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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: