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.

Light Holds Me Here

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Castlefield Gallery at the Manchester Contemporary

Castlefield Gallery at the Manchester Contemporary

I recently completed an internship with Castlefield Gallery. The gallery invited me to work with them at this year’s Manchester Contemporary, a large art fair which showcases numerous well-respected galleries. It was an opportunity too good to miss and I was delighted to be asked.

Castlefield Gallery is a vibrant cultural hub of Manchester, it has been going since the 1980s and prides itself on continuing to support emerging artists, as well as showcasing national and international artists. The gallery recently, and rather controversially, lost its Arts Council funding and was put in the difficult position of having to re-think its business model and way of working. The gallery faced the challenge and has come up with new plans, yet has maintained its cultural ethics and continues to support artists from the North West and beyond. It also raised an unprecedented £33,000 in an auction of artworks donated by artists it has supported, and bought by patrons of the arts who did not want to see such an important cultural centre in Manchester disappear. I think this demonstrates not only the robust nature of the organisation, but also the cultural sensibilities of the society in and around Manchester, one which recognises its assets and fights to save them.

This leads me onto the internship experience. I learned much about about representing the gallery at the Manchester Contemporary (all of which was very useful to me), but instead of listing this here, I will merely offer an observation about the function of the galleries and cultural organisations that were represented. Each and every gallery I encountered, whether they were new or more established, were supportive to each other. They were open and interested in discussing their artists and the general cultural concerns facing arts’ organisations today. This was also supported by an interesting programme of talks by the galleries and organisations, well attended by those visiting the Contemporary.

Jumping forward a couple of months, I attended a panel discussion about the future of the arts in the North. This was held at the Whitworth Art Gallery and was in aid of the complete bound edition of Issue 3 of Corridor8, an extremely insightful journal currently focused on art in the North. Presentations were given by the Workplace Gallery in Gateshead, Project Space Leeds, Ian Rawlinson (artist and academic based in Manchester) and Maria Balshaw, the Director of the Whitworth and Manchester City Art Gallery.

Each of the presentations gave a view of the North as a thriving place for artistic development and the positive plans for now and well into the future. One thing which was addressed was the comparison to the art institutions in the South of England, and the differences and challenges faced by those in the North. What quite clearly came through was that not only is the North flourishing with the artistic talent it produces, but it is also fully connected with the ‘art world’ as a whole. This can be highlighted by the commercial success of the Workplace Gallery, and the critical acclaim reached on a world stage by the Manchester International Festival. Despite these achievements, Maria Balshaw made an interesting point about the flexible nature of working here, that it is possible to take huge risks which might not be conceivable elsewhere; and that the North should not focus on growing bigger, but only more interesting.

As this panel discussion went on in front of a packed audience, there were numerous other art openings and events around the city. These included Castlefield Gallery’s “Tatoo City” and the residency at the newly formed Lionel Dobie Project, a place which supports  emerging curators; along with many other events too extensive to list fully. It was not possible for me to get to all of these, but to be able to have the choice on a cold Thursday evening in late November, shows that there is a lot going on, and it certainly isn’t showing signs of slowing.

For more articles about events, exhibitions, talks etc. please browse the rest of my blog.