January 2, 2016
It has been another wonderful and creative year, one in which I’ve been fortunate enough to make some of my creative dreams a reality. Here’s a recap of my artistic year 2015 (which, incidentally, was also the International Year of Light):
First up I had my interview with BDP Lighting Designer, Chris Lowe published on The Double Negative. Chris worked on the lighting scheme for winning UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo.
My ‘Too Soon Sun Slips Into Night’ poem was projected onto a large grassy bank as part of Spectra Aberdeen in February.
March was a busy month as I found my beloved studio in the centre of Manchester, Grumpy Studios, was closing down. I was sad to leave the space as we’d created a fantastic community of artists. However, with every end, there must be a new beginning (excuse the cliche!) and I, together with some artists and writers from Grumpy Studios, were welcomed in to another diverse artistic studio community at ArtWork Atelier.
Shortly after the studio move, I exhibited in a joint exhibition with Richard Hughes (who was also selected as Tim Marlow’s NOISE Festival Curator Choice). The exhibition was called ‘A Slow Passion’ and installed as one of the last shows at Castlefield Gallery’s Federation House.
Throughout May I ran a set of creative art workshops for the Stroke Association as part of the Stroke, Science, Art project. This culminated in an exhibition of the project that I curated at Manchester Central Library and also ran a pop up exhibition/workshop at Manchester Museum in October.
Together with fellow directors, Roger Bygott and John Lynch we piloted Manifest, a city-wide festival of visual art in July. We pulled off our pilot festival over three incredibly full days during the busy Manchester International Festival period. With press coverage in a-n and exhibitions at some of the most prestigious cultural venues in Manchester and Salford, plus the support of the artistic community behind us, I think we represented the scene in the cities well. More about the weekend here.
A performance collaboration with Rafael Perez in July at the ‘It’s Ok, you don’t have to like it’ exhibition at TRACK Manchester. Rafael wasn’t able to make the exhibition so Manifest co-director and interdisciplinary artist, Roger Bygott, stepped in to perform the shadow chase/connection with me, bringing his extensive knowledge of physical performance art and dance, adding to the collaboration. A lot of my work has a performative/interactive aspect, either within its creation (I use dance to evolve ideas) or with the visitor when a work is exhibited. This was the first time I was actively involved as a visible performer and although uneasy at first, I enjoyed the interaction with another person and seeing the film and pictures of it afterwards.
In September I accepted another new collaboration, “The Copenhagen Interpretation” this time with photographer, Christian Dyson. I did the lighting design for a fashion shoot and even got to try out a few test shots of my own! There’s also a great behind the scenes video of the project. A really enjoyable day and great team of people making it happen.
I had ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ featured in the Saatchi Art and Music Magazine.
And in November I exhibited my biggest outdoor work at the UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere Durham. DREAMERS was exhibited on one of my favourite sites of the festival to over 200,000 visitors and I’m so pleased to say that it was really well-received with the sound of joy and laughter as people played in the work. I’ve admired Lumiere Durham for many years, so to be given the opportunity to be included and to see so many people enjoy the work highlights exactly why I make the type of work I do.
To round the year off nicely, I exhibited two pieces at Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art. I consider that I had one of the best exhibition spaces in the city as I developed poetry to trim the popular and prominent benches that surround Manchester Central Library. I also exhibited “Lost and Found” inside the library. A fantastic end to the year as I saw visitors enjoying both pieces. The project was made possible by public funding from Arts Council England. See more pictures here.
This year my work has been placed within the public realm more so than ever before, and I have also learnt and tried many new things to develop different strands to my practice. Creating work for the public is an exciting prospect, but nerve-wracking process. I don’t know whether people will engage with the work until it is exhibited, and by that point, it’s impossible to make any changes. I feel a mixture of relief and a huge amount of joy at seeing people engaging so positively with each work this year. With every project I have not been alone in ensuring the work gets to where it is exhibited; I work with the festivals’ teams, manufacturers and sponsors who all play a part, so I’m grateful to have worked with so many talented and enthusiastic people.
December 20, 2015
‘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.
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.
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!
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.
December 10, 2015
In October I ran creative writing and light art workshops at Manchester Central Library as part of the build up to the Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art. These workshops explored themes of memory and identity using creative writing and a final session of light and shadow play.
The workshops were split into sections, the first introduced participants to the library resources for interesting reading and inspiration material in order to explore their own memories to tell stories in interesting literary ways. The second used experimental literary techniques to create new writings and further refine work for the final week. In the final session I introduced everyone to various light and shadow play techniques and long exposure photography. They also used their own writing to create pictures in the shadow word style I use in my own practice and in my Enlighten Manchester final piece “The Stories Under Our Feet“.
The inspiration for these workshops came from a previous project with the Stroke Association, which delivered workshops in creative writing, visual art and photography to help stroke survivors to explore their memories (I have written more on this project here: Curating Stroke: Stories of the Self Through Art and Science).
I’m really pleased with the workshops, I only wish I could have had longer to help develop more work as three sessions only provided a taster of what is possible!
December 8, 2015
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.
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.
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.
December 2, 2015
Throughout 2015 I worked on a project with stroke survivors. I ran a set of visual arts workshops and curated the final exhibitions: one at Manchester Central Library, and the other at Manchester Museum. It was a wonderful experience and I feel privileged to have been through the process to help facilitate some of the workshops and to be able to curate the final exhibitions to help to tell these survivors’ stories.
About the project:
The Stroke Association and The University of Manchester ran creative workshops with 15 stroke survivors across a 9-month period in 2015. These focused on creative writing, visual arts and photography. The interactive workshops brought together stroke survivors, artists, filmmakers, clinicians, researchers and students from the University of Manchester and Salford Royal hospital.
Personal and collective stories of life before and after a stroke are told through the survivors’ artistic interpretations. Many of the survivors were shown the brain scan of their stroke. They were talked through their individual scans by leading stroke consultant, Professor Pippa Tyrell and NIHR Clinician Scientist Dr Adrian Parry-Jones, who explained the areas of the brain that were affected by the stroke and answered any questions they had. This was often an emotional moment and many of the survivors used this experience to create artistic responses and explore their feelings towards the journey from having a stroke to the lives they now live.
The Manchester Central Library exhibition, as part of The Manchester Science Festival, gave a more personal insight into a complex and often devastating condition. It is, however, also to show that there is potential for an enriching and positive life after stroke.
The pop-up exhibition and mask-making workshop at Manchester Museum on World Stroke Day was as a result of a special workshop I led during the project. Participants were given a tour of the Museum’s mask collection then they were given coloured tissue paper, glue and scissors to create masks that would reflect different emotions. Masks were made to represent or cover up emotions and also to promote positive emotions.
With thanks to the survivors who created these personal and expressive pieces of artwork:
Peter Osbourne, Keila Moore, Peter Wright, Raymond Garner, Paul Edgerton, Mary Davis, Janette Kirkham, Debbie Concagh, Mark Pizey, George Shone, Janet Stoppard, Carol Banks, Ann Williams, Michaela Holden, Graeme Snell
Also many thanks to the other workshop leaders – Caroline Edge for photography, and Janet Rogerson for creative writing. Special thanks to Joyce Booth and the volunteers from the Stroke Association for helping to coordinate and facilitate all of the workshops, and to Dr Stephanie Snow, who has led the project and is using this as research for her work on documenting the History of Stroke.
A video of the project:
January 29, 2015
Inspired by the recent cold snap. First came the snow…
From my window
Then came the hail…
Tiny ice fists
At the window
September 17, 2014
Well I’ve been working away on my solo exhibition ‘Light Holds Me Here’ and things are starting to come together. I don’t want to go too much into detail about exactly what I’m creating as I’d like it to be a surprise. I am, however, working on a huge scale, one which I’ve never worked on before and in order to develop the work I’ve gone through a few new processes.
I can, and do, think in terms of space – how to move around it and what effect I’d really like to create in an installation. I’ve worked with small scale models of my installation to develop the ideas and lighting effects I’m wanting to create. I imagine it’s a bit like how architects work when they build their scale models. Now I’m having the pieces manufactured at scale and so the full effect of the work within the actual space will not be apparent until I get there and install it – so it’s a nervous but also exciting time!
In the lead up I’ve had a studio critique day with various curators from places such as Manchester Art Gallery, Curated Place and the e-Luminate Festival Cambridge. This worked well to introduce my work and to coherently express what it is that I’m trying to do, and to get valuable feedback from professionals within the field. The response was really positive so it’s good to feel I have support from the people I respect in the industry. As a result, the Director of e-Luminate was able to secure a lighting sponsorship with Pulsar on my behalf, so I’ll be using top quality lights for the installation – brilliant news for a light artist!
This exhibition is a result of a period of research and development, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The funding has given me time to concentrate on developing my practice, to find out about and work with new materials, learn new skills and show work on a much larger scale than previously possible. Next up will be the light and text festival in the Faroe Islands with Curated Place, but one thing at a time!
August 25, 2014
Make what we can
With our bodies.
For no one
In one hundred years
How we danced
With a certain grace and
Loving the life we have now.
I sometimes think about the moments some people lose because they are too embarrassed to really let go and take a moment for what it is, enjoy it for what it is. I dance a lot, it’s part of my practice to clear my mind to make way for new (or previously uncovered) ideas. In fact, most of my ideas come from a moment within the act of dancing (I am definitely not trained, nor do I study it). This is peculiar as the works don’t always include movement so specifically. Anyway, this was a poem I wrote quickly whilst dancing.
June 25, 2014
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
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 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 email@example.com or go to their website here.
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS)
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.