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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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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.

The words in between

October 12, 2015

I’ve been developing some new poetry recently. I’ve been working with finding new poems within other poems, potential meaning and form from other’s words, often detached from the original meaning and reformed into my practice. This poem was developed from one of Jaume Plensa’s:

 

My shadow spoke.

I imagined you

hiding in the labyrinth.

Break the door

between each word,

close the messages

and speak

from windows:

Concealed shadows

Looking at you.

 

 

 

Light Holds Me Here exhibition (photo credit S.Illes)

Light Holds Me Here exhibition (photo credit S.Iles)

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.

Leap and the Net Will Appear

Leap and the Net Will Appear

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 MontenegroThe 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.

Unity sunlight

Unity sunlight

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.

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Sun Scroll picture on plinth on the South Bank, London

 

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.

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Light Holds Me Here self portrait in the installation

 

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.

Stroke Association Workshop

Stroke Association Workshop

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.

'Ambiguous Borders' exhibited in the Faroe Islands

‘Ambiguous Borders’ exhibited in the Faroe Islands

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.

'You Hide in Spaces' at Fragment|Reflect, Red Bull Studios

‘You Hide in Spaces’ at Fragment|Reflect, Red Bull Studios

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.

A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

A Solid Wish Scatters. Photo credit J.Lynch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

 

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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

 

 

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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 info@curatedplace.com or go to their website here.

 

Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS)

 

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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.

 

'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.

IA13 Degree Show

July 31, 2013

End of degree number two! I was lucky to have three pieces in the show; two in the main Interactive Arts show, and one specially commissioned piece by the Manchester School of Art for the roof terrace on the new building.

This year I used Zen poetry as my main influence because its philosophy of constantly asserting the transience of our existence is something I wanted from my artwork. I feel that light has this transient quality through its visibility and invisibility which could then be used to visually activate the meaning of the poetry. With this in mind, I defined my project as creating a modern Zen scroll.

Sun Scroll at midday

Sun Scroll at midday

‘Sun Scroll’ is a Zen poem revealed by sunlight. It addresses themes of transience, emphasised by the transient sunlight. The projected words appear differently throughout the day and year depending on the angle of the sun.

'Leap And The Net Will Appear'

‘Leap And The Net Will Appear’

‘Leap and the net will appear’ is a Zen saying that I appropriated into a piece of text art activated by light. You know the light’s path but you can’t see it all, requiring you to trust in the leap to the text.

'Sun Bowls' on display

‘Sun Bowls’ on display

The ‘Sun Bowls’ contain extracts from Zen poems that refer to a transience of existence echoed in the use of glass and light to illuminate the words. The shifting lighting conditions within a room changes the visibility of the words – sometimes readable from above, others from the projection onto the surface below, and occasionally not at all. The bowls are intended to be lived with and viewed over a period of time, becoming part of the owner’s personal context and place.

'Sun Bowl' in the home

‘Sun Bowl’ in the home