Dreaming 2017

January 2, 2018

Tonight We Dream by Elisa Artesero, 2017 (photo credit Nikolas Grabar)

2017 – another trying and turbulent year politically and globally. Reflecting on my own artistic projects however, it’s been a richly rewarding, varied and interesting year. Here’s my overview:

The Garden of Floating Words, Elisa Artesero 2017 (photo credit Stephen Iles)

The year got off to a fantastic start with my commission for the Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival in London. The Garden of Floating Words is a cluster of glowing neon words forming a poem that appears to be floating in the dark amongst the foliage of Jubilee Gardens. I was overwhelmed by the positive public response. So many people stopped to contemplate the poem, and take pictures which were shared across social media. I also created my ‘Dreaming Bench’ as a little extra – this was almost as popular as the main work! Surprising, as it was something people had to find, but find it they did!

Dreaming Bench, Elisa Artesero 2017 (photo credit Stephen Iles)

In February I travelled to Iceland! There, I created mountainside projection piece ‘Tonight We Dream’ at List i Ljosi Festival in Seydisfjordur, East Iceland. I was so inspired by the place that  I wrote new poetry and projected it at other locations around the town, some static projections on houses, others temporary pop up poems on a walk around the town with a portable projector. I also visited Reykjavik the days that it had the most snowfall in over 60 years – it was a truly magical experience!

Tonight We Dream, Elisa Artesero

Snowflake, Elisa Artesero 2017

I had two artist retreats to the province of Burgos in Northern Spain to a little hideaway in the mountains; once in Spring and another in Autumn. This is part of some ongoing development work, here’s a couple of preview pictures that don’t give too much away!

More Shadow Than Form, Elisa Artesero, 2017

Sunlight on Chair, Elisa Artesero 2017

In July, together with colleagues and fellow artists, John Lynch and Roger Bygott, we ran the second biennial Manifest Arts Festival! This year we were delighted to have the support of Arts Council England with one of their Grants for the Arts. We showcased over 250 artists in open studios, events and exhibitions for 5 FULL days across venues in Manchester, Salford and Bolton. This was a particular highlight of the year as it was a fantastic celebration of the arts scene in the region and we were so pleased to be able to pull it all together. Watch the video below!

Manifest Arts Logo

 

Another fantastic project that I was involved in was my continued work with The Stroke Association and University of Manchester. For this project I devised and delivered a series of art workshops for stroke survivors and medical students. More on the work in this article. Also here’s the video that explains what happened and shows some of the workshops in action!

 

This year was quite a year of travel, together with my trips to Spain and Iceland, I also went to Eindhoven in Holland, and Berlin in Germany – places I hadn’t visited previously, so it was inspiring to see the arts being produced there.

In September I was honoured to be shortlisted for Best Light Art at the Darc Awards for The Garden of Floating Words!

 

Ending the year, and continuing on into 2018, I am on the AA2A Artist Residency at Sheffield Hallam University. Here I’ll be doing some development work around spacial themes and have been placed within the Interior Design section for the duration. I look forward to revealing more as I make it!

So, there’s an overview of what I’ve been up to throughout 2017! I can’t wait for the exciting things 2018 has to offer. Thank you to all of my collaborators, commissioners, grants givers and supporters throughout the year, it’s thanks to you that I can continue to make my artwork. Happy New Year!

 

 

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Throughout 2015 I worked on a project with stroke survivors. I ran a set of visual arts workshops and curated the final exhibitions: one at Manchester Central Library, and the other at Manchester Museum. It was a wonderful experience and I feel privileged to have been through the process to help facilitate some of the workshops and to be able to curate the final exhibitions to help to tell these survivors’ stories.

About the project:

The Stroke Association and The University of Manchester ran creative workshops with 15 stroke survivors across a 9-month period in 2015. These focused on creative writing, visual arts and photography. The interactive workshops brought together stroke survivors, artists, filmmakers, clinicians, researchers and students from the University of Manchester and Salford Royal hospital.

Personal and collective stories of life before and after a stroke are told through the survivors’ artistic interpretations. Many of the survivors were shown the brain scan of their stroke. They were talked through their individual scans by leading stroke consultant, Professor Pippa Tyrell and NIHR Clinician Scientist Dr Adrian Parry-Jones, who explained the areas of the brain that were affected by the stroke and answered any questions they had. This was often an emotional moment and many of the survivors used this experience to create artistic responses and explore their feelings towards the journey from having a stroke to the lives they now live.

The Manchester Central Library exhibition, as part of The Manchester Science Festival, gave a more personal insight into a complex and often devastating condition. It is, however, also to show that there is potential for an enriching and positive life after stroke.

