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2016 – A difficult year politically and globally, but on a personal level it’s been filled with a variety of projects that have made up a year rich in different experiences. Here’s an overview of my artistic year 2016:

I started the year being invited to give a talk about my practice and recent projects at Manchester’s cultural venue, HOME.

I then began a year-long collaborative project with a sculptor, Sarah Smith, and sound artist, Caro C. ‘Nature, Skin and Bones’ took us walking around the Yorkshire Dales, up hills and into caves to explore our connection with nature and the land, together with addressing our transient place in the world.

 

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The project culminated in an immersive installation at the National Parks Museum, Hawes from October – December 2016. It was an interesting collaboration as even though we took main control over our specialist parts (light, sound, sculpture) we spent a lot of time discussing the symbolism of the work, the collective effect we wanted to give upon entering the space. Caro and I had a word jam to be included in the sound work, I ensured my lighting was not merely to illuminate Sarah’s wonderful sculpture but to add to the entire effect of the piece.

Simple lighting made the moonlike drum glow from within, spotlights picked out flecks and shadows of ancient stones and a stone pool of water, plus a simple low level bulb cast shadows of the work across the space like in a cave. Visitors’ shadows would also be cast across the space, making them a fleeting part of the work. Feedback was extremely positive, many felt the space was meditative and it slowed them down to become more present and inquisitive. A longer film about the project will be presented in the new year.

 

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I had my work picked up by the popular online magazine The Creators Project and they wrote a lovely article here.

Another project that ran throughout the year was my continued work with The Stroke Association and University of Manchester, called Stroke Stories. Last year we ran a series of creative workshops covering creative writing, visual arts, photography and music (find out more here) which culminated in an exhibition at Manchester Central Library. This year I curated a third, larger exhibition of the work and project at Victoria Baths in Manchester. Find out about my curatorial process here

 

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This project won ‘highly commended’ at the University of Manchester’s Making a Difference Awards 2016. After the final exhibition I organised a symposium about the project and arts and health issues at The Whitworth Art Gallery. We had presentations from participants and artists, panel discussions including experts from Arts Council England, University research specialists, stroke consultants and NHS directors. This was an excellent round up of the project but it also started a wider conversation about the benefits of this type of work with survivors of stroke that will be continued well into the future and I’m excited to be a part of helping to implement.

 

Another continuing project is my work co-directing Manifest Arts. This year was the year between festivals (Manifest Arts Festival is biennial) so we turned our attention to a new way of manifesting (!) arts in the North West and obtained Arts Council England funding to conduct a series of interviews with artists working in the North West for our Manifest Arts Podcast series. We interviewed many artists, curators and gallery directors. Find out more and access the interviews here. The series proved so successful that we are continuing to conduct interviews for the podcasts into the new year.

 

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Also as part of Manifest Arts, we had Manifest at The Manchester Contemporary, the largest art fair of its kind in the North of England. We promoted the festival and represented and sold the work of two North West based artists we feel are creating exciting and interesting work at this time. We chose fine artist, Helen Wheeler, and fine art photographer, Lucy Ridges. Find out more about them and the Manchester Contemporary here.

 

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Manifest Arts at The Manchester Contemporary – work by Helen Wheeler and Lucy Ridges

 

In September I was fortunate to have my work DREAMERS shortlisted for the prestigious international lighting awards, the Darc Awards in the ‘Best Light Art (Low Budget)’ category.

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I also had a 2-page feature spread in international lighting design magazine, Mondo*Arc: 

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In October I had two new commissions in the Blackpool Lightpool light festival. I created a new version of ‘The Stories Under Our Feet’ for a set of eight benches in Blackpool centre. The poem works physically and thematically with the flow of people around the space:

I pass you at night

Dreaming in Parallel

Dreaming in Parallel

I pass you at night

Depending on how you moved around the piece, the poem could be read in different permutations and still make thematic sense.

 

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I also created ‘I Waited’ in response to the loneliest bench in Blackpool. A man stands looking out to sea but all that is left is his shadow. A work about love lost, anticipated or unreciprocated (depending on your viewpoint).

I was so pleased with the public response to both works, to create something that made visitors look at the often overlooked spaces anew.

