Perpetual Paper Play


Happy 2015! I entered the new year surrounded by piles of folded paper forms (again!) this week.


I've been busy testing out a new camera and the new spotlights in the recently refurbished learning studio at the Hepworth Wakefield over the festive break. I've really enjoyed capturing the amazing ideas and creations people have come up with in my 3D Structures workshop, in response to a large-scale, geometric foot by Toby Ziegler, commissioned as part of the Conflict and Collisions: New Contemporary Sculpture exhibition. The exhibition coincides with WWI commemorations and juxtaposes historical battle scenes with contemporary sculpture, considering themes of war (historical and contemporary), the inter-relation of humans and machines, digital technologies and 3D printing. 


I wanted to examine the nature of paper folding as a way to demonstrate geometrical constructions, creating repeat shapes, patterns, positives, negatives, and concrete or abstract 3D forms. Ziegler's sculpture was partly created through machine but finished by hand and it was this interplay I found interesting to question. In the case of the studio workshop, participants explored the art of folding, geometry, symmetry and reflection with various templates or tessellating prints which they could either completely ignore or use as starting points for geometric 3D forms. 


Some focused on the theme of war, creating paper sculpted dioramas of war machinery, escape tunnels and air-raid bunkers or strange war-like creatures. Others took a more positive approach and for many children (and adults), their folded forms began to represent mini architectural models for utopian playgrounds, perhaps inspired by the play area outside. In any case, I was blown away by the work created.


Start the new year as you mean to go on.


Studio Sketchbook

Since 2008 I've created, developed and led Mini Art Club: a space for families with young children to explore themes connected to artwork and exhibitions at Manchester Art Gallery. Each session incorporates an exploratory activity within a selected gallery space, followed by further creative activities in two specially designed installation spaces in the education studios. 

For the latest Mini Art Club installations see the pictures below. Over the past three months we have focused on a child-centred, family-friendly response to the current Sensory War exhibition. Keywords in planning, activities and session themes were: post-war construction, city features, architecture, maps, movement and journeys. 

You can also read my Studio Sketchbook blog post here. Also, for more pictures, check out my album on Manchester Art Gallery's Flickr site.

Tate Kids Guest Blogger

I've been busy guest-blogging for Tate Kids! Find out about a wonderful mix of young children exploring stories, books and art with artists at Tate Liverpool.

Post 1 introduces the project and Post 2 talks about what we got up to... have a peek.

Thanks to Jake Ryan for the fab photos.

Building A Bridge of Books

I'm currently immersed in a new project at Tate Liverpool, working hard to bring the world of children's stories and Tate Collection artworks alive! As part of the Liverpool City of Readers initiative, I'm working with artist-educator Denise Wright, filmmaker Jake Ryan and groups of young children and their adults to create narratives and stories, inspired by children's books, artworks, gallery spaces and materials in the studio. For my first session, I installed a story den in the Clore Learning Studio which became our base for story-telling and making. This initiated the beginnings of our adventures to discover a 'strange land' in the galleries as children encountered artworks, installations, puppets, props and provocations to create narratives based on their experiences. Back in the studio, children explored materials which they could use to create costumes or make models and props for their story.

The project will culminate in an exhibition and celebration day in the Clore Learning Centre in November. Check out my guest blog post on the Tate Kids website.


Mnemis: dogma da visibilidade silenciosa - an exhibition by Margarida Holler & Marlene Stamm

Yesterday evening I attended the opening of "Mnemis: dogma da visibilidade silenciosa" or "Mnemis: dogma of silent visibility" - an exhibition by Brazilian artists Margarida Holler and Marlene Stamm, at Espaço T, Quase Galeria, Porto, Portugal. Espaço T is a space that aims to promote social inclusion using art as a way to engage and integrate people within Porto society and beyond. As the organisation's mission statement suggests, people are often forced to fit into boxes in society and wear masks as a way to conform and hide their way of being. Espaço T sets out to break this cycle reflecting a vision of a 'real' world where people can reveal this invisible inner self. The building houses an atelier space, an artist-inspired loja da felicidade or 'shop of happiness', tranquil garden and comfy living room space and library, alongside a gallery space for exhibitions.