The pop-up exhibition and mask-making workshop at Manchester Museum on World Stroke Day was as a result of a special workshop I led during the project. Participants were given a tour of the Museum’s mask collection then they were given coloured tissue paper, glue and scissors to create masks that would reflect different emotions. Masks were made to represent or cover up emotions and also to promote positive emotions.

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With thanks to the survivors who created these personal and expressive pieces of artwork:

Peter Osbourne, Keila Moore, Peter Wright, Raymond Garner, Paul Edgerton, Mary Davis, Janette Kirkham, Debbie Concagh, Mark Pizey, George Shone, Janet Stoppard, Carol Banks, Ann Williams, Michaela Holden, Graeme Snell

Also many thanks to the other workshop leaders – Caroline Edge for photography, and Janet Rogerson for creative writing. Special thanks to Joyce Booth and the volunteers from the Stroke Association for helping to coordinate and facilitate all of the workshops, and to Dr Stephanie Snow, who has led the project and is using this as research for her work on documenting the History of Stroke.

A video of the project:

 

Light Holds Me Here exhibition (photo credit S.Illes)

Light Holds Me Here exhibition (photo credit S.Iles)

This year I made what only existed in my mind into a reality. There’s not much more an artist can ask for, really! Here’s a recap of my artistic year gone by.

In January my degree piece ‘Leap and the Net Will Appear’ was still on show as part of the Nesta Art Showcase, selected from a national call out to be exhibited in central London at the Nesta gallery space.

Leap and the Net Will Appear

Leap and the Net Will Appear

In February I continued to be part of the DIY Art School, a year-long project by art school graduates wishing to continue the momentum of creative learning in the year after graduation. For this we had weekly meetings and scheduled artist talks, workshops and crits.

March saw the success of DIY Art School continue as I was asked to represent the group by giving a speech at the opening of Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces, Federation House. I was pretty honoured to be speaking along side the likes of Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery.

Jumping ahead to May and I was selected as one of the UK representative artists for the ‘Art of Youth’ Youth in Action European Commission project in MontenegroThe 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. As well as being creatively stimulating and getting to exhibit in such an unusual space, I also made many friends that I’m still in contact with today.

Unity sunlight

Unity sunlight

I was over the moon to get Arts Council England funding in June for ‘Light Holds Me Here a period of research and development of my practice to help to fuse my two creative backgrounds of light art and writing. This project helped to shape the rest of the year as I was working towards a solo exhibition and to show work in the Faroe Islands later in the year. I also started working with Curated Place, who supported my application and my progress throughout the year.

 

 

In July I also began a new research project, Manifest, with fellow artists, John Lynch and Roger Bygott. This also received Arts Council England funding and allowed us to look into the feasibility and planning of a festival that supported North West based artists and would run alongside the Manchester International Festival in 2015.

September was a red-letter kind of a month for me. I was honoured to have been selected as Tim Marlow’s Curator Choice for Fine Art for NOISE Festival 2014. I went to the press launch at the House of Commons and found out that my winning entry ‘Sun Scroll‘ was to be exhibited at the Manchester Buy Art Fair, then at the Tetley in Leeds and also a picture of it was placed on a plinth and exhibited on London’s South Bank for nearly 3 months!

I was also awarded ‘Outstanding’ for my ‘Sun Bowl’ and ‘Excellent’ for ‘Leap and the Net Will Appear’ for NOISE Festival by the CEO Denise Proctor.

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Sun Scroll picture on plinth on the South Bank, London

 

Alongside this, I exhibited my final work for Light Holds Me Here developed over the summer in a solo exhibition of the same name at Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces. An absolute dream of an experience and I was really pleased with the great feedback from visitors.

Light Holds Me Here

Light Holds Me Here self portrait in the installation

 

In October I developed and delivered a series of expressive drawing and working with words workshops with stroke survivors for the Stroke Association. This was a new experience for me and I was pleased that the participants enjoyed it too and created some amazing artwork in the process.

Stroke Association Workshop

Stroke Association Workshop

Curated Place took me to Copenhagen and then the Faroe Islands in November. In the Faroes I exhibited a poem installation,Ambiguous Borders together with a poem written in response to mine by Faroese poet, Oddfridur Marni Rasmussen, at the light art and literature festival, Bóka Dagar. I also had the generous support of fellow light artist, Ulf Pederson, as he enabled me to project more of my poetry onto the buildings of the Faroese National Broadcasting house.

'Ambiguous Borders' exhibited in the Faroe Islands

‘Ambiguous Borders’ exhibited in the Faroe Islands

December was another busy month as I was chosen as one of Red Bull Studios’ ‘Red Bull Collectives 2014. For this I got to collaborate with award-winning photographer, Layla Sailor, to creative an exhibition ‘Fragment|Reflect’ at the Red Bull Studios on Tooley Street, central London.