 

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I met with lighting company, Megaman, to discuss my journey into becoming a light artist. They published the interview here.

I ended the year with a new work, well, a continuation of an old work that I’ve picked back up for further development. I created a Moon Book (from my Sun and Moon Book series – more to come later). The poem ‘In the wisdom of moonlight/ Nothing stays the same’ is revealed by the transient light of the full moon. I took a timelapse of the moonlight poem being projected by the light from the December 2016 super moon and created a GIF out of it. The words fade in and out and shift across the floor as the moon moves across the sky and clouds pass over – activating the poem’s transient meaning. The GIF is a never-ending loop of this timelapse to represent the constant and cyclical nature of the moon’s phases:

https://giphy.com/gifs/moonlight-light-art-elisa-artesero-2K8pfVbhp5u00

The GIF doesn’t embed so here’s the video to show the same effect (but not on never-ending loop I’m afraid!)

 

 

This year has been full of variety, which is just what I enjoy in my work. I’ve learned new things, met many new people and been so pleased with the reception to the artwork I’ve created and curated. Plans are starting to shape up for 2017 and I’m excited to see what it will bring! Happy new year!

 

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Manifest Arts Festival 2015

December 3, 2015

Manifest Poster

Manifest Poster

This July Roger Bygott, John Lynch, and I directed a city-wide (Manchester and Salford) visual arts festival:

Manifest is a visual arts festival, showcasing the talent of North West based artists in a series of exhibitions and events across Manchester and Salford.

It took place 10th-12th July 2015 and during the second weekend of the busy Manchester International Festival. The timing was deliberate so that the festival would give visitors a flavour of the creative activity going on across the two cities all year round.

The exhibitions and events in the Manifest programme were at some of Manchester’s most prestigious institutions, such as Manchester Craft and Design Centre, John Ryland’s Library, and the newly opened HOME. Artist studios across both cities were coordinated for the first time to have open studios during the festival weekend to give a closer look at the scope of art being created across the city.

This year was a pilot festival and run on the passion of its participants, and we’re so thankful for the enthusiasm and support in making it happen. We couldn’t have been more pleased by the reaction of visitors and participating artists.

Our reasons for setting up Manifest:

Roger Bygott: For me the inspiration and spirit of Manifest is about community association, trusting grassroots links and mutual encouragement. As artists practicing within this broad vibrant community we aim to help strengthen those connections and to share more widely and publicly the artistic fruits emerging from it.”

Elisa Artesero: “Many of the artists in Manifest exhibit nationally and internationally but remain based in the North West. We want to show the high standard of contemporary art being produced on our doorstop.”

John Lynch: “Artists want their work to be seen, we present the opportunity to see it.”

We even got a feature interview in a-n

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The festival was a huge success in more ways than we’d expected and we’re still receiving positive feedback about the impact it has had on participating artists’ careers. During the three days and nearly 30 different events/exhibitions artists: sold their work, had in-depth critiques with curators, they gained commissions and potential exhibitions, and were able to show their work to an audience that would not have had the opportunity to see their work otherwise.

Months down the line we got an email from Susan Gunn, one of the artists to present her work at ‘Manifest Calling’ a show and tell at HOME. She had been contacted by contemporary classical composer, Ailis Ni Riain, who was impressed by her work when she presented it at ‘Manifest Calling’, and asked if she would design the album cover for her album ‘Linger’.

The pilot festival gave us a chance to just give it a go, to test the idea of the festival and to see if it would be possible to run. The three of us had an incredibly busy weekend trying to document all the events and ensure they were running as planned. My pet project for the weekend was to try out live streaming the festival with the Periscope app to give online viewers a flavour of parts of the festival. I didn’t know how useful or popular this would be, but it turned out to be surprisingly popular, getting up to 70 live views at a time. Not bad for a fairly new piece of technology and first festival!

We ended with a closing party at media bar, Texture, which was a lovely celebration of the weekend. One of the joys for me (and I’m sure Roger and John, also) was to spend an entire weekend looking around the cities’ arts spaces, seeing fantastic contemporary artwork, having lively conversations about the artistic and cultural scene and the lives and exciting careers of those who are based here.

Although, admittedly, there was almost too much to be able to get around in one weekend, it was brilliant to have it all there to choose from, a snapshot of the kind of things that are going on (often behind closed doors of studios) all year round. To able to facilitate that in some way was an absolute pleasure, and I think we proved what we set out to do – which was to show that we live in a vibrant and thriving cultural space that needs to be showcased every so often.

As for the future of Manifest, well, watch this space.

Manifest Logo

Manifest Logo

 

All photos taken by John Lynch, and the logo and programme designed by the talented Stephanie Hamer. 

Art of Youth Group Photo

Art of Youth Group Photo

I was recently selected as a UK artist representative for the Youth in Action, Art of Youth European Commission programme held in Montenegro.

The programme brought together participants from across Europe to learn about different contemporary art practices, European Citizenship, and to create collaborative pieces of artwork to be exhibited in the open air amphitheatre in Old Bar, Montenegro.

One of the things that took me, and the other three artists from the UK and Ireland, by surprise was that not all the participants were professional artists. From the selection process we had been through here, we thought it was a prerequisite. In fact, the participants from the other European countries (mainly from the Balkans) were from many different disciplines. Some were studying and others were professionals in fields such as architecture, computer science, cognitive science, art history, graphic design, law, and youth work. This turned out to be a wonderful mix, revealing knowledge, skills and different perspectives that might not have been present had the whole group been full of fine artists. It worked for lively and interesting debate about the topics concerning European Citizenship and the politics affecting each country and collectively.

The training part of the course took the form of lectures about contemporary arts practice and seminars about sense of place and European Citizenship. Details of these and the structure of the programme can be found on the blog set up by Ion Creative’s Nancy Barrett: Same Difference.

I’m still reflecting on the full experience of my time in Montenegro and the people that I met. I came away with a feeling of such happiness with the experience, the group had gelled so well, and considering we had many strong, vibrant characters among us, there was never any conflict, just sharing and understanding.

I learnt much about the different customs in each country and the passion everyone had about keeping their own national customs and identity, but also being part of the European Union as a whole, and that this was never viewed as a dichotomy.

I’m writing this on the day of the European elections with many anti-EU parties campaigning to take the UK out of the EU, precisely because they feel the UK is somehow restricted, our culture threatened and at a disadvantage by being in the EU. The main topic that came up in the Youth in Action programme was the freedom of movement, exchange of ideas and cultural experiences that being part of the EU could afford us all. To restrict that again, in my view, is to take the UK backwards, cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Unity sunlight

Unity sunlight

The group I worked with were keen to learn about using light as an art form, and so we made two pieces of work, the first a sunlight performance piece, and the second a night-time light photography made one evening on the beach with us all running around with torches probably looking possessed to any passers-by who wouldn’t necessarily realise that we were ‘drawing with light’ to 15 second exposures.

Unity

Unity is a two-part piece of work. The first is a performance using sunlight and mirrors. Five people transmit a beam of sunlight to each other in a star pattern, finally reflecting the word ‘unity’ onto the ground of the space. The unified action shows the positive effects of collaboration and understanding between EU countries. The second part is night-time light photography which addresses differences and obstacles faced through lack of understanding and knowledge of other countries. The result is a highly stylised and abstract interpretation of these issues.

Artists: Elisa Artesero Danijela Kojic Aleksandar Dragas Marta Garcevic Natasha Jordanova Genc Hani

Other pieces of work were dancing and painting performances, installations, stop motion animation and Christo-inspired tree-wrapping.

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There were many other facets to this experience; for instance the intercultural nights, where we were introduced to the strangely popular musical genre of “Turbofolk” in the Balkans, awesome fast-food pastry dish of Burek, the fact that Bulgarians nod when they mean ‘no’ and shake their heads when they say ‘yes’, and some great ska and punk from Croatia. We also ate a lot of Montenegrin cheese. A lot of cheese.

A wonderful experience that I’ll cherish for many years.

 

Luminous Man

May 2, 2011

Here is my Luminous Man projected onto a wall. I filmed him before my Creeping Light series but hadn’t got round to doing much with him, he just appeared one day during my initial light film tests and started to dance in front of the camera, swirling around and morphing into different shaped luminous men. He’s a mystical being and has a life of his own even though I technically ‘created’ him. I intend to show the film at my next assessment exhibition, it doesn’t have sound at the moment, but this is something I will work on over the summer.

