January 2, 2017
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I also had a 2-page feature spread in international lighting design magazine, Mondo*Arc:
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
July 12, 2010
“Beware the Table” is the film for part of my final show in Foundation. As you can probably guess, this is another offshoot of my art school table obsession.
I’d been brainstorming ideas about other ways to develop my table project so that I could create a final piece that really exhibited all that I’d learned throughout the year and bring to the fore a final piece that showed this and was a step up from my previous work. I had a storyline that had been floating about my head for a long time but I’d never felt confident to tackle, so decided that this was the best opportunity to do it and really bring the year and project to a conclusion (I say conclusion, but I still find my table inspiring so may use it again in the future!).
I wanted the table to come to life, similar to how I’d made little creatures grow and crawl out of it in my first stop motion animations, but to really develop it into a longer piece. My storyboard is rather sinister, but joyfully so if that is possible.
I spent a lot of time designing different stage sets for the action to happen on the table, but none of them really worked, so I took a bit of time out from this and did some reading into psychoanalysis and artists’ connections to objects. Artists are thought to often project part of their psyche onto objects that they become fascinated with, something that I could understand; I’d developed a knowledge of, and an affection for this object and really wanted it to live, in a similar way to how children make dolls and objects come alive during play. It’s an uncanny experience and I wanted to reflect this in the final piece (I found Freud’s essay on the “Uncanny” particularly interesting as part of this research). The only way that I could really envisage making this transformation would be to use film and animation and accompany it with some sort of music/sound effects to create the eerie mood.
The film in brief (I’d like to keep a little bit of mystery for future showings) is dream-like and sinister. It is about a literal take over of creativity, the table comes to life, its heart beats and the paint blobs move about. They change from normal paint to neon under UV light to reveal a life within the life and get sucked in to the heart. A girl working on the table also feels the effect of the creative infection…
I took rather an unconventional approach to the sound of the film, in that I decided on the sound after I had made the film. Yet it only took a few tiny tweaks to be able to match the musical beats to the visuals without changing the storyline or much of the original edit. I simply knew that I would be able to find the right music for the piece as I have a lot of electronic instrumental music. I found a tune by Lackluster called “Haloaw (xx/07/09)” from the album Showcase. It had just the right sinister quality about it and progression in the music to match the progression in each section of the film. I then mixed some of my own sound effects in to give the blobs a voice (of sorts).
A special thank you should be given to my long suffering model/actress, Anna Jordan, who happily let me apply paint in the style of the table all over her body for the film!
July 6, 2010
This is an exhibition that I and 6 other Foundation students put on in the Link Gallery at Manchester Metropolitan University in March 2010; the first student initiated and organised Foundation Art exhibition in the space. We had to submit a proposal and have an interview about the work we were going to exhibit and how we intended to manage the set up of the space. We were in competition with other degree student submissions so we didn’t know if we’d be taken seriously as Foundation students. We submitted a well thought-out proposal however, which included artist bios, images, list of equipment, a design for each space and marketing strategy, so I think this must have helped to dispel any reservations as we were given the exhibition.
We decided to call the exhibition “Future Foundations” for, I think, obvious reasons. The work included had a 3D element in common but had been approached in a myriad of ways to showcase work from students on one of the best Foundation courses in the country.
My space exhibited my Snow Table project entitled “Snow Days” together with quality prints and the book documenting the progress. Alongside this I showed the two stop motion animations I’d done on my table.
The other students exhibited on themes of preservation, tumours, obsessions, death, breath and personal exploration. These were explored through textiles, film projection, illustration, body painting and sculpture.
The exhibition was well received with many wonderful comments. We had a comments box to help to get feedback from people other than our immediate peer group which was of great use to our artistic development and to see what people liked about the exhibits.
A couple of quotes from feedback my piece received:
“I found the development that you observed in ‘Snow Days’ to be really interesting. It was cool how you had limited control over the outcome and how you embraced the results”
“I really liked the honest, genuine approach to the work. It feels as though someone with a genuine spontaneous streak has created from nature and man-made to create a piece which has its own life and growth and spirit!”
July 6, 2010
Over the very snowy period in January 2010 I decided to try to take advantage of the opportunity of having mounds of material to sculpt as I wished. I live in flats with shared gardens that face the street so I thought I’d experiment with making some work that could be seen and commented on by passers-by.
I decided to carry on with my art school table theme (I’d been trying to recreate the surface effect in many different ways by this point already) and make the table out of snow. This took rather a lot of time and luckily a neighbour took pity on me and lent me a shovel to get the huge mound of snow in place a little easier than my rather silly idea that I could move it all by hand/foot.
Once sculpted and smoothed flat on the surface I started to paint it in the aesthetic of the art school table’s surface. This worked out better than I thought and I was really pleased with what I’d achieved. As I was painting I had many people walking by and popping over to have a look and a chat about what I was up to. It bemused some people and delighted others, particularly children. In the evening I could see people going up to the sculpture to have a look; quite a few took photos which was nice to see.
Over the next few days I tracked the changes in the table by writing a diary and taking photos as it froze over then finally melted. I also added to the table with frozen paint icicles I made in different shapes to make it a little more 3D. It was amazing to see this piece of work change each day as a result of the weather; crystals formed to make it sparkle in the sun and when it started to melt the colours bled into each other to make a completely different piece. I enjoyed speaking to people about it and seeing more and more people pass by and take pictures each day.
The addition of coloured icicles:
The melting snow table:
I like that this piece did not exist permanently, but changed and finally disappeared, it’s only documentation now in pictures and my diary. These are just a few pictures to illustrate the piece of course, there is a lot more in the final book I produced and exhibited at the Link Gallery in Manchester.
July 5, 2010
As a mini-retrospective from the past year in Foundation, here is the result of one of my first pieces:
I had given up my job to do the Foundation course and for one of the first projects we had to experiment with paint and text and to create ‘something’ out of these experiments. I had a huge pile of timesheets from work that were just filling up space at home, so I decided to use these for the text part of the piece. I painted them in various bright colours and decided to make them into wax covered flowers. It was a fairly cathartic experience, tearing up all those sheets that represented all that time doing something that didn’t suit me. The transformation, for all its cliché, was rather apt to show the change in my situation to something beautiful. So I teamed these artificial flowers with the dried out flowers I’d been given as my leaving gift and a Bob Dylan quote:
“For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than they invest in.”
I know that there are a couple of versions of this quote, but, for obvious reasons, I stuck with this one.
For anyone who has left their job for something they really want to do, then this is a nice way of saying goodbye. Leave a comment if you’ve done something similar, or alternatively get in touch if you’d like me to transform your old timesheets into something pretty!