The Stories Under Our Feet

December 20, 2015

Rain

Rain – photo by John Lynch

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.

Sunshift1 JL

Sunshift – photo by John Lynch

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.

 

Lost and Found couple JL

Lost and Found (couple) – Photo by John Lynch

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!

 

Little boy Lost JL

Lost and Found – Photo by John Lynch

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In October I ran creative writing and light art workshops at Manchester Central Library as part of the build up to the Enlighten Manchester Festival of Light and Sound Art. These workshops explored themes of memory and identity using creative writing and a final session of light and shadow play.

The workshops were split into sections, the first introduced participants to the library resources for interesting reading and inspiration material in order to explore their own memories to tell stories in interesting literary ways. The second used experimental literary techniques to create new writings and further refine work for the final week. In the final session I introduced everyone to various light and shadow play techniques and long exposure photography. They also used their own writing to create pictures in the shadow word style I use in my own practice and in my Enlighten Manchester final piece “The Stories Under Our Feet“.

The inspiration for these workshops came from a previous project with the Stroke Association, which delivered workshops in creative writing, visual art and photography to help stroke survivors to explore their memories (I have written more on this project here: Curating Stroke: Stories of the Self Through Art and Science).

I’m really pleased with the workshops, I only wish I could have had longer to help develop more work as three sessions only provided a taster of what is possible!

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I interviewed Chris Lowe, Senior Lighting Designer at international architectural firm, BDP. We talked about his work as a lighting designer, his love of Tungsten lamps and guerrilla lighting, all published in The Double Negative. View the full article here.

Subluminal lighting

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I emerge into MediaCityUK Square, a group of photographers have their cameras set up and all are pointing in my direction. I have made it, and go to take my place along side them. Seconds later, a line of people dressed in morph-like suits hooked up with bright blue LEDs on their arms and legs come jogging surprisingly quietly down the same walkway I have just come from. The line gets longer, until there are around 80+ light-morphs streaming past…Continue reading my review at the a-n website.

Fog and a hanging ball

October 21, 2011

I’ve been buzzing around quite a few galleries recently, two shows that I went to on the same day that couldn’t have been more different in medium, but rather similar in concerns were ‘Zee’ at FACT Gallery and the Magritte exhibition at Tate Liverpool.

‘Zee’ by Kurt Hentschlager at Liverpool’s FACT Gallery was an experience to remember. Essentially a room filled to the brim with fog you might think it a claustrophobic piece of work, but this was not the case for me anyway. Guided into the room in groups of no more than 12, participants must grasp hold of a tight red rope to give some sort of point of reference for the first few steps into the fog and towards a bright white light, then when comfortable, let go of the rope and wander tentatively around the room. A low rumbling of sound and a mixture of strobe and pulse lights of different patterns and swathes of colour envelop even more intensely than the fog itself, it is merely the conduit for the light.

The first time I went in with friends, we were astonished at the experience. We giggled and exclaimed how wonderful it was, there was a real sense of joie de vivre and I certainly felt the kind of giddy excitement I did as a child, when everything is new and emotions are expressed regardless of the social situation.  The second time I entered the space with more composure, ready to take the experience but more actively analyse it. As the work progressed I found myself smiling, unaware of whether my eyes were open or closed (the strobes work through eyelids), I felt that as I could see nothing else but the light and the occasional phantom shadow, that I was almost not there. During some of the more intense light patterns it occurred to me that if death is no more than a dissipation of energy back into the world, then this was something akin to what I believe death to be. I don’t mean to sound morbid, in fact quite the opposite, feeling as if on the cusp of existing and not existing was quite liberating and not at all scary. When asked whether I preferred the first or the second experience best, I think the first; because even though the second experience gave a certain epiphany, the first brought me back to existing in the same way that a child exists. A child takes in everything as new, just enjoying the experience and reacting directly through laughter and excitement.

Magritte 'The Secret Life'

Magritte 'The Secret Life'

A different medium, but for me, with similar concerns, was the excellent Magritte painting exhibition at Liverpool Tate. The exhibition was a comprehensive education in Magritte’s life and progression through the styles and concerns of his work, which should be credited to the curators, Christoph Grunenberg and Darren Pih, for their insightful and thoughtful layout of the work.

The walls were coloured grey/blue and particularly in the first room named ‘The Surreal Encounter’ the lighting was muted to the extent that it gave the impression of standing in one of his paintings, yet viewing them at the same time. This is a clever curatorial decision as many of his works play with the boundary of the painting, what is real and what is not.

From this large exhibition I could go on about so many of the paintings, but in an attempt at brevity I shall just note the piece I found most personally impacting after a day of considering the existence of things; this was ‘The Secret Life’ 1928 (pictured above). I stood in front of this painting for quite a while, I found the ball hanging in mid-air in this darkened bare room quite innocuous. This spherical ‘thing’ appears to be in a state of being/existing in this space whether we are there to view it or not. I looked at this painting in situ with many people around me, yet it felt as if it was very much alone and I had intruded on its quiet existence, a bit like coming across a ghost. Perhaps this painting is a visual version of the philosophical conundrum ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?’ it is a question of perception and existence.