I have used the still of the luminous man to draw over and to use as a motif over other work – painting, collage and furniture. I think he’s going to become a bit of a muse to me this summer as I develop work around him; I may even get my writing skills back into gear and write a story about him as he fascinates me!

Blue Link

March 23, 2011

I am putting a call out for submissions with a blue theme for an exhibition at the Link Gallery from 4th – 8th April. The work can be of any medium but must have a dominant blue colour to it. Please send photos of the completed work you wish to install, together with dimensions and any special install requirements you may need by the submission deadline of 26th March to mmulinkgallery@hotmail.co.uk.

I will curate the exhibition but you will be required to install your own work, so must be available to do this at midday on Friday 1st April. I look forward to receiving your submissions for what I hope to be a brilliant end to this term at the Link Gallery!

 

Natural Focus Exhibition

January 20, 2011

This week saw the opening of an exhibition between myself and Fine Art student, Helen Wheeler at the Link Gallery, it is entitled ‘Natural Focus’. The work is made up mainly from films we made over the summer with a combined exhibition in mind. It consists of  Helen’s grouped TVs with films of little flowers and mushrooms gently bobbing in the wind and a projection of sun flare and clouds drifting by; and of my work which is animated projections of swift shadows flying and gradually disappearing in a meditative silent film. I also included some of my most recent work of sunlight refraction through turning glass bottles and jars, which worked with the theme but was not part of the main complementary work between myself and Helen, so this was placed in the foyer outside of the main exhibition.

The opening night drew quite a crowd, which was nice to see, and feedback on the overall layout and the work was positive with people’s ‘favourite’ parts of the work spread pretty evenly across the exhibition. I enjoyed working with Helen on this collaborative exhibition, considering our aesthetics and focus in most of our work is quite different usually, it was great to produce something so complementary for this specific project.

There is more about the work on the Link Gallery blog. Below are some pictures of the gallery set up, however as the work focuses on movement, the films must be watched to really appreciate what we were trying to achieve.

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An Interactive Start

October 2, 2010

This summer has whizzed by, I haven’t had much chance to work fully on any major projects, just a few things here and there – mainly experimenting with shadows and doings a few stop motion animations. I’ve also made some new jewellery, of which I hope to post some pictures up soon.

Most of my time has been taken up with working; I was lucky enough to be asked to write the Property pages for the London Metro newspaper for a large chunk of the summer months. It was great to get my teeth into the full-page articles; I enjoyed interviewing a range of people including architects, directors of football teams, trendy movers and shakers of Kensal Rise and (of course) estate agents. I’m happy to be writing again and hope to do some more newspaper and magazine work throughout the rest of the year.

Now to the start of university; a couple of weeks ago I started the Interactive Arts course at Manchester Metropolitan University. It’s still early days yet, but so far I’m happy with the enthusiastic tutors, my fellow students seem gregarious characters and I can’t wait to get on with some art work!

Last week we went to the Imperial War Museum North, the most memorable part was going up in a rickety lift to the ‘air’ section of the impressive building by architect Daniel Libeskind. At the top of the lift we were greeted with a long passageway flanked by metal sheets and with a floor made from some sort of grill with a view right through to the ground very far below. I didn’t think I’d be too scared, but I have to say that my knees did have an involuntary wobble at the sight and walking along was a strange experience with the wind whipping around and nothing to hold on to, even for the psychological aid! Views from the main platform were great though.

 This week we got into groups to create a themed party, my group had ‘astronauts party’ for which we covered a blacked out room with tin foil, projected a film of the moon on to one wall, played space-themed music and hung flying saucer sweets from the ceiling to play gravity-free UFO bobbing. We dressed as astronauts and baked away in the room we’d unwittingly insulated…

The conclusion to the Foundation year was the final show at MMU, for which I achieved a Distinction. Foundation are lucky enough to exhibit as part of the Degree show, and have a reputation of producing a standard of work that often is not far off some of the Degree work. The show took place across the School of Art buildings on the All Saints campus. The show was open to the public from Saturday 19th – Wednesday 23rd June 2010.

