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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:

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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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Nature, Skin and Bones

August 3, 2016

Here’s a short video about a new collaborative project I’m involved in. I’m working together with a sculptor (Sarah Smith) and sound artist (Caro C) to create an immersive installation in the Dales Countryside Museum. It’s a new experience for me as I have not collaborated in this way before. The process and the collaboration has led to the work being rather different to the more minimal style I’m used to creating in my solo installation pieces, particularly as the sculptural elements are being made by another artist and there is the added element of an immersive soundscape. I’m looking forward to the final install early October, more updates closer to the time!

The Stories Under Our Feet

December 20, 2015

Rain

Rain – photo by John Lynch

The Stories Under Our Feet‘ are ephemeral light and text artworks trimming the edges of the benches that surround Manchester Central Library. I developed a series of short observational poems drawing on changing weather and seasons to create moments of contemplation for people walking by or sitting on the benches. The piece was developed for the Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art 2015 and was funded using public funding through Arts Council England.

I was pleased with the positive public response to the work. So many people stopped to slowly make their way around the benches to read the poems, smiling once they’d completed the set and commenting on how nice it was to see engaging artwork in the public domain.

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Sunshift – photo by John Lynch

I changed the piece each night to shuffle the poems and show a variety. The light and shadow cast changed each night also, sometimes easy to read, other times a little more difficult and erring more towards the aesthetic of the feathery light and shadow effect. I like people to engage with my work and I also like to slow them down from their daily lives if only for a few moments. For some, they only noticed the attractive lighting effect, whereas others spent time reading the poems more carefully. Going off the feedback at the time, it seems something positive was gained from both types of encounter.

You can see more pictures of the work on my website here.

 

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Lost and Found (couple) – Photo by John Lynch

I also created another piece “Lost and Found“: understated light and reflection pieces activated by the viewer. Passers by interrupt the reflection to become either ‘lost’ ,‘found’ or sometimes both to highlight the search for sense of self and connection between people.

One visitor told me that she lost her little boy in the library on the visit and found him at my piece – he’d positioned himself so that he had ‘lost’ projected onto him. She said once she’d found him, she took a picture of him with the word ‘found’ on him instead. Great to know my artwork helped to reunite the two, but also that it was easily understood and interacted with!

 

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Lost and Found – Photo by John Lynch

 

Many thanks to John Lynch for the photos, and to Enlighten Manchester/Curated Place and Arts Council England for their support in realising these pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I will be exhibiting two new commissions at this year’s Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art 2015.

Last year’s festival was held in Piccadilly Gardens and I was fortunate to have the famous Tadao Ando concrete wall as my site to respond to. The work ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ was named as a public favourite in Mondo*Arc Magazine.

A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

Last year’s piece – A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

This year, the festival has changed site to Manchester Central Library and the Bridgewater Hall and is mainly indoors. However, I have been given another prominent outdoor site to respond to: the Manchester Central Library benches that surround the building. ‘The Stories Under Our Feet‘ are ephemeral light and text artworks trimming the edges of the benches. Short observational poems drawing on changing weather and seasons to create moments of contemplation for people walking by or sitting on the benches.

I have also created an indoor work, ‘Lost and Found‘: understated light and reflection pieces activated by the viewer. Passers by interrupt the reflection to become either ‘lost’ ,‘found’ or sometimes both to highlight the search for sense of self and connection between people.

Also on show will be pictures produced in the special creative writing and light art public workshops I ran at the library during October.

The festival runs in the late afternoon/evenings of Thursday 10th – Saturday 12th December and free tickets can be booked online.

 

 

 

Lumiere Durham 2015

December 7, 2015

DREAMERS by Elisa Artesero

DREAMERS by Elisa Artesero

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.

Visitors enjoying casting their shadows

Visitors enjoying casting their shadows

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.

Tugs of war - visitors getting creative with their shadows!

Visitors getting creative with their shadows!

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.

DREAMERS

DREAMERS

 

 

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.

