We Are Resident: 10 Minute Artist Residency Take-Over at Manchester Art Gallery

This Saturday 28th November, I will be working with artist Nicola Smith to run We Art Resident's '10 Minute Artist Residency' at Manchester Art Gallery. The event has been set up to research and develop a future artist residency programme that can include those who feel unable to participate in existing programmes.  Artists / creatives / parents with children, or those who may feel excluded from existing residency opportunities are particularly welcome. 

The 10 Minute Artist Residency will take place in the Clore Art Studio on the first floor at Manchester Art Gallery from 12pm - 3pm. Participants will be asked to 'check in' and will be guided through a 10 minute residency space to participate in playful, creative activities and contribute ideas to create the ideal artist residency. Information gathered at the event will be used to inform a future residency programme with the opportunity to take part in an artist's residency in Tampere, Finland in 2016.

Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms Installation, Mini Art Club, Manchester Art Gallery

This month's Mini Art Club interactive installation at Manchester Art Gallery questioned the use of space and the choices we make when we fill 'interiors' with collected, domestic objects. Responding to Matthew Darbyshire: An Exhibition for Modern Living, I wanted to develop an interior that would be somehow familiar yet fun, magical and slightly askew at the same time.  A blank canvas white interior provided the backdrop for moving through, with and around objects in space; sensory exploration and colourful, decorative mark-making. I framed the session title around the nineties - noughties BBC programme Changing Rooms which marked the beginning of an era of DIY, aspirational, 'luxury' interior design. Objects in the installation were also chosen to reference some of the spherical, circular forms and household/collectors' items found in Darbyshire's installations.

Participants moved through a number of spaces as part of the session, visiting the top-floor exhibition in the gallery, then down a level to the interactive Clore Art Studio and then finally down to the ground floor to explore and alter the specially created installation space downstairs.

Next month's session will be similar with a few extra fun surprises! Many thanks to Ted, Jess, Sarah and Stephanie for all their help and support.

Expressions of Emotion

Yesterday I went to the opening of Expressions of Emotion: an exhibition of work produced by young people from Liverpool CAMHS at Tate Liverpool. Young people from across the Liverpool CAMHS network worked with different artists over the course of a six week summer project to explore different artistic processes, focussing on mental health through different themes such as indoors/outdoors, emotions, objects, light and colour, working with different artists each week.

I worked with the young people to explore abstract, expressive mark-making, taking inspiration from the Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots exhibition. We translated 'expressive action marks' into experimental light drawings, movement, projections and photography. You can see an image that documents this above, along with some other images of the different ways the group worked with other artists each week. It was lovely to be a part of the project and meet an inspiring group of young people. I am now rather thoughtful about how I translate ideas and my own interests and art practice to engage and co-create with others in different environments.

Toddlers' Choice: Whitworth Collections Centre Exhibition

This summer I worked with families with young children in the Whitworth Atelier to find out what their preferences were to viewing artworks taken from the Whitworth's art collection. Having drawn up a longlist with EY Learning Coordinator Lucy Turner and curators Amy George and Frances Pritchard, sample images of wallpapers and textiles were presented on a wall in the atelier over a number of weeks, for participants to choose their favourites. Weekly activity in the atelier also corresponded with an identified visual theme for each group of images (such as linear, geometric patterns; monochrome patterns and silhouettes; fruit and floral patterns; lines, weaving and movement).

The artworks selected by participants are now on display in the Toddlers' Choice exhibition in the Whitworth's Collections Centre. It's really great as some lovely examples of the children's artworks made in the atelier this summer can be viewed alongside collection artworks in the exhibition. You can also view a short film about the process made by filmmaker Jess Wild from Wild Bees. Today we officially opened our exhibition with an Art Party (preview) in the 'atelier of tastes'.

To take a closer look at the toddlers' choices ,  you can access images, as catalogued by the Whitworth curators. You can also follow my new Diary of an Atelierista blog on tumblr for more information, under the username the-scribble-kid. Finally, here's a glimpse of the exhibition below.

Therapeutic Thursday: SeaEscapes

Where do we go to escape the madness of the world, in order to feel calm and relaxed? Bed? On holiday? The seaside? Somewhere dark, small and cosy? An art gallery? Well, I think perhaps I ended up combining all of these ideas in the 'SeaEscapes' immersive installation at Manchester Art Gallery this Thursday evening.

