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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Manifest Arts at The Manchester Contemporary – work by Helen Wheeler and Lucy Ridges

 

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.

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I also had a 2-page feature spread in international lighting design magazine, Mondo*Arc: 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

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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!

 

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DREAMERS

DREAMERS

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.

Ambiguous Borders in 'A Slow Passion' exhibition

Ambiguous Borders in ‘A Slow Passion’ exhibition

 

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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.

Stroke Association Art Workshops

Stroke Association Art Workshops

 

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.

Manifest Logo

Manifest Logo

 

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.

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Roger Bygott and I performing the shadow chase

 

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.

The Copenhagen Interpretation - my bts picture

The Copenhagen Interpretation – my bts picture

 

I had ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ featured in the Saatchi Art and Music Magazine.

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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.

Visitors enjoying casting their shadows

Visitors enjoying casting their shadows

 

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.

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The Stories Under Our Feet photo by John Lynch

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Lost and Found – photo by John Lynch

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. 

 

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Me with one of my poems – photo by John Lynch

The Stories Under Our Feet

December 20, 2015

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Rain – photo by John Lynch

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.

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Sunshift – photo by John Lynch

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.

 

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Lost and Found (couple) – Photo by John Lynch

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!

 

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Lost and Found – Photo by John Lynch

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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