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Mondo*Arc Article

I recently exhibited my Arts Council England Supported work, A Solid Wish Scatters at the Enlighten Manchester Festival. It received really good feedback and I’ve just found out that the festival has been featured in leading Lighting Design magazine Mondo*Arc. My work is quoted as a ‘public favourite’ which I’m obviously really pleased about! See the full article on page 100 of the digital edition here.

Snow poems

January 29, 2015

Inspired by the recent cold snap. First came the snow…

 

Snow gazing

From my window

 

Fat flakes

Look like

Feathers

Shaken loose

From pillows

By neighbours

Protesting another

Work day.

 

Then came the hail…

 

Hail

 

Hundreds of

Tiny ice fists

Hammer urgently

At the window

 

 

One shelf of an ever-increasing poetry collection

One shelf of an ever-increasing poetry collection

I started my Arts Council England funded project at the beginning of July and it’s been a busy couple of weeks. So far, I’ve been mixing research, writing and experimentation. One of the main objectives of this project is to create a new body of work which will fuse my own writing with my light art. In order to do this, I’ve spent a lot of my initial time writing so that I have content and potential narrative to inspire and lead the visual work.

The themes in my work are addressing ‘desire’ and ‘void’, which may seem a little antithetical at first look, but much of my work has centred on Zen poetry, the transitoriness of our existence and a desire for the intangible. This is, of course, a very short explanation, but should go some way to show my reasons for exploring the two themes. So, to start, I have been reading “Nothingness and Desire” by James W. Heisig, and “Void|In Art” by Mark Levy, PhD. These have been giving me a philosophical and artistic view and history of the themes.

I’ve also started to re-read Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” as it’s one of my favourite books by one of my favourite writers. Murakami’s worlds are surreal, sometimes scary, sometimes magical, and often dreamlike. He writes in such a practical manner about the strangest occurrences, which serve to make them seem unnervingly real. I get so engrossed that I practically feel as if I’m living the story with the characters, particularly in his last book “1Q84”. His works inspire me more visually than in my written work, however.

Poetry-wise I have been reading and re-reading a wide range of poets, many of which are in the Bloodaxe “Staying Alive” series. I also have a collection of poetry books by individual poets that I dip into, too many to list here.

I recently went to the Liverpool Biennial, mainly as a small pilgrimage to the Adrian Henri exhibition. The Liverpool poets, Henri, McGough, Patten and Mitchell were probably the first poets that I read as a child that really got me interested in the poetic form, and I still read and am inspired by to this day. I’m enchanted by their wit, simple and effective observations, romanticism and visual play with words.

I’d never heard Henri read or sing his poems before [shocking] so it was interesting to hear him do this on the recordings. Some were much more lively than I’d imagined when I read them to myself – “Love Is” was much more upbeat than I’d ever read it to be! The artwork that accompanied many of the poems incorporated collage, sketches, paintings and sculpture. Some were placed together with a rough visual humour, whereas others, based on the more serious and romantic poems, were put together with a real tenderness. This allowed space for the poignancy of a symbol, such as a blurry bright pink heart floating close to a black void. Seeing the work in its home of Liverpool did romanticise the city somewhat, but it was a romance I was happy to indulge for the day.

Just a quick recommendation for anyone visiting Liverpool – just down the road from the University is a brilliant second-hand bookshop – Reid of Liverpool. I got five poetry books for very reasonable prices and in remarkably good condition!

Reid of Liverpool

Reid of Liverpool

Poetry books from Liverpool!

Poetry books from Liverpool!

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.

 

Lumiere Durham 2013

November 20, 2013

Consumerist Christmas Tree by Luzinterruptus

Consumerist Christmas Tree by Luzinterruptus

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.

Litre of Light by Mick Stephenson

Litre of Light by Mick Stephenson

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. 

Platonic Spin by Nathaniel Rackowe

Platonic Spin by Nathaniel Rackowe

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.

[M]ondes by Atsara

[M]ondes by Atsara

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.

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