'You Hide in Spaces' at Fragment|Reflect, Red Bull Studios

‘You Hide in Spaces’ at Fragment|Reflect, Red Bull Studios

To end the month and year, I was awarded another Arts Council England Grants for the Arts grant to create new piece of work, A Solid Wish Scatters for the Enlighten Manchester festival of Light Art. I exhibited one of my largest pieces of work yet in the centre of Manchester in Piccadilly Gardens.

I couldn’t have wished for a more positive end to the year and I thank all my colleagues, sponsors and supporters who all helped to make it actually happen.

A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here' Sun Bowl

‘Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here’ Sun Bowl

I was invited to exhibit my ‘Sun Bowls’ at the ‘If Not Here Where‘ exhibition at the Didsbury Parsonage 7th-21st July 2013 to coincide with the Manchester International Festival. The exhibition was both inside the Parsonage and outside in the gardens and had a twofold approach in theme, one concentrating on if not here, then where else would you be? And the other, more contemplative theme focusing on our existence and contemporary life.

Each handmade bowl had part of a Zen poem etched onto the glass. The appearance of the words shifted in the changing sunlight, helping to give a different experience of the bowls for visitors throughout the day. I was pleased to find visitors returning to view the bowls at different points of the day to see them change appearance in the light.

Abstraction and Reflection

Abstraction and Reflection

During the exhibition, the artists were able to take up residence in the space and gardens to create more work or just be inspired by the surroundings. I was so pleased to be afforded the space and time to just experiment and focus on my practice in a very intuitive manner with no planned or expected outcome.

I found the gardens most inspiring and decided to make some temporary interventions using some of my existing work. I wanted to see how my work looked in a different context to the gallery spaces I often show in, and also to see whether the interventions inspired new work or gave new insights to the existing pieces.

Colour Blocking

Colour Blocking

I started with some coloured Perspex squares I’d been enamoured with the colour of but hadn’t previously found a purpose for. I placed them in the grass, in crevices in the trees and along the stone walls to create abstract pictures and contrasting textures. While I was working I had in mind Matisse’s ‘The Snail’ and his idea of drawing in the colour by using brightly coloured pieces of paper painted with gouache, mine, more rigid squares of plastic. I couldn’t help but make a little snail of my own as a kind of homage to the influence!

The Snail

The Snail

Looking over my square work now, I see that I was creating a little invasion of my squares which echoed fellow exhibitors’ work, Rusby and Long with their ‘Invasion’ of plain white pyramid blocks shifted by visitors around the site. My invasion was tracked only by photography which gives an impression of the site being filled with coloured squares but only really affected by six, whereas the real ‘Invasion’ consisted of a large number of pyramids.

Zen Pathway

Zen Pathway

I was intrigued by the large patch of wild flowers that sprung up in the middle of the gardens to create a beautiful picture of summer time bliss. For days I wondered if I could do anything with them and kept being stumped because they were so beautiful. The one day I brought in my poem lasercut out of wood “Everything must end/ Thus the day tries to begin/ Nothing here but dreams” and placed it gently on top of the flowers so as to be careful not to harm or break them. It immediately brought the poem to life and the summer wind animated the flowers and poem with a soft sway from side to side.

I also hung my previous ‘Happiness’ piece from a tree. It looked almost invisible from some angles until the wind blew and made it turn and reflect the sunlight. I initially put it on a tree in a pathway to take some pictures but moved it quite quickly because it was difficult to see until you were really up close. The other artists joked that there was something quite significant about people literally ‘walking into happiness’ but thought it best not to cause a hazard!

Walking into happiness

Walking into happiness

Reflecting on my residency, I found that even though I was often just casually playing in the space, working intuitively and to no definite end, I still kept to my intrinsic values reflected in most of my work. I like work with a temporal quality to it, there one moment, enjoyed for a time, and then gone again. It can exist in numerous states, physical at the time of making, then captured by photograph or film, or, as in the case of my ‘Sun Scroll‘ and ‘Sun Bowls‘, at specific times of the day depending on the weather.

I also enjoyed the experience of being around other artists in the peaceful atmosphere of the gardens, gaining valuable input from new people at different stages in their careers. It was a supportive and creative time for everyone, and much needed at the start of the summer after the whirlwind of my previous shows.

IA13 Degree Show

July 31, 2013

End of degree number two! I was lucky to have three pieces in the show; two in the main Interactive Arts show, and one specially commissioned piece by the Manchester School of Art for the roof terrace on the new building.

This year I used Zen poetry as my main influence because its philosophy of constantly asserting the transience of our existence is something I wanted from my artwork. I feel that light has this transient quality through its visibility and invisibility which could then be used to visually activate the meaning of the poetry. With this in mind, I defined my project as creating a modern Zen scroll.

