January 2, 2017
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I also had a 2-page feature spread in international lighting design magazine, Mondo*Arc:
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.
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.
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:
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!
December 7, 2015
I’ve previously written about my admiration of the UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere Durham. The wonder and magic that the festival creates in the picturesque northern city is an inspiration to me as an emerging light artist. It has also certainly been one of the biggest influences in my artwork development and desire to create large-scale light art for the public realm. I often wondered what I’d do if got the chance to exhibit there, and this year I got the opportunity!
DREAMERS was installed in Durham’s Crown Court Gardens. It was inspired by Japanese paper screens and the Basho Zen poem:
‘Guest’s shadow through
the paper screen – I sit dreaming over charcoal fumes’
Large letters of mirror and steel were scattered across the grass and cast shadows onto a screen. It was a sculptural space for visitors to explore and become a part of the work as either participant or viewer. A light wash from behind the letters cast their shadows onto the screen to spell the word DREAMERS along with the shadows of the visitors that animated the space with their bold light and shadow play.
I was so pleased with the visitor reaction to the piece. People immediately understood the work and often spent a long time in the installation trying out different shadow effects. The space was filled with joy and laughter and it was a pleasure to see how imaginative people were with the work. There were tugs of war, dance routines, bicycles, umbrellas, kisses, hugs and many more poses throughout the weekend as each visitor cast their fleeting shadow on the screen.
I think play, joy and wonder are essential parts of our lives, so to facilitate that feeling in any small manner within a piece that I create brings me much joy also. With a lot of my work I create immersive spaces that incorporate text, light, shadow and sculpture. It is often inspired by themes of transience, the nature of happiness and hope.
This year’s Lumiere was as exciting and wonderful as always. There were some amazing installations across the city, which I was also lucky enough to explore on the final night. I feel honoured to have been a part of it and it continues to inspire me to create more work.
Many thanks go to the festival producers, Artichoke, and to the generous support of Dyer Engineering who manufactured the work.
Next up to show at is the Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art, 10th-12th December, for which I have received support using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
January 11, 2015
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.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
December 11, 2014
I’m really pleased to present a new public realm artwork ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ is an installation made of concrete blocks to echo the concrete of its surroundings. The words reflect up onto the famous concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens. The earthly presence of the blocks scatter into an ephemeral light piece on the wall to show all that is solid is still fragile and all that is perceived to be permanent never will be. Its presentation here is using spotlights for the dark winter nights, however it is also a sunlight-activated work when re-located to a South-facing wall.
I’ll update my blog with more pictures and maybe even some video very soon. In the meantime however, pop down to look at the work for yourself!
October 2, 2014
I exhibited my Arts Council England supported work ‘Light Holds Me Here‘ at Federation House, Castlefield Gallery New Art Spaces in Manchester 24th-28th September 2014.
I’d been exploring the themes of desire and void through new writing and presented it in a large-scale installation using light and shadow effects. I developed the work as something akin to a dream world, one which tracks a domestic space but is presented in abstract and sculptural form. I wanted the space to be something the visitor could become a part of, to experience the light and shadows for themselves and to follow the loose narrative I presented.
The windows in the space had been covered with two-way mirror, so you could see out in the day time but at night the work took on a very different quality as the windows turned into mirrors and reflected the whole installation over and over again. The clarity of reflection and the shadow path words reflecting the right way in the mirrored windows gave the effect of many alternative spaces.
I was really pleased with the result of the work as I was never truly going to know how it would look until it was installed in the space, and neither did I know how visitors were going to react to and interact with it. I’m pleased to say that the reaction was positive, I had some interesting conversations during the exhibition and I also had anonymous feedback sheets which contained some wonderful interpretations of the work and most importantly, how it made visitors feel when they walked around it.
Here is a selection of some of the comments of what people enjoyed most:
“The immersive nature of the light against the shadows. I thoroughly enjoyed the inclusion of text as a sculptural object.”
“A feeling of comfort juxtaposed with fear – beautiful shadows. The use of words in reflection. The sense of vertigo induced by reflection.”
“Light Holds Me Here drew me in, felt slightly uncomfortable in anticipation. Amazing effect at night with reflections in the windows.”
“The reflection that felt like I was teleported in different dimensions then projected.”
“How the sound of the words in my head fit snugly into the sensory experience of the space.”
This post contains some of my own photographs of the exhibition, but on my website you can see all the professional photographs of all the work along with the time lapse video showing the change from day to night in the exhibition.
June 25, 2014
I’m really excited to announce that I will soon be starting on a new project ‘Light Holds Me Here’ to create a new body of work which will fuse my two creative backgrounds in light art and literature. This project is made possible by my successful application to Grants for the Arts, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
The resulting work will be exhibited at a solo show at Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces, Federation House, Manchester from 24th-28th September 2014. One of the pieces will also be exhibited at a light art and literature festival in the Faroe Islands in November with the support of Curated Place, who have been instrumental in developing the application and project plan allowing me to undertake an international commission.
I will be updating this blog with my progress and lots of other exciting developments as I go, but in the meantime, here’s some more information about my supporting partners:
Arts Council England
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. More information can be found here.
