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.

 

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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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'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.

Pictures taken at Tatton Park, Cheshire

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I emerge into MediaCityUK Square, a group of photographers have their cameras set up and all are pointing in my direction. I have made it, and go to take my place along side them. Seconds later, a line of people dressed in morph-like suits hooked up with bright blue LEDs on their arms and legs come jogging surprisingly quietly down the same walkway I have just come from. The line gets longer, until there are around 80+ light-morphs streaming past…Continue reading my review at the a-n website.

Jewels and Decay

January 24, 2013

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Light Night Leeds 2012

October 12, 2012

We made the short hop across into Yorkshire for the Leeds Light Night last week. An evening of activities, exhibitions, installations, films and general liveliness which took place well into the dark of night across the city. The map of events was full of things to see and do, far too many for us to get around them all, so we planned some activities and stumbled across others while en route.

I was keen to visit Leeds City Art Gallery‘s ‘Drawing Sculpture‘ exhibition, which displayed work which presented a link between the act of drawing and creating sculpture. It was an interesting exhibition, supported well by the accompanying essay by Anna Lovatt in the exhibition catalogue. However, before we even stepped foot into the grand gallery building we came across a group of Indian musicians and dancers playing outside the entrance, drawing a crowd of visitors keen to have a go. At one point, when there must have been at least 100 people dancing, it felt as if we had stepped into a peculiar new type of exercise class with everyone following the moves of the main dancers.

After an autumnal soup break in the decadent tiled cafe, we put our names down for some light painting with artist David Shearing. We timed it perfectly as it was particularly popular and they had to stop admitting visitors shortly after our turn. Armed with a plethora of glowing toys we created some light drawings via projection and computer software, which mimicked the action of light painting on a camera with the shutter left open for a few seconds. Our effort wasn’t the most artistically thought out, but it was fun nonetheless!

We exited through the inflatable dome, squeezing out of the tunnel like Ace Ventura out of the Rhino’s backside. Fun, yes. Flattering, no. There was no time for embarrassment however, as we ran (responsibly) through the gallery to the showing of ‘Turning at Right Angles to Midnight’ by Andi Noble and Matt Collins. It was a beautiful glimmering delight of sound and lights.

Other highlights of the evening were the video and animation projections strewn across the walls all over the Leeds College of Art building, showcasing some exquisite talent from the young artists. Ending the evening we came across some ladies dressed in some strange attire, looking rather like beautiful zombies who were on their way home. We stopped to ask what they had been doing that evening and they told us that they were singing as they are an a cappella quartet and offered to sing us a song! They did so, and by the end of it we found that a crowd had joined us in bopping about to their smooth, smooth sound. The perfect goodbye and end to the evening.

One day in Paris

September 2, 2012

A few images I took on a wander about Paris. The weather was changeable.

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‘Happiness II’

I showed my work in the Haecceity Project at Nouvel Organon Gallery in Paris this July. It was a wonderful experience to show my work outside of the UK and to reach a new audience.

I designed ‘Happiness II’ to create a temporary projected document on the pages of the book using sunlight. I re-appropriated a line from a Stephen Dunn poem to visually highlight the transience of happiness. This meant that sometimes it would ‘work’ and other times it would not, depending on the lighting conditions. The first day it rained, but in the evening the light from the street lamps activated the work, which surprised everyone, including myself, as I had only really designed it with sunlight in mind.

The sun came out over the next few days, which made the piece work as intended. This certainly pleased me, but as an artwork that highlights the transience and intangibility of an emotion, it would have fulfilled its conceptual purpose whether the sun came out or not.

One thing I did not anticipate was that the graffiti acid-etched into the gallery window, which also projected onto the work at times. At first this frustrated me, but then I realised that I had created a piece which was ephemeral and relied totally on outside factors to work or not work, and this was something I had to accept. The graffiti was a part of the city, and that was literally becoming part of the experience of my work, for better or worse. Not unlike the experience of happiness.

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I exhibited ‘Happiness I’ at the HIDE exhibition at Piccadilly Place in Manchester 1st-6th June 2012. Hidden for most of the time it’s meaning came out only once in the sunlight but, alas, was not caught on camera.

Almost hidden, view from outside