December 3, 2015
This July Roger Bygott, John Lynch, and I directed a city-wide (Manchester and Salford) visual arts festival:
Manifest is a visual arts festival, showcasing the talent of North West based artists in a series of exhibitions and events across Manchester and Salford.
It took place 10th-12th July 2015 and during the second weekend of the busy Manchester International Festival. The timing was deliberate so that the festival would give visitors a flavour of the creative activity going on across the two cities all year round.
The exhibitions and events in the Manifest programme were at some of Manchester’s most prestigious institutions, such as Manchester Craft and Design Centre, John Ryland’s Library, and the newly opened HOME. Artist studios across both cities were coordinated for the first time to have open studios during the festival weekend to give a closer look at the scope of art being created across the city.
This year was a pilot festival and run on the passion of its participants, and we’re so thankful for the enthusiasm and support in making it happen. We couldn’t have been more pleased by the reaction of visitors and participating artists.
Our reasons for setting up Manifest:
Roger Bygott: “For me the inspiration and spirit of Manifest is about community association, trusting grassroots links and mutual encouragement. As artists practicing within this broad vibrant community we aim to help strengthen those connections and to share more widely and publicly the artistic fruits emerging from it.”
Elisa Artesero: “Many of the artists in Manifest exhibit nationally and internationally but remain based in the North West. We want to show the high standard of contemporary art being produced on our doorstop.”
John Lynch: “Artists want their work to be seen, we present the opportunity to see it.”
We even got a feature interview in a-n
The festival was a huge success in more ways than we’d expected and we’re still receiving positive feedback about the impact it has had on participating artists’ careers. During the three days and nearly 30 different events/exhibitions artists: sold their work, had in-depth critiques with curators, they gained commissions and potential exhibitions, and were able to show their work to an audience that would not have had the opportunity to see their work otherwise.
Months down the line we got an email from Susan Gunn, one of the artists to present her work at ‘Manifest Calling’ a show and tell at HOME. She had been contacted by contemporary classical composer, Ailis Ni Riain, who was impressed by her work when she presented it at ‘Manifest Calling’, and asked if she would design the album cover for her album ‘Linger’.
The pilot festival gave us a chance to just give it a go, to test the idea of the festival and to see if it would be possible to run. The three of us had an incredibly busy weekend trying to document all the events and ensure they were running as planned. My pet project for the weekend was to try out live streaming the festival with the Periscope app to give online viewers a flavour of parts of the festival. I didn’t know how useful or popular this would be, but it turned out to be surprisingly popular, getting up to 70 live views at a time. Not bad for a fairly new piece of technology and first festival!
We ended with a closing party at media bar, Texture, which was a lovely celebration of the weekend. One of the joys for me (and I’m sure Roger and John, also) was to spend an entire weekend looking around the cities’ arts spaces, seeing fantastic contemporary artwork, having lively conversations about the artistic and cultural scene and the lives and exciting careers of those who are based here.
Although, admittedly, there was almost too much to be able to get around in one weekend, it was brilliant to have it all there to choose from, a snapshot of the kind of things that are going on (often behind closed doors of studios) all year round. To able to facilitate that in some way was an absolute pleasure, and I think we proved what we set out to do – which was to show that we live in a vibrant and thriving cultural space that needs to be showcased every so often.
As for the future of Manifest, well, watch this space.
All photos taken by John Lynch, and the logo and programme designed by the talented Stephanie Hamer.
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:
January 13, 2012
Here’s a still from the light paintings I’ve been working on recently. The results are to be viewed in film format as I manipulate light to create colours, shape and movement. This form of ‘painting’ is influenced by Brian Eno’s ‘Video Paintings‘, where he filmed images and presented them as slow moving paintings to be watched vertically as well as horizontally so as to detract from the typical TV viewing experience and expectations, and to be viewed as an art piece.
You can watch one of my monochrome Light Paintings here:
October 26, 2011
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.
October 21, 2011
I’ve been buzzing around quite a few galleries recently, two shows that I went to on the same day that couldn’t have been more different in medium, but rather similar in concerns were ‘Zee’ at FACT Gallery and the Magritte exhibition at Tate Liverpool.
‘Zee’ by Kurt Hentschlager at Liverpool’s FACT Gallery was an experience to remember. Essentially a room filled to the brim with fog you might think it a claustrophobic piece of work, but this was not the case for me anyway. Guided into the room in groups of no more than 12, participants must grasp hold of a tight red rope to give some sort of point of reference for the first few steps into the fog and towards a bright white light, then when comfortable, let go of the rope and wander tentatively around the room. A low rumbling of sound and a mixture of strobe and pulse lights of different patterns and swathes of colour envelop even more intensely than the fog itself, it is merely the conduit for the light.
The first time I went in with friends, we were astonished at the experience. We giggled and exclaimed how wonderful it was, there was a real sense of joie de vivre and I certainly felt the kind of giddy excitement I did as a child, when everything is new and emotions are expressed regardless of the social situation. The second time I entered the space with more composure, ready to take the experience but more actively analyse it. As the work progressed I found myself smiling, unaware of whether my eyes were open or closed (the strobes work through eyelids), I felt that as I could see nothing else but the light and the occasional phantom shadow, that I was almost not there. During some of the more intense light patterns it occurred to me that if death is no more than a dissipation of energy back into the world, then this was something akin to what I believe death to be. I don’t mean to sound morbid, in fact quite the opposite, feeling as if on the cusp of existing and not existing was quite liberating and not at all scary. When asked whether I preferred the first or the second experience best, I think the first; because even though the second experience gave a certain epiphany, the first brought me back to existing in the same way that a child exists. A child takes in everything as new, just enjoying the experience and reacting directly through laughter and excitement.
A different medium, but for me, with similar concerns, was the excellent Magritte painting exhibition at Liverpool Tate. The exhibition was a comprehensive education in Magritte’s life and progression through the styles and concerns of his work, which should be credited to the curators, Christoph Grunenberg and Darren Pih, for their insightful and thoughtful layout of the work.
The walls were coloured grey/blue and particularly in the first room named ‘The Surreal Encounter’ the lighting was muted to the extent that it gave the impression of standing in one of his paintings, yet viewing them at the same time. This is a clever curatorial decision as many of his works play with the boundary of the painting, what is real and what is not.
From this large exhibition I could go on about so many of the paintings, but in an attempt at brevity I shall just note the piece I found most personally impacting after a day of considering the existence of things; this was ‘The Secret Life’ 1928 (pictured above). I stood in front of this painting for quite a while, I found the ball hanging in mid-air in this darkened bare room quite innocuous. This spherical ‘thing’ appears to be in a state of being/existing in this space whether we are there to view it or not. I looked at this painting in situ with many people around me, yet it felt as if it was very much alone and I had intruded on its quiet existence, a bit like coming across a ghost. Perhaps this painting is a visual version of the philosophical conundrum ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?’ it is a question of perception and existence.
May 2, 2011
Here is my Luminous Man projected onto a wall. I filmed him before my Creeping Light series but hadn’t got round to doing much with him, he just appeared one day during my initial light film tests and started to dance in front of the camera, swirling around and morphing into different shaped luminous men. He’s a mystical being and has a life of his own even though I technically ‘created’ him. I intend to show the film at my next assessment exhibition, it doesn’t have sound at the moment, but this is something I will work on over the summer.
I have used the still of the luminous man to draw over and to use as a motif over other work – painting, collage and furniture. I think he’s going to become a bit of a muse to me this summer as I develop work around him; I may even get my writing skills back into gear and write a story about him as he fascinates me!