Manifest Arts Festival 2015

December 3, 2015

Manifest Poster

Manifest Poster

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

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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.

Manifest Logo

Manifest Logo

 

All photos taken by John Lynch, and the logo and programme designed by the talented Stephanie Hamer. 

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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.

IMG_0813

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.