Open during a Thursday Late, Therapeutic Thursday was an evening of talks, mindful marks, music and art activity designed to promote positive mental health in a beautiful, inspiring building filled with art.  As part of this thoughtful programme, I developed SeaEscapes, with the help of top troupers Ted and Brian, and also the enthusiasm and support of Louise Thompson, Health & Wellbeing Manager at MAG. I was approached by Louise to develop an installation for adults to relax in and wash away the tensions and stresses of a busy day, taking inspiration from the current Channel Crossings: English and French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism exhibition. 

As luck would have it, I had also recently travelled across France (from South East to North West) on a break away, and had the perfect opportunity to collect sea treasures along the shoreline of Dunkirk before crossing the channel back home. Another day outing to the never-ending Southport beach completed my coastal bounty as I headed home with a trove of ornate shells and salty-scented seaweed to add to the installation. This particular assignment involved many hours combing beaches and relaxing in late summer sunlight to the sound of seagulls and delicious sea breezes!

SeaEscapes was based on the monthly Mini Art Club I run at Manchester Art Gallery for families with young children. Sometimes the session incorporates a darkened, immersive space filled with light projections, sounds and objects which notably relaxes many who participate in this space. Louise thought that it would be great to re-create this space for adults and this is something that really interests me as I question the way different subtle interventions within space alter moods, behaviours and interactions. 

The softly-lit installation room contained light boxes, an OHP casting sea-themed silhouettes, and a calming video projection of beach scenes complete with a breeze and sound of the waves. People were invited to simply sit, relax and unwind or use mark-making tools and watery brusho inks to observe and draw the minutiae details of seaside objects placed under or on light sources, for inspiration. 

I was really pleased with the general response of participants who entered the space. Many took time to walk around, sit down, close their eyes, listen & look before adventurously sketching, drawing and inking impressions of the sea. Here are some of their responses to the space: 

'Loved the gentleness of the seascape room, painting & drawing with shadows and brushos. So relaxing after a busy day. Perfect environment.'

Tonight in 3 words: 'calm, serene, relaxing' 'unusual, creative, liberating'

I feel... 'I was at the sea for real.'

The installation was used by young children and adults the following morning as part of Mini Art Club, which also resulted in an extremely chilled session (with participants who are usually tearing around full of energy).

This definitely has to be the most relaxing, outdoor-focused brief I have responded to in a while, which can only be a hugely positive thing.




No Fear

Looking back at some of my travel photos, I found this snapshot taken at the Dom Luis bridge in Oporto, Portugal last year. I love the way the jumper is suspended in time, legs and arms akimbo as he plummets into the deep, blue Rio Douro, while those on the bridge reveal a number of thoughts and expressions!

Many may think this was an incredibly risky or even stupid thing to do, but as we watched this lad and his friends make numerous jumps from the bridge, it was clear that they had worked out all the risks and figured out their escape route back up the rocks to repeat the jump over and over again. They clearly also seemed to enjoy the attention their actions were generating from the onlookers and tourists as they balanced on the steel beams before taking the leap of faith.

This for me sums up risk-taking up beautifully: where the environment forms the ultimate playground, where things are measured and tested out, where nerves are conquered and a sense of achievement is high. This is not to say we should all hurl ourselves off high bridges. However it does demonstrate the beauty of successfully taking risks!

Here's a lovely blogpost which echoes these sentiments, with more pictures (in Portuguese) here.

Bauhaus: Colour & Shape Combinations

Feeling slightly under the (lovely) weather and having time on my hands to sort through piles of work in my living room, I came across a brown folder with many slips of paper with coloured shapes. During my Takeover week at Manchester Art Gallery this summer (see previous post here), I decided to run an informal survey which presented participants (all ages) with 3 blank shapes (circle, triangle, square). I wanted to test whether they would intuitively follow the Bauhaus colour theory, matching the primary colours by colouring in the shapes as follows: blue circle, red square, yellow triangle.

