'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.

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Pictures taken at Tatton Park, Cheshire

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Jewels and Decay

January 24, 2013

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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

Light Weather is my first solo exhibition in the Link Gallery, Manchester. The exhibition comprises of two parts: the Link is a large-scale installation, at one end of the gallery there is an abstract sky lit up with coloured flashes of light, throughout the rest of the gallery there are coloured pools of light suspended above the floor. The Foyer space shows some of my abstract light photography and an experimental light sculpture.

The installation is a complete experiment. It’s not often I have the opportunity to work in such a large and unusual space where I can let my imagination run wild (time and health and safety restrictions aside). So I have responded to the space to create an installation which is similar to a stage set. Nothing is naturalistic, the sky and pools of light are abstractions of what they represent, and are lit up with bright colours appealing to the senses. People can walk through the set, as both participants and audience, and hopefully enjoy it as a memorable interruption to their day.

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Throughout the week there have been many people who have stopped and stared up at the flashing sky suspended from the ceiling of a hexagon in the Link. People have commented that they have spent a good 10 minutes or so looking at the exhibition and listening to my specially matched playlist of music, enjoying the calming effect it has had. The Link is essentially a walkway from one building to the next, many people just walk through and only glance at what is on the walls, so it is nice to know that my work has made some people pause from where they are going. Others said they enjoyed the use of the space as a full-scale installation as this has not happened for quite some time.

Overall I’m pleased with the exhibition and how well it has been received. As I said before, it was an experiment, plus I only had a day and a half to install it all, so there are things I’d change. I only learnt these during the installation and when it was up – the main one being that the hallway windows were too light during the day, and unfortunately I was not allowed to black them out due to health and safety regulations. However, the overall look and effect was as intended (especially at night), and it has encouraged me to continue to be ambitious with my ideas and set ups.

Zen Garden

February 23, 2012

This recent site specific work is a tiny Zen garden. I say Zen garden, but in reality, even though I followed as many rules as I could to create this piece, it will never compete with the wonderful Zen Gardens of Japan. It is more about the act of raking the stones once/twice a day in order to get oneself into a meditative state and to have a place to go away from the crazy world we’re in and to concentrate on our mere existence.

This garden is placed in a natural circle formed in the grass of All Saints Park, Manchester. I put down some white gravel then decided that in accordance with my research, I should wait for the central stones (not that I knew they would be placed in the centre at the time) to find me. I had spent a little time actively looking before this decision, but found absolutely nothing. So, I let go of any anxiety towards finding these stones before the day I had to present my work, then on that very day I walked down a pathway to find three stones of the perfect size and shape for my garden. I took care to position them as I found them, not placing them standing up if they were originally on their side.

I spent about half an hour each day for a week raking the stones, come rain or shine. To many, I looked a bit mental, but it worked a treat to clear my mind and get into a meditative state. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to lose a sense of ‘self’ and just started to watch the continuous flow of the stones, like water when being raked (stones like these often represent water in typical Zen Gardens). I know half an hour is not a long time to some, but to an unseasoned person in meditation with a busy schedule (the garden was meant as a chance to take a break from busy schedules), this was enough to get in the right frame of mind for the day.

The garden was meant to be a temporary installation, but is still there at the moment, ready to be raked by anyone who would like to. For those who know me, just ask to borrow the rake I store in my studio, for those that don’t, then feel free to bring your own rake! I’d like nothing more than to come across someone using their own rake on the garden and getting something out of the repetitive motion of raking in a circle.

Thanks to Helen Wheeler who took the photo of me raking away.

Natural Light

January 6, 2012

I went for a walk in the parks and woodland around Didsbury, Manchester on a sunny winter day to see what I could capture, here are the results.

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