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!
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 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 7, 2015
Really pleased to have been featured in an article about the thriving cultural arts scene in Manchester in the Saatchi Art and Music North issue.
The featured work was for 2014 Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light Art. It’s called ‘A Solid Wish Scatters’ and was installed in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens. The earthly presence of the blocks scatter into an ephemeral light piece on the concrete wall to show all that is solid is still fragile and all that is perceived to be permanent never will be. Read more about the work here.
I will be exhibiting in this year’s Enlighten Manchester 10th-12th December, showing ‘The Stories Under Our Feet’ around the benches of Manchester Central Library and ‘Lost and Found’ within the library itself. For more information and to book free tickets to the festival visit the Enlighten Manchester website. These works have been created with the support of Arts Council England.
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.
June 25, 2014
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
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website here.
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS)
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.
November 20, 2013
We braved the biting cold and travelled up to Durham at the weekend for the 2013 Lumiere Festival. I was so excited as it’s one of the largest and most prominent light art festivals in the UK at the moment and one of great inspiration for my practice.
This year they ticketed (free) the central portion of the festival from between 4.30 and 7.30 in order to manage the crowds at the busiest times. We didn’t have tickets for this so we wandered around the outer exhibits first.
The pieces which particularly impressed me were ‘Litre of Light’ an extremely simple but effective way of using an old plastic bottle, refracted sunshine, water and chlorine to make a 55-watt solar bulb. The invention is being used to bring cheap and effective light sources to windowless dwellings across the world, it truly is a remarkable thing. The presentation here was done by Mick Stephenson. Lots of bottles had been decorated in coloured pen and placed in clustered in the walls and ceiling to create glowing growths like stalactites in a deep, dark cave.
The floating interlocking rectangles of light of ‘Platonic Spin’ by Nathaniel Rackowe in the Crown Court Gardens were a quiet and uncanny beauty to come across. They drew out sequences in light which burned into your temporary visual memory to mesmerising effect.By far my favourite piece was [M]ondes by Atsara in the central area of the festival. We waited in line for over an hour to get in as the crowds of people seemed to overwhelm the city, with more and more arriving all the time (testament to Lumiere’s popularity). It was worth the wait though as the light sculpture flickered like fireflies buzzing over the gardens accompanied by ephemeral voluminous light projections marking out hypnotic shapes and spaces in the rest of the garden.
I certainly love Lumiere, but I wonder how it will cope with the ever increasing crowds for next time. Last time there were a lot of people but in general we were able to amble around at leisure and happen upon pieces of work rather than being so guided (in the central zone).
I think the organisers, Artichoke, did what they could to manage the crowds, but when something is so astoundingly popular but the size of the city is so small in comparison, I wonder if eventually Durham Lumiere will become a victim of its own success. I certainly hope not. Its popularity shows the growing public love of light art and it’s wonderful to know that there are so many people who are also fascinated and delighted by the wonder that is light and all of its creative and practical possibilities.
March 15, 2012
Light Weather is my first solo exhibition in the Link Gallery, Manchester. The exhibition comprises of two parts: the Link is a large-scale installation, at one end of the gallery there is an abstract sky lit up with coloured flashes of light, throughout the rest of the gallery there are coloured pools of light suspended above the floor. The Foyer space shows some of my abstract light photography and an experimental light sculpture.
The installation is a complete experiment. It’s not often I have the opportunity to work in such a large and unusual space where I can let my imagination run wild (time and health and safety restrictions aside). So I have responded to the space to create an installation which is similar to a stage set. Nothing is naturalistic, the sky and pools of light are abstractions of what they represent, and are lit up with bright colours appealing to the senses. People can walk through the set, as both participants and audience, and hopefully enjoy it as a memorable interruption to their day.
Throughout the week there have been many people who have stopped and stared up at the flashing sky suspended from the ceiling of a hexagon in the Link. People have commented that they have spent a good 10 minutes or so looking at the exhibition and listening to my specially matched playlist of music, enjoying the calming effect it has had. The Link is essentially a walkway from one building to the next, many people just walk through and only glance at what is on the walls, so it is nice to know that my work has made some people pause from where they are going. Others said they enjoyed the use of the space as a full-scale installation as this has not happened for quite some time.
Overall I’m pleased with the exhibition and how well it has been received. As I said before, it was an experiment, plus I only had a day and a half to install it all, so there are things I’d change. I only learnt these during the installation and when it was up – the main one being that the hallway windows were too light during the day, and unfortunately I was not allowed to black them out due to health and safety regulations. However, the overall look and effect was as intended (especially at night), and it has encouraged me to continue to be ambitious with my ideas and set ups.
March 3, 2012
This is a video exploring a light sculpture I made recently. I then edited it to Boxcutter’s tune ‘Fieldtrip’.