Wassily Kandinsky believed that there was a universal bias to matching the colours and shapes in the way above, which formed part of his teachings on spirituality in art and psychology of colours, inspired also by Goethe. Kandinsky tested this theory with his students at the Bauhaus school and, unsurprisingly, the students followed their teacher's theory and the results were unanimous. There's more background information to read here. The theory has since been criticised and the results have since been disputed and disproven as irrelevant to our contemporary culture and the way we interpret symbols of colour and shape.

Well, having spent some time counting up the combinations, the results of my mini-survey are displayed in the image as follows:

My colour-shape match results!

So, you can see that out of the 295 people who chose to take part, the most popular combination was red circle, yellow triangle, blue square, closely followed by yellow circle, red triangle and blue square. In a lot of cases, the circle was viewed as a sun or planet; the triangle was viewed as a pyramid, nacho or something spiky and agressive and the square was often a container for water, the sea, the sky and something calm.

I did get really into this and recorded all of the responses and frequency of reasons. Here are some of the highlights:

"(blue circle) the moon - just chillin, (yellow triangle) DANGER - unnaturality, high voltage, (red square) unstoppable force"

"(blue circle) water drop, (red triangle) broken glass, (yellow square) pee"

"(red circle) sun, (yellow triangle) tortillas, (blue square) pool"

"(red circle) The clowns red nose, (yellow triangle) Roof of the houses, (blue square) Window in the house"

"(blue circle) I din't do it neat because I support M/C UNITED, (yellow triangle) Made me happy, (red square) It made me angry"

"(blue circle) An Allien egg, (yellow triangle) pyramid, (red square) button"

"(yellow circle) happy / the middle of a daisy, (red square) = stop / post box"

"(yellow circle) Joyful, because I think of happy faces and the sun, (red triangle) Angry because red is an angry colour. Red is for warning and danger signs, (blue square) gloomy"

 18 didn't conform to the instructions, either by colouring the shapes all one colour, just two colours, using two colours for one shape, or mixing primary colours to make secondary colours - many of these examples were by younger children or rebellious/non-conformist adults.

What is interesting is thinking about how these reasons change according to culture, age, background, interests, personalities etc. Also, by reducing these fabulous little coloured shape combinations into statistics, we also miss out on seeing the way each individual chose to colour their shape in and there were some great examples of this too! I'd like to turn into a piece of art soon... WATCH THIS BLANK COLOURED SPACE.






Drawing with Light: Tate Liverpool and CAMHS

As part of my practice, I create immersive environments that incorporate different sensory materials, objects, darkened spaces, a range of light sources and music or sound. I am particularly interested in the ways such spaces can provoke different behaviours: building confidence,  heightening a positive, relaxed mood and sense of fun, wonder and well-being.

As part of a series of workshops with young people from the Liverpool CAMHS network, I was asked by Tate to develop a concept around 'Drawing with Light', taking the current Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots exhibition as a source of inspiration. The aim was to set-up a comfortable, relaxed, darkened space which would encourage different groups of young people to come together, socialise, participate in creative activity and leave with a positive feeling and sense of themselves.

In response to key Pollock artworks, participants were encouraged to engage freely with action mark-making while listening to abstract electronic music. The marks then began to turn into drawings that could be projected onto different surfaces through different digital and analogue and projection devices within a specially devised installation space. Time was also given for the group to socialise and catch up on CAMHS news.

As there was a lot going on in the workshop, I didn't have the chance to document to the extent I normally do, so a photographer was brought in on behalf of Tate to capture the process on film. The only blurry snapshot I do have is of some smiling people at the end who took hold of some finger lights and began to move and 'draw' with light. The young people had initially come into the room feeling nervous, shy and anxious. However, as the session drew to a close (at the time this snapshot was taken), the volume of voices, laughter and smiles and congregated groups chatting, not wanting to leave, was a sign for me that the space had acted as a container of positive interaction. I'm looking forward to developing this space again soon elsewhere.

Diary of an Atelierista

As if I haven't got enough to do, I have now decided to up my game and start a Tumblr blog as the-scribble-kid ! This blog should hopefully act as my online Diary of an Atelierista. So do pop over there from time to time and see what happens!


@filledelumiere on Instagram

Taking up a rather difficult 365 challenge, I'm attempting to (more or less) capture an image a day on Instagram. Check out my new @filledelumiere page on Instagram to see my photographic meanderings with the latest snap-happy gadget!