Sun Scroll at midday

Sun Scroll at midday

‘Sun Scroll’ is a Zen poem revealed by sunlight. It addresses themes of transience, emphasised by the transient sunlight. The projected words appear differently throughout the day and year depending on the angle of the sun.

'Leap And The Net Will Appear'

‘Leap And The Net Will Appear’

‘Leap and the net will appear’ is a Zen saying that I appropriated into a piece of text art activated by light. You know the light’s path but you can’t see it all, requiring you to trust in the leap to the text.

'Sun Bowls' on display

‘Sun Bowls’ on display

The ‘Sun Bowls’ contain extracts from Zen poems that refer to a transience of existence echoed in the use of glass and light to illuminate the words. The shifting lighting conditions within a room changes the visibility of the words – sometimes readable from above, others from the projection onto the surface below, and occasionally not at all. The bowls are intended to be lived with and viewed over a period of time, becoming part of the owner’s personal context and place.

'Sun Bowl' in the home

‘Sun Bowl’ in the home

‘Colouring Light’

October 26, 2011

Leeds Victoria Quarter by Flickr User jo-h

Leeds Victoria Quarter picture by Flickr User jo-h

I watched the brilliant BBC programme on painter and stained glass artist Brian Clarke called ‘Colouring Light’, currently available on iplayer here.

I was amazed by his beautiful stained glass, but even more impressed by his attitude to making art and how he functions in the art world. His insistence on working only on commissions he really wants to and only doing work he feels he has not compromised on is admirable.

In an interview in 1977 he said:

“I’m often being told by people that I ought to compromise. That these days you can’t afford to lose commissions, that you can’t afford to upset people. I think that you can’t afford to compromise. If you’re making a statement, artistically, then when you’re making that statement, as far as you’re concerned it’s absolute; and any variation, or dilution, or subtraction from an absolute, makes it less than absolute, and therefore makes it untrue. Therefore, by definition, a lie. And I am not a perpetrator of visual lies.”

I think this statement is as applicable today as it was then. The economic climate is such that the emphasis (I feel anyway) is on making money, or leading towards making money, at pretty much whatever cost artistically. I was speaking to an artist at some studios recently and asked him how he felt people functioned in the studios as artists; and he admitted it was often quiet during the day as most artists had day jobs and found it very difficult to make a living as a full-time artist. This, I didn’t find surprising and fully expected; however, what did make me think was when he said that if there was someone in the studios who had found a particular style or theme that was popular with the buying public, that everyone would bend their practice towards it in an attempt to sell.

I’m not so idealistic as to think that artists should not sell their work to make a living, of course not, we cannot live on air alone, and talents and skills should be rewarded financially. However, I found the suggestion that artists would readily bend their practice towards the market rather vulgar and anti-artistic. To bring it back to Brian Clarke, he made the point that as an artist he finds himself battling with clients as they often only really want to have something they’ve seen before, the banal, but it is up to artists to be the alternative and to fight it, both for themselves and to progress the artistic medium. I hope there are more artists with this attitude around.

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It’s not often that I feel compelled to quote an article on this blog, but I’ve been thinking about the funding cuts to the arts recently. I fervently believe in funding the arts, so many great things are made, opportunities created. I feel that good art is good for your health, I don’t always know why it is ‘good’ but if it brings me some sort of joy or makes me think about something which is hard to express in other ways, then I feel it is serving a purpose. It is often difficult to then argue for the arts when someone poses the rather crass either/or question of would you rather pay for NHS equipment or buy a painting for a gallery? Of course you would want to save a life; however I think that Grant Gibson‘s editorial in this May/June issue of Crafts Magazine is rather a succinct rebuttal to this question as he points towards the importance of cultural identity through art:

The truth of the matter is, set against the backdrop of human tragedy (both micro and macro), the arts may well appear insignificant, but they are more than mere frippery. For proof I generally point people in the direction of The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, the brilliant book by Robert Bevan that vividly illustrates how the eradication of architecture and culture has been used over history to gut a nation’s identity – from the Romans razing Carthage and Hitler’s burning of the synagogues to contemporary atrocities. As the Czech author Milan Kundera wrote: “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then you have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was.”

I don’t intend to discuss the rights and wrongs of Arts Council England‘s funding strategy here, but merely to point out that the arts (and crafts) genuinely matter and must be nurtured like any other sector of society.

I know there are many facets to this argument, I just thought this was a valid point made and worth repeating.

I recommend giving Crafts Magazine a read to any contemporary artist. I have found many an inspiring piece of work within this publication, not only that, I have been informed of interesting new materials and technologies that the more traditional fine art magazines do not normally address.