100/365: day's end

Sometimes the most relaxing thing you can do after a long, active day in the studio is put your feet up against the wall and stare at a dark landscape print by Fachrudin Malik. For the warmer, coloured version, click here.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Nature in the City

Here's the final episode of spending time developing 'nature spaces' in darkened cupboard-like rooms listening to recordings of birds twittering away in forests! 

Yesterday evening's Thursday Late: Nature in the City at Manchester Art Gallery was a celebration of all the hard work carried out on the Thomas Horsfall Project with two schools (see previous blog posts) to create an interpretation guide and film for the Art for All: Thomas Horsfall's Gift to Manchester exhibition. It was also the chance for visitors to participate in art activities inspired by nature and also find out more about the exhibition and gallery roof garden!

I was tucked away in a (usually hidden) room right within the main entrance of the gallery. I created an immersive Plant Space, which encouraged people to try out drawing challenges and dispel the myth that 'they couldn't draw'. The specially created environment transformed a rather corporate-looking meeting room into an intimate, comfortable nature-inspired space! I wanted to encourage people to spend time looking and observing details within plants and natural objects under spotlights, while relaxing to a soothing forest soundtrack in a cosy, atmospheric space. 

Thanks to Emma Carroll, Joanne Davies & Meg Parnell for all their support on the projects!

Lime Art: the Art Works, Wigan

The Art Works was the second phase of a community arts project working on behalf of Lime Art. I worked with textile / surface designer and educator Hazel Hewitt to engage a group of adults who attend a weekly job club at a college in Wigan. The aim was to create a programme of weekly evening sessions, to provide the opportunity for job club attendees to learn new creative skills, increase their confidence and co-produce a community outdoor artwork.

Our workshops quickly evolved into a creative, drop-in social space for a number of core participants. As opposed to taught sessions, it became clear that participants wanted to try out new techniques such as printing, mark-making, sewing, paper-construction, etc. The project evolved as a safe space to express feelings and personal issues through creative activity, rather than work in a prescriptive manner to create an end product. The approach was participant-led as it emerged that each participant had a particular idea or interest and wanted to develop this individually.

As an example, one participant who was initially reluctant to join, revealed a former interest in photographing local landscapes, building dry stone walls and making charcoal! His enthusiasm and confidence increased as he brought shoe boxes full of photos to sort through, edit and select. We facilitated this process of editing, selecting and curating an exhibition of photos. We also suggested ways to mount, frame and potentially sell the photos, encouraging him to recognise the value and quality of his photographic 'hobby'.

Although aimed at adults only, a couple of dads decided to bring their children along to the sessions. This altered the dynamic of the group as the children were energetic, easily excited and enthusiastic to try out lots of different things. They confidently worked their way through the range of materials in a more exploratory manner. It was perhaps a good thing that there were two artist-facilitators present as it meant that we could take turns to engage/work with the children, whilst the other could give more attention to the adults, who regularly asked for one-to-one assistance.

We felt that we only touched on the surface of what we could offer in terms of developing individualised projects. Unfortunately the programme of sessions didn't seem enough for the group to really become absorbed. Project momentum picked up halfway through and participants couldn't always arrive on time or attend every session. At the end, participants expressed their desire for the sessions to continue as a regular, social, drop-in creative space - a place where they could work, talk and have lots of tea and biscuits! It also became clear that they felt like things were suddenly ending, just as they were building confidence to engage, try new things and take risks.

The programme of activities followed on from another project led by artist Johnny Woodhams during the summer, in which another group worked together to create plans and artworks for an outdoor shelter to be installed within the local community area. This group will be building and installing an outdoor gazebo, which will function as a shelter, alternative gallery/performance and multi-purpose space within a community garden. The structure is due to be installed in spring 2013 and it is hoped that, from this, the groups will come together in order to decide on a programme of creative, community activity.... watch this space!

 

Links:

http://www.limeart.org/

http://www.hazelhewitt.com/

http://www.johnnywoodhams.co.uk/

 

Colour Pop at the Royal Children's Hospital Manchester - Culture Shots week

I've had a great day playing with colour in the atrium of the Children's Hospital Manchester, as part of the +Culture Shots week!

Working with artist and Culture Shots volunteer Louisa Hammond, on behalf of Manchester Art Gallery, we invited people to have a go at playing with coloured acetate on the windows in the main entrance of the hospital. The idea behind Colour Pop comes from previous workshops, playing with acetate on windows as part of the 'Interactive Laboratory' and 'Imagine' - Anish Kapoor weekend sessions at the gallery (to see examples, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michikofujii/5525858773/in/photostream ).

The idea behind Colour Pop was simply to use the amazingly tall hospital windows, as a natural light box, upon which to place the acetate colours. As the sun began to move around the building in the afternoon, the most amazing colourful glow began to stream through into the waiting area, bathing visitors and patients in colourful light and projections. The acetate could be cut up and used as a way of creating colourful lines, images or abstract compositions. All ages took part, including a group of 30 children and their carers from the hospital nursery. We had quite a few compliments from staff, visitors and parents who enjoyed looking at and through the colourful windows... we also had a request to leave it up for the whole week!

Click here to listen to the Colour Pop audioboo: http://audioboo.fm/boos/658728-colour-pop

 

+Culture Shots is an innovative initiative of creative activities run by different cultural institutions across Manchester, taking place in all of the 5 Manchester Hospitals this week. Click here for more info:

http://www.healthandculture.org.uk/about/

Culture Shot blog: http://www.healthandculture.org.uk

Twitter (for audio boos): http://twitter.com/health_culture

'The Guardian':  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/08/art-hospital-trust-culture-wellbeing

Manchester Art Gallery: http://www.manchestergalleries.org/whats-on/culture-shots/

Manchester Art Gallery Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150831844424128.511346.68496394127&type=1

Louisa Hammond: http://louisahammond.tumblr.com/

Lime Art: http://www.limeart.org/