http://www.artdes.mmu.ac.uk/degreeshow/

I designed and built my space (with the help of a technician) to create an installation rather than purely showing my film, “Beware the Table” on a screen. I wanted to create an atmosphere and also to give the film some context by exhibiting the table. I decided on a small space in a purpose-built structure to create a dark tunnel-like view. The table was positioned lengthways with black walls on either side with the TV screen showing through a hole in another wall at the end of the table. On one of the side walls I hung a UV light to bring out the glowing elements on the table marks, directly opposite this I hung a mirror that I had sandblasted with shapes from the table and treated to glow under the light. The positioning of the mirror meant that the film was reflected in it also, adding another dimension. The mirror represented themes of reflection of creativity dealt with in the film and echoed the mirrored set that I had used in the animation to create a slightly different landscape for the table “world”.

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The exhibition itself was a peculiar experience. The whole School of Art was exhibiting so there was a huge amount work on show. The preview show was full of people, it was hot and you could barely move from one place to another, let alone properly view the work. I decided it was best to stand outside in the sunshine instead of hanging around my piece – there was very little space to do this anyway. The days after the preview were less busy so I had the chance to see people going to watch my work. Comments were positive and I particularly enjoyed people’s gasps of delight when they turned the corner to find my glowing table; I hadn’t seen the use of UV light anywhere else in the show so I think it was unexpected amongst more traditional lighting.

 I really enjoyed the experience of exhibiting; it’s a great feeling to show people what I’ve been working on for so long. It also felt like an appropriate conclusion to the project and the year.

 Overall, what I’ve learnt from this project is to reconnect with themes and interests I have had for many years. It has allowed me the freedom to explore, learn and refine techniques I had always been interested in (film, animation, music with visuals and sandblasting glass). The whole process has served to find a visual aesthetic to match my written work from before and throughout the course; an aim I’d hoped to achieve this year and will explore and continue throughout my further study and future career.

Beware the Table

July 12, 2010

“Beware the Table” is the film for part of my final show in Foundation. As you can probably guess, this is another offshoot of my art school table obsession.

 I’d been brainstorming ideas about other ways to develop my table project so that I could create a final piece that really exhibited all that I’d learned throughout the year and bring to the fore a final piece that showed this and was a step up from my previous work. I had a storyline that had been floating about my head for a long time but I’d never felt confident to tackle, so decided that this was the best opportunity to do it and really bring the year and project to a conclusion (I say conclusion, but I still find my table inspiring so may use it again in the future!).

 I wanted the table to come to life, similar to how I’d made little creatures grow and crawl out of it in my first stop motion animations, but to really develop it into a longer piece. My storyboard is rather sinister, but joyfully so if that is possible.

 I spent a lot of time designing different stage sets for the action to happen on the table, but none of them really worked, so I took a bit of time out from this and did some reading into psychoanalysis and artists’ connections to objects. Artists are thought to often project part of their psyche onto objects that they become fascinated with, something that I could understand; I’d developed a knowledge of, and an affection for this object and really wanted it to live, in a similar way to how children make dolls and objects come alive during play. It’s an uncanny experience and I wanted to reflect this in the final piece (I found Freud’s essay on the “Uncanny” particularly interesting as part of this research). The only way that I could really envisage making this transformation would be to use film and animation and accompany it with some sort of music/sound effects to create the eerie mood.

 The film in brief (I’d like to keep a little bit of mystery for future showings) is dream-like and sinister. It is about a literal take over of creativity, the table comes to life, its heart beats and the paint blobs move about. They change from normal paint to neon under UV light to reveal a life within the life and get sucked in to the heart. A girl working on the table also feels the effect of the creative infection…

 

 

I took rather an unconventional approach to the sound of the film, in that I decided on the sound after I had made the film. Yet it only took a few tiny tweaks to be able to match the musical beats to the visuals without changing the storyline or much of the original edit. I simply knew that I would be able to find the right music for the piece as I have a lot of electronic instrumental music. I found a tune by Lackluster called “Haloaw (xx/07/09)” from the album Showcase. It had just the right sinister quality about it and progression in the music to match the progression in each section of the film. I then mixed some of my own sound effects in to give the blobs a voice (of sorts).

A special thank you should be given to my long suffering model/actress, Anna Jordan, who happily let me apply paint in the style of the table all over her body for the film!