Peer Sessions is a London-based nomadic crit group founded in 2009 by artists Kate Pickering and Charlotte Warne Thomas, after graduating from Goldsmiths MFA. We provide inclusive and supportive crit sessions for contemporary artists, offering a safe place to discuss contemporary art at postgraduate level. As experienced artists and educators, we use our unique approach to facilitate the generation of constructive feedback and engage with current concerns in art and society.
In addition to hosting our own open-door crits, Peer Sessions work with partner organisations to deliver our particular method of generating discussion to invited artist and student groups. We have also produced a number of collaborative projects funded by Arts Council England, focussed on facilitating and supporting artistic collaboration.
Check homepage for details of the next Peer Session. For open-door sessions, simply come along; for sessions hosted by partner organisations, you may need to book.
Insta: @peersessions #peersessions
Peer Sessions was founded in 2009 by friends Kate Pickering and Charlotte Warne Thomas, after graduating from the Goldsmiths MFA programme into the midst of the financial crisis, as a way to sustain our artistic community outside of the institution. We soon realised that the booming art world of the 2010s was becoming further out of reach, and that we would have to build our own networks to support each other if we wanted to survive as artists.
We arranged a monthly meet up as an informal get-together, to talk about our work with like-minded artists and peers, and we just kept going. Over the years our remit expanded to include residencies, exhibitions, educational and collaborative workshops for artists, and educational events, facilitating public engagement in contemporary art. We have worked with numerous partners and venues in London including Chisenhale Gallery, Studio Voltaire Associates, South Kiosk, Enclave Projects, AltMFA, Guest Projects, Deptford X, ASC Gallery, Lewisham ArtHouse, Art Licks Weekend, Cass Arts and Banner Repeater, plus Focal Point Gallery (Southend), Channel Sundays (Hamburg, DE) and Goldsmiths Careers Service.
Peer Sessions has twice been awarded Grants for the Arts funding from Arts Council England (ACE) for commissioning collaborative work from emerging artists. In 2014, an exhibition based on a series of workshops, Who Thinks the Future? was shortlisted for the Workweek prize for innovative exhibition practice. In 2016 Peer Sessions was granted funding for a collaborative project which commissioned pairs of artists to create innovative works in time-based media. The completed commissions were presented at the exhibition Future Refrains, and the performance day Collaboration in Question, at ASC Gallery in September 2017.
Apart from our two ACE-funded projects, we primarily run Peer Sessions on a voluntary basis, mostly working unpaid. Thirteen years later we are still friends and still practicing artists based in SE London. We are both now mothers, and working on completing practice-based PhDs in Fine Art, Kate at Goldsmiths (CHASE-funded), and Charlotte at Kingston University (Techne-funded). We are both still committed to continuing Peer Sessions' vital work in supporting artists' peer-led education and inclusive engagement with contemporary art.
Talks, Lectures and More...
2021 - Chisenhale Gallery - guest crit facilitators
2020 - Cass Arts student art prize crits, Cass Arts, London
2018 - Panel; Building Artistic Communities, Goldsmiths, London
2017 - Peer Session for UAL Student Union, guest crit facilitators, Cass Arts, London
2016 - Talk, guest crit facilitators; Channel Sundays, Hamburg, DE
2016 - New York Alternative Art Schools Fair, represented by AltMFA, New York, USA
2016 - Expedition Medora at Maximilians Forum, Munich
2016 - Lecture; BA Photography, Portsmouth University, London
2014 - Talking about Contemporary Art; public workshops, ArtHouse, London
2013 - Talking about Contemporary Art; public workshops, ASC Gallery, London
Peer Sessions follow a silent crit model; the presenting artist initially provides relevant practical details (title, media, context) about their work, and then remains silent while they listen to the feedback generated during the discussion. This gives the opportunity to hear unmediated and honest reactions to the art, and build a nuanced and dynamic collective response. For our open-door sessions, we invite two artists to show work, usually to around 10-25 participants. An hour-long discussion of each artists' work is separated with a break for socialising and refreshments.
Sessions are facilitated by Charlotte and Kate (or occasionally selected guest artists), who moderate the discussions using an established pedagogical technique based on Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). This ensures that artists receive helpful and productive feedback and fosters an inclusive, neutral and anti-hierarchical environment, where everyone's contribution is welcomed and valued.
Thus far over 100 artists have presented work for discussion at our sessions, with practices ranging from curatorial and publishing projects to live performance, installation, video and painting. Any practicing artist is welcome to attend our open-door Peer Sessions to participate in the discussion. We ask that all artists wishing to present work attend at least one Peer Session before expressing an interest (contact us on email or socials). Please note, some of our sessions for host organisations have limited capacity or are invite only - check the website for details.
Until the first Covid19 lockdown, Peer Sessions open-door meetings were held every few months at 7pm on a weekday evening. We are adjusting this schedule in view of the changes in our working and personal lives - future sessions will continue to be posted on the main page of the website.
Feedback from Artists
“Just wanted to say thanks so much for Peer Session last night - we remarked how unusual it is to benefit from such close and constructive scrutiny of work outside/beyond the college setup, i.e. out there in the real world! Peer Sessions is a generous idea thoughtfully executed."
“Thank you to everyone... people's comments were very well engaged with the work and will prove extremely useful to me."
“Thanks so much for the great Peer Session. It's helped me step back a bit from the work (which I really needed) and consider the structure more. Thanks for bringing the equipment and booking the room. I think Peer Sessions is fantastic. Congratulations... it's an impressive feat!"
“Thank you everyone for your interesting, inspiring and insightful feedback - very much appreciated."
“Thank you all for the crit - it was wonderful!! Very inspiring, galvanising and encouraging!"
“A really inspiring Peer Session tonight, really helpful feedback on work that I was not at all sure about and now feel very happy with. Thanks Kate Pickering and Charlotte Warne Thomas for organising and everyone else who came."
“Thank you so much to all who braved the elements last night and attended the session. I really enjoyed both discussions and the feedback about my work. I'm relatively new to the group and really appreciate the whole concept. It was lovely to meet... and see work, not just on the screen. Thank you Kate and Charlotte for inviting me."
We strive to be aware of and encourage justice within the racially and colonially exploitative art world. In the interests of transparency we are two white, female, cis women, disabled and non-disabled, from educated middle class backgrounds. We both use pronouns she/her/hers and are members of Artists' Union England.