Dreaming 2017

January 2, 2018

Tonight We Dream by Elisa Artesero, 2017 (photo credit Nikolas Grabar)

2017 – another trying and turbulent year politically and globally. Reflecting on my own artistic projects however, it’s been a richly rewarding, varied and interesting year. Here’s my overview:

The Garden of Floating Words, Elisa Artesero 2017 (photo credit Stephen Iles)

The year got off to a fantastic start with my commission for the Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival in London. The Garden of Floating Words is a cluster of glowing neon words forming a poem that appears to be floating in the dark amongst the foliage of Jubilee Gardens. I was overwhelmed by the positive public response. So many people stopped to contemplate the poem, and take pictures which were shared across social media. I also created my ‘Dreaming Bench’ as a little extra – this was almost as popular as the main work! Surprising, as it was something people had to find, but find it they did!

Dreaming Bench, Elisa Artesero 2017 (photo credit Stephen Iles)

In February I travelled to Iceland! There, I created mountainside projection piece ‘Tonight We Dream’ at List i Ljosi Festival in Seydisfjordur, East Iceland. I was so inspired by the place that  I wrote new poetry and projected it at other locations around the town, some static projections on houses, others temporary pop up poems on a walk around the town with a portable projector. I also visited Reykjavik the days that it had the most snowfall in over 60 years – it was a truly magical experience!

Tonight We Dream, Elisa Artesero

Snowflake, Elisa Artesero 2017

I had two artist retreats to the province of Burgos in Northern Spain to a little hideaway in the mountains; once in Spring and another in Autumn. This is part of some ongoing development work, here’s a couple of preview pictures that don’t give too much away!

More Shadow Than Form, Elisa Artesero, 2017

Sunlight on Chair, Elisa Artesero 2017

In July, together with colleagues and fellow artists, John Lynch and Roger Bygott, we ran the second biennial Manifest Arts Festival! This year we were delighted to have the support of Arts Council England with one of their Grants for the Arts. We showcased over 250 artists in open studios, events and exhibitions for 5 FULL days across venues in Manchester, Salford and Bolton. This was a particular highlight of the year as it was a fantastic celebration of the arts scene in the region and we were so pleased to be able to pull it all together. Watch the video below!

Manifest Arts Logo

 

Another fantastic project that I was involved in was my continued work with The Stroke Association and University of Manchester. For this project I devised and delivered a series of art workshops for stroke survivors and medical students. More on the work in this article. Also here’s the video that explains what happened and shows some of the workshops in action!

 

This year was quite a year of travel, together with my trips to Spain and Iceland, I also went to Eindhoven in Holland, and Berlin in Germany – places I hadn’t visited previously, so it was inspiring to see the arts being produced there.

In September I was honoured to be shortlisted for Best Light Art at the Darc Awards for The Garden of Floating Words!

 

Ending the year, and continuing on into 2018, I am on the AA2A Artist Residency at Sheffield Hallam University. Here I’ll be doing some development work around spacial themes and have been placed within the Interior Design section for the duration. I look forward to revealing more as I make it!

So, there’s an overview of what I’ve been up to throughout 2017! I can’t wait for the exciting things 2018 has to offer. Thank you to all of my collaborators, commissioners, grants givers and supporters throughout the year, it’s thanks to you that I can continue to make my artwork. Happy New Year!

 

 

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Art of Youth Group Photo

Art of Youth Group Photo

I was recently selected as a UK artist representative for the Youth in Action, Art of Youth European Commission programme held 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.

One of the things that took me, and the other three artists from the UK and Ireland, by surprise was that not all the participants were professional artists. From the selection process we had been through here, we thought it was a prerequisite. In fact, the participants from the other European countries (mainly from the Balkans) were from many different disciplines. Some were studying and others were professionals in fields such as architecture, computer science, cognitive science, art history, graphic design, law, and youth work. This turned out to be a wonderful mix, revealing knowledge, skills and different perspectives that might not have been present had the whole group been full of fine artists. It worked for lively and interesting debate about the topics concerning European Citizenship and the politics affecting each country and collectively.

The training part of the course took the form of lectures about contemporary arts practice and seminars about sense of place and European Citizenship. Details of these and the structure of the programme can be found on the blog set up by Ion Creative’s Nancy Barrett: Same Difference.

I’m still reflecting on the full experience of my time in Montenegro and the people that I met. I came away with a feeling of such happiness with the experience, the group had gelled so well, and considering we had many strong, vibrant characters among us, there was never any conflict, just sharing and understanding.

I learnt much about the different customs in each country and the passion everyone had about keeping their own national customs and identity, but also being part of the European Union as a whole, and that this was never viewed as a dichotomy.

I’m writing this on the day of the European elections with many anti-EU parties campaigning to take the UK out of the EU, precisely because they feel the UK is somehow restricted, our culture threatened and at a disadvantage by being in the EU. The main topic that came up in the Youth in Action programme was the freedom of movement, exchange of ideas and cultural experiences that being part of the EU could afford us all. To restrict that again, in my view, is to take the UK backwards, cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Unity sunlight

Unity sunlight

The group I worked with were keen to learn about using light as an art form, and so we made two pieces of work, the first a sunlight performance piece, and the second a night-time light photography made one evening on the beach with us all running around with torches probably looking possessed to any passers-by who wouldn’t necessarily realise that we were ‘drawing with light’ to 15 second exposures.

Unity

Unity is a two-part piece of work. The first is a performance using sunlight and mirrors. Five people transmit a beam of sunlight to each other in a star pattern, finally reflecting the word ‘unity’ onto the ground of the space. The unified action shows the positive effects of collaboration and understanding between EU countries. The second part is night-time light photography which addresses differences and obstacles faced through lack of understanding and knowledge of other countries. The result is a highly stylised and abstract interpretation of these issues.

Artists: Elisa Artesero Danijela Kojic Aleksandar Dragas Marta Garcevic Natasha Jordanova Genc Hani

Other pieces of work were dancing and painting performances, installations, stop motion animation and Christo-inspired tree-wrapping.

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There were many other facets to this experience; for instance the intercultural nights, where we were introduced to the strangely popular musical genre of “Turbofolk” in the Balkans, awesome fast-food pastry dish of Burek, the fact that Bulgarians nod when they mean ‘no’ and shake their heads when they say ‘yes’, and some great ska and punk from Croatia. We also ate a lot of Montenegrin cheese. A lot of cheese.

A wonderful experience that I’ll cherish for many years.

 

'Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here' Sun Bowl

‘Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here’ Sun Bowl

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.

Abstraction and Reflection

Abstraction and Reflection

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.

Colour Blocking

Colour Blocking

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!

The Snail

The Snail

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.

Zen Pathway

Zen Pathway

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!

Walking into happiness

Walking into happiness

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.