanagh’s fellowship was a substantial body of work called October, which was first displayed at Gallery North in Newcastle before being exhibited at the lauded Mostyn Gallery, the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Llandudno, Wales.

‘The Mostyn Gallery has a history of doing incredibly important shows - from Anthony Gormley's Field to the current exhibition by Cerith Wyn Evans, who is one of the foremost conceptual artists in the world. The fact I was able to do a solo exhibition there - and to be part of this long history of acclaimed artists - would not have happened if it wasn’t for the Fellowship. To have a big solo public show on that scale is a very big deal for an artist.’

This experience led to more commercial success for Kavanagh. After the solo exhibition at Mostyn, October went on to be displayed in Amsterdam and then in a commercial gallery in London called Paraffin. ‘The director at Parrafin is a former curator and it’s a very connected gallery,’ he explains. ‘That has helped my work crossover from the public sphere to commercial, which is essential for sustainable practice.’

The connections Kavanagh made through the Fellowship have proved formative in his continuing career. Currently completing a Fellowship at The Henry Moore Foundation in Leeds, Kavanagh discovered a BALTIC connection, as both the Director - Godfrey Worsdale - and Head of the Institute - Laurence Sillars - had previously held posts at BALTIC.  ‘Laurence Sillars interviewed me for this opportunity and there was a sense of the legacy of the Fellowship, an ongoing conversation,’ says Kavanagh.

After his time in Leeds, Kavanagh will be travelling to Mallorca for a residency. Kavanagh is in no doubt about the lasting legacy of the Warwick Stafford Fellowship on his career. Following a break over Covid, the artist is quickly regaining momentum, something that would have been more difficult if not for the connections - and work - he created with Northumbria University.

The Warwick Stafford Fellowship was made possible by a generous donor honouring their passion for art and making a gift in their will. This generosity has had an indelible impact on both the lives of the individual artists and the art world.

You, too, can leave a lasting legacy. If you would like to know more about making a gift in your will - or sponsoring a scholarship - contact Peter Storey (


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