Curated Place is a creative production company that delivers unique events in galleries, museums and venues across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. They’re always interested in working with new artists on financing and running projects and can be contacted at email@example.com or go to their website here.
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS)
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS) is an initiative to create dynamic project spaces for artists, artist collectives and artists development agencies. Making use of temporary vacant retail, office and light industrial units, NAS provides opportunities for emerging creatives to incubate their practices, produce work and showcase new art to local communities. Currently CG runs New Art Spaces in Leigh, Widnes, Salford and city centre Manchester. More information can be found here.
May 22, 2014
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.
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 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.
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.
November 29, 2013
I exhibited my ‘City Suns 1,2 & 3‘ at Experience Needed exhibition at Piccadilly Place this week.
City Suns 1,2 & 3 are part of an on-going series of work. They represent the colours and patterns of the sun in the city that I observe at different times of the day and year, presented in abstract form.
The physical pieces are abstract works within themselves, but they are also activated into an ephemeral light piece to represent the fleeting and intangible experience of a sunrise or sunset in the city.
The exhibition showcased a number of recent art school graduates predominantly from art schools in the North West and featured live ‘experiences’ each day. Find out more about the exhibition and the other artists involved here.
Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures from the exhibition:
November 20, 2013
We braved the biting cold and travelled up to Durham at the weekend for the 2013 Lumiere Festival. I was so excited as it’s one of the largest and most prominent light art festivals in the UK at the moment and one of great inspiration for my practice.
This year they ticketed (free) the central portion of the festival from between 4.30 and 7.30 in order to manage the crowds at the busiest times. We didn’t have tickets for this so we wandered around the outer exhibits first.
The pieces which particularly impressed me were ‘Litre of Light’ an extremely simple but effective way of using an old plastic bottle, refracted sunshine, water and chlorine to make a 55-watt solar bulb. The invention is being used to bring cheap and effective light sources to windowless dwellings across the world, it truly is a remarkable thing. The presentation here was done by Mick Stephenson. Lots of bottles had been decorated in coloured pen and placed in clustered in the walls and ceiling to create glowing growths like stalactites in a deep, dark cave.
The floating interlocking rectangles of light of ‘Platonic Spin’ by Nathaniel Rackowe in the Crown Court Gardens were a quiet and uncanny beauty to come across. They drew out sequences in light which burned into your temporary visual memory to mesmerising effect.By far my favourite piece was [M]ondes by Atsara in the central area of the festival. We waited in line for over an hour to get in as the crowds of people seemed to overwhelm the city, with more and more arriving all the time (testament to Lumiere’s popularity). It was worth the wait though as the light sculpture flickered like fireflies buzzing over the gardens accompanied by ephemeral voluminous light projections marking out hypnotic shapes and spaces in the rest of the garden.
I certainly love Lumiere, but I wonder how it will cope with the ever increasing crowds for next time. Last time there were a lot of people but in general we were able to amble around at leisure and happen upon pieces of work rather than being so guided (in the central zone).
I think the organisers, Artichoke, did what they could to manage the crowds, but when something is so astoundingly popular but the size of the city is so small in comparison, I wonder if eventually Durham Lumiere will become a victim of its own success. I certainly hope not. Its popularity shows the growing public love of light art and it’s wonderful to know that there are so many people who are also fascinated and delighted by the wonder that is light and all of its creative and practical possibilities.
November 7, 2013
I had been drawn to the architecture by the river Lune on a trip to Morecambe Bay days before I saw the advert for the expression of interest. I decided to use this scene as my inspiration, creating a smaller version in the style of a stage set to fill an empty shop window.
In my practice I use light in various different ways. My more recent work has focussed on natural sunlight to create effects and develop certain themes, so it was nice to have a change and work with artificial lighting once again. I think I’m going to work fairly seasonally from now on, working with sunlight during the lighter months and going crazy with brightly coloured artificial lights in the winter!
Back to the work: the buildings are made into a screen to give an interesting shape and take it away from an all too literal recreation. They are however, all hand-drawn and to scale, which believe me, took quite a while to do! I made an abstract paper sky to be lit up with a brightly coloured aurora dancing above the buildings. I wanted there to be a kind of new magic to the scene so many locals will be familiar with seeing daily.
I also had the good fortune to be able to choose a line from a LitFest commissioned poem by Sarah Hymas, “By the Mouth of the Lune”. I partially cut the words out of the silver card I was using as the representation of the river, and stood them on end to reflect the bright blue light and into the silver as if ripples on the water. The line read:
A slivering luminescence and a flatness
that slips and transmutes through
the music of a blue man’s riddle
(From S. Hymas’ poem “By the Mouth of the Lune”)
I felt that these words gave an abstract, yet visually descriptive, quality to the scene and helped to tie it together.
Feedback on the night from visitors was really positive. Many took pictures or had their picture taken in front of the work, others gazed at it for quite a while, looking at the aurora dance of the sky; and children in particular were excited by the scale of the work (the buildings often being their height).
Apologies for the cafe logo in some of the pictures. The piece was housed in a shopping arcade, so light from other shops reflected onto the window.