São Paulo-based artist Margarida Holler's sensitively creates an inner space as she responds to the interiors of Espaço T's Quase Galeria, creating a suspension of a translucent veil-like material, which forms an enclosure within which one can enter. The intention of this enclosed space remains open to each viewer or participant who activates the space either by seeking refuge or protection from the outer world. However, the space also offers a fuzzy, distorted viewpoint outside as the viewer can peer out and see the world anew. Here, one could imagine a suspension of time too, although the structure of the installation also encourages people to look up at a suspended cellular or embryo-like object attached to an umbilical cord, which seemingly reaches to the sky - perhaps like the germination of a dream. Here, the constant electric, lamp-lit shadows contrast the passage of time as the skylight reveals the movement of natural light as day fades to night.   

Margarida's work continues in the main gallery space as a vibrant inner body space takes over the centre of the room in an elaborate, tightly wound-up mass of 'corporal' matter with an inner nucleus, composed of hidden text - perhaps taken from lines of poetry which can be found written in Portuguese in the exhibition catalogue. 

The intricate work of fellow São Paulo artist Marlene Stamm encompasses the space as a continuous row of watercoloured burnt out matches line the walls as if to form a continuous suspension of time. Here we imagine brief, split units of time as a match strikes and a silent yet underrated energy is released, disperses and fades to form a memory. Underneath, a handwritten, mantra-like text captures the steady yet constant count and splitting of time: "quarenta e dois segundes e um décimo.. " Moving closer to the wall, delicate, hyper-real drawings of electrical wires wind their way in and out of the room's plug sockets as if to energise the space further with a constant hum or vibration, something perhaps which the unobservant viewer may overlook - blink and you'll miss it! Both Holler and Stamm playfully reveal a silent, invisible alter-reality which oozes with an energetic vibrancy - the silence screams with visual poetry.  

The exhibition is open from 27 September - 14 October. 

My Colourful Pop-Up World

It's the last few days of My Colourful Pop-Up World at Tate Liverpool! We've been responding to the Mondrian and his Studios exhibition as we explore abstraction, colour and geometry in both 2D and 3D. 

Piet Mondrian was one of the first artists to experiment with abstraction when he moved from Holland to Paris in 1911, then London and New York. In each city he moved to he had a studio, which served as a kind of 3D realisation of his gridded, geometric canvases. Mondrian was inspired by architecture and the increasingly built-up landscapes that surrounded his city centre studios.

Taking this theme of abstraction in the real world, participants have been creating gridded viewfinders which can be overlaid onto the windows of Tate Liverpool's Art Dock studio to colour and re-frame the landscape.  Participants are also leaving their colourful strips to be added to an evolving installation in the Family Room. Furthermore, they can experiment with paper manipulation and the art of pop-up as their cuts and folds turn into geometric sculptures and architectural-like models.  Watch this (square!) space for more photos of the Family Room in progress...


But does it float?

As part of the first two weeks of the Mondrian Mohamedi summer workshops at Tate Liverpool, I have focused on the exquisite work of Indian abstract artist Nasreen Mohamedi. Lesser known in the UK, Mohamedi's work incorporates a number of mediums such as drawing, painting and photography through a journey from semi-abstract landscapes to painstakingly abstract, geometric pen and ink drawings. Nasreen Mohamedi was inspired by Islamic architecture, desert landscapes and seascapes encountered during her travels and these can be seen within beautiful examples of her black and white photographs. 

But does it float? was a series of workshops during the first part of August which encouraged children and participants of all ages to explore experimental, 'random' mark-making vs. careful, controlled, measured lines using different printing, frottage and drawing processes. Inspired by abstract art, architecture, binary patterns, geometry, and the local, Merseyside landscapes, participants worked into thin strips of card to create floating, 3D, architectural sculptures in black and white. 

Watch this space for my next blog post to see how we move from monochrome into an exploration of grids, primary colours, pop-ups and the world of Mondrian and his Studios.


It's reflection time! Here are some pictures from my July and August sessions in the Clore Art Studio. They show some crafty ways we've been working with small geometric-shaped mirrors in addition to the coloured paper shapes and plinths in the Clore!

Paper Trails

I've had a busy week running Artigami at The Hepworth Wakefield: a workshop inspired by Barbara Hepworth's curved, hollow forms and strings, The session is dedicated to constructing and deconstructing the possibilities of paper.


We've bean tearing, twisting, folding, punching, pleating, scrunching.... and I have to say I've been blown away by some of the work I've seen. We've had lots of positive comments too, so hopefully we got the balance right between structured activity and free-style paper play!


Artigami will run again on September 13th-14th (11am - 4pm) and I'll also be working on creating a new paper workshop which will run at The Hepworth Wakefield in October.