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!
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 7, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 11, 2015
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.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 2, 2014
I exhibited my Arts Council England supported work ‘Light Holds Me Here‘ at Federation House, Castlefield Gallery New Art Spaces in Manchester 24th-28th September 2014.
I’d been exploring the themes of desire and void through new writing and presented it in a large-scale installation using light and shadow effects. I developed the work as something akin to a dream world, one which tracks a domestic space but is presented in abstract and sculptural form. I wanted the space to be something the visitor could become a part of, to experience the light and shadows for themselves and to follow the loose narrative I presented.
The windows in the space had been covered with two-way mirror, so you could see out in the day time but at night the work took on a very different quality as the windows turned into mirrors and reflected the whole installation over and over again. The clarity of reflection and the shadow path words reflecting the right way in the mirrored windows gave the effect of many alternative spaces.
I was really pleased with the result of the work as I was never truly going to know how it would look until it was installed in the space, and neither did I know how visitors were going to react to and interact with it. I’m pleased to say that the reaction was positive, I had some interesting conversations during the exhibition and I also had anonymous feedback sheets which contained some wonderful interpretations of the work and most importantly, how it made visitors feel when they walked around it.
Here is a selection of some of the comments of what people enjoyed most:
“The immersive nature of the light against the shadows. I thoroughly enjoyed the inclusion of text as a sculptural object.”
“A feeling of comfort juxtaposed with fear – beautiful shadows. The use of words in reflection. The sense of vertigo induced by reflection.”
“Light Holds Me Here drew me in, felt slightly uncomfortable in anticipation. Amazing effect at night with reflections in the windows.”
“The reflection that felt like I was teleported in different dimensions then projected.”
“How the sound of the words in my head fit snugly into the sensory experience of the space.”
This post contains some of my own photographs of the exhibition, but on my website you can see all the professional photographs of all the work along with the time lapse video showing the change from day to night in the exhibition.
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!