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 2, 2016
Throughout 2015 I worked on a project with stroke survivors. This included workshops including creative writing, visual arts, photography and music. I ran the visual arts workshops and also curated exhibitions of the work produced throughout the project at Manchester Central Library and the Manchester Museum. (You can learn more about the background to the project and the first exhibitions I curated here.) This year, I was asked to curate an even larger exhibition of the work produced to be exhibited at the historic Manchester Victoria Baths. Below is my curatorial statement and pictures from the exhibition:
The exhibition was curated around the theme of ‘transformation’. A stroke is a profound and life changing event. It creates challenges, both practical and emotional, that need to be faced and processed by both the survivor and those close to them. A profound transformation has taken place and this is reflected in the artwork produced.
Responding to the site of Victoria Baths as a space that was traditionally used for health and wellbeing treatments, the theme of transformation was a natural fit. When it came to the presentation of the work I wanted to create a visual metaphor that visitors would physically interact with and understand even before seeing the artwork.
A curtain was an apt symbol for the space because in the Baths people would change from one state to another, from their daytime clothes to swimming costumes, to cleanse and relax. Participants’ portraits were printed large on gauze and hung around the baths. Behind each picture was a banner of their artwork to tell their individual stories of life before and after stroke. Visitors could view beyond the outward appearance of each person by lifting the curtain. From curtains at the hospital, to curtains at home, to the metaphorical curtains we use to hide elements of ourselves from others. Here we were ‘lifting the curtain’ on stroke.
From the 880 visitors to the exhibition over the weekend we received extremely positive feedback. The interactivity of the exhibition worked to create a physical pause and a longer engagement with each piece than if the work had been immediately accessible. For the participants themselves, it was a culmination of the project, their progress, and an opportunity to see their work professionally mounted in a building of cultural and historic significance. A moment to feel proud of their talents, journey, and accomplishments.
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 7, 2015
Really pleased to have been featured in an article about the thriving cultural arts scene in Manchester in the Saatchi Art and Music North issue.
The featured work was for 2014 Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light Art. It’s called ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ and was installed in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens. The earthly presence of the blocks scatter into an ephemeral light piece on the concrete wall to show all that is solid is still fragile and all that is perceived to be permanent never will be. Read more about the work here.
I will be exhibiting in this year’s Enlighten Manchester 10th-12th December, showing ‘The Stories Under Our Feet’ around the benches of Manchester Central Library and ‘Lost and Found’ within the library itself. For more information and to book free tickets to the festival visit the Enlighten Manchester website. These works have been created with the support of Arts Council England.
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.
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
Looking at you.
March 18, 2015
I recently exhibited my Arts Council England Supported work, A Solid Wish Scatters at the Enlighten Manchester Festival. It received really good feedback and I’ve just found out that the festival has been featured in leading Lighting Design magazine Mondo*Arc. My work is quoted as a ‘public favourite’ which I’m obviously really pleased about! See the full article on page 100 of the digital edition here.
February 18, 2015
I interviewed Chris Lowe, Senior Lighting Designer at international architectural firm, BDP. We talked about his work as a lighting designer, his love of Tungsten lamps and guerrilla lighting, all published in The Double Negative. View the full article here.