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 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.
December 2, 2015
Throughout 2015 I worked on a project with stroke survivors. I ran a set of visual arts workshops and curated the final exhibitions: one at Manchester Central Library, and the other at Manchester Museum. It was a wonderful experience and I feel privileged to have been through the process to help facilitate some of the workshops and to be able to curate the final exhibitions to help to tell these survivors’ stories.
About the project:
The Stroke Association and The University of Manchester ran creative workshops with 15 stroke survivors across a 9-month period in 2015. These focused on creative writing, visual arts and photography. The interactive workshops brought together stroke survivors, artists, filmmakers, clinicians, researchers and students from the University of Manchester and Salford Royal hospital.
Personal and collective stories of life before and after a stroke are told through the survivors’ artistic interpretations. Many of the survivors were shown the brain scan of their stroke. They were talked through their individual scans by leading stroke consultant, Professor Pippa Tyrell and NIHR Clinician Scientist Dr Adrian Parry-Jones, who explained the areas of the brain that were affected by the stroke and answered any questions they had. This was often an emotional moment and many of the survivors used this experience to create artistic responses and explore their feelings towards the journey from having a stroke to the lives they now live.
The Manchester Central Library exhibition, as part of The Manchester Science Festival, gave a more personal insight into a complex and often devastating condition. It is, however, also to show that there is potential for an enriching and positive life after stroke.
The pop-up exhibition and mask-making workshop at Manchester Museum on World Stroke Day was as a result of a special workshop I led during the project. Participants were given a tour of the Museum’s mask collection then they were given coloured tissue paper, glue and scissors to create masks that would reflect different emotions. Masks were made to represent or cover up emotions and also to promote positive emotions.
With thanks to the survivors who created these personal and expressive pieces of artwork:
Peter Osbourne, Keila Moore, Peter Wright, Raymond Garner, Paul Edgerton, Mary Davis, Janette Kirkham, Debbie Concagh, Mark Pizey, George Shone, Janet Stoppard, Carol Banks, Ann Williams, Michaela Holden, Graeme Snell
Also many thanks to the other workshop leaders – Caroline Edge for photography, and Janet Rogerson for creative writing. Special thanks to Joyce Booth and the volunteers from the Stroke Association for helping to coordinate and facilitate all of the workshops, and to Dr Stephanie Snow, who has led the project and is using this as research for her work on documenting the History of Stroke.
A video of the project:
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.
August 14, 2013
I was invited to exhibit my ‘Sun Bowls’ at the ‘If Not Here Where‘ exhibition at the Didsbury Parsonage 7th-21st July 2013 to coincide with the Manchester International Festival. The exhibition was both inside the Parsonage and outside in the gardens and had a twofold approach in theme, one concentrating on if not here, then where else would you be? And the other, more contemplative theme focusing on our existence and contemporary life.
Each handmade bowl had part of a Zen poem etched onto the glass. The appearance of the words shifted in the changing sunlight, helping to give a different experience of the bowls for visitors throughout the day. I was pleased to find visitors returning to view the bowls at different points of the day to see them change appearance in the light.
During the exhibition, the artists were able to take up residence in the space and gardens to create more work or just be inspired by the surroundings. I was so pleased to be afforded the space and time to just experiment and focus on my practice in a very intuitive manner with no planned or expected outcome.
I found the gardens most inspiring and decided to make some temporary interventions using some of my existing work. I wanted to see how my work looked in a different context to the gallery spaces I often show in, and also to see whether the interventions inspired new work or gave new insights to the existing pieces.
I started with some coloured Perspex squares I’d been enamoured with the colour of but hadn’t previously found a purpose for. I placed them in the grass, in crevices in the trees and along the stone walls to create abstract pictures and contrasting textures. While I was working I had in mind Matisse’s ‘The Snail’ and his idea of drawing in the colour by using brightly coloured pieces of paper painted with gouache, mine, more rigid squares of plastic. I couldn’t help but make a little snail of my own as a kind of homage to the influence!
Looking over my square work now, I see that I was creating a little invasion of my squares which echoed fellow exhibitors’ work, Rusby and Long with their ‘Invasion’ of plain white pyramid blocks shifted by visitors around the site. My invasion was tracked only by photography which gives an impression of the site being filled with coloured squares but only really affected by six, whereas the real ‘Invasion’ consisted of a large number of pyramids.
I was intrigued by the large patch of wild flowers that sprung up in the middle of the gardens to create a beautiful picture of summer time bliss. For days I wondered if I could do anything with them and kept being stumped because they were so beautiful. The one day I brought in my poem lasercut out of wood “Everything must end/ Thus the day tries to begin/ Nothing here but dreams” and placed it gently on top of the flowers so as to be careful not to harm or break them. It immediately brought the poem to life and the summer wind animated the flowers and poem with a soft sway from side to side.
I also hung my previous ‘Happiness’ piece from a tree. It looked almost invisible from some angles until the wind blew and made it turn and reflect the sunlight. I initially put it on a tree in a pathway to take some pictures but moved it quite quickly because it was difficult to see until you were really up close. The other artists joked that there was something quite significant about people literally ‘walking into happiness’ but thought it best not to cause a hazard!
Reflecting on my residency, I found that even though I was often just casually playing in the space, working intuitively and to no definite end, I still kept to my intrinsic values reflected in most of my work. I like work with a temporal quality to it, there one moment, enjoyed for a time, and then gone again. It can exist in numerous states, physical at the time of making, then captured by photograph or film, or, as in the case of my ‘Sun Scroll‘ and ‘Sun Bowls‘, at specific times of the day depending on the weather.
I also enjoyed the experience of being around other artists in the peaceful atmosphere of the gardens, gaining valuable input from new people at different stages in their careers. It was a supportive and creative time for everyone, and much needed at the start of the summer after the whirlwind of my previous shows.
January 24, 2013
January 22, 2013
September 2, 2012
A few images I took on a wander about Paris. The weather was changeable.
August 27, 2012
I designed ‘Happiness II’ to create a temporary projected document on the pages of the book using sunlight. I re-appropriated a line from a Stephen Dunn poem to visually highlight the transience of happiness. This meant that sometimes it would ‘work’ and other times it would not, depending on the lighting conditions. The first day it rained, but in the evening the light from the street lamps activated the work, which surprised everyone, including myself, as I had only really designed it with sunlight in mind.
The sun came out over the next few days, which made the piece work as intended. This certainly pleased me, but as an artwork that highlights the transience and intangibility of an emotion, it would have fulfilled its conceptual purpose whether the sun came out or not.
One thing I did not anticipate was that the graffiti acid-etched into the gallery window, which also projected onto the work at times. At first this frustrated me, but then I realised that I had created a piece which was ephemeral and relied totally on outside factors to work or not work, and this was something I had to accept. The graffiti was a part of the city, and that was literally becoming part of the experience of my work, for better or worse. Not unlike the experience of happiness.
July 4, 2012
I will be exhibiting a piece of light art as part of the Haecceity Project at Nouvel Organon Gallery, Paris 13th-16th July 2012. I’m really excited to be part of this project, which has already had international press coverage as far as Mexico in newspaper, Excelsior. The exhibition features work from a range of international artists, under the theme of ‘the visual image and literature’. Not only this, but over the weekend there will be live music and drinks, with other activities being planned as I write. So, if you’re in Paris next weekend, please do come along! Go to the Haecceity Project website for more details.