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.

Summer in the City

It may be September tomorrow and also the end of another non-existent summer but, despite the rain, overcast skies and waterproof clothing, there were some non-weather-related things worth hanging around for this summer!
 

Here are my Top 5 magic summer workshop moments:

 

1. Watching this boy, his Mum and little brother spend hours in the Atelier at the Whitworth, as they played and constructed with paper together. They made sculptures, drawings, body armour, headwear, paper cuts and then finally a kite which was flown in the Art Garden outside the studio. 

 

2. Observing young children and their adults as they took the time to simply stop and enjoy the views out of the window overlooking the Calder weir, outside the Hepworth Wakefield.

 

3. Dreaming up ideas, setting up for and watching my summer 'takeover' unfold at Manchester Art Gallery as participants responded to Kandinsky's colour-shape theory and immersed themselves in some proper primary colour magic. It was lovely to work with such an ace, supportive team too. Please read the previous blogpost for more details!

 

4. Watching Toby and his Nan bond with lots of fun and laughter as they explored the concept of balance in numerous ways, as part of the Hepworth Wakefield's Toddler Tuesday session.

 

5. Welcoming children of all ages into the Atelier every Monday to vote for their favourite artworks and work in their own unique ways as they formed connections with themes like the Possibility of Paper and Printed Patterns.

 

6. Ok, I know I said Top 5 but I can't resist adding the classic boy-with-a-colander-on-his-head photo. He walked around the studio for 10 minutes shouting, "Mummy, I'm here. Look!" as he hid behind the colander after having clanged it around on the stone floor for a further 10 minutes to explore what noises he could make. The colander revealed a lovely, cheeky face complete with a fully-fledged charcoal beard.

Manchester Art Gallery Takeover: Curious About Colour

It has been a colourful week in the Clore Art Studio at Manchester Art Gallery as I took over the space and developed an immersive, interactive environment for participants of all ages to explore.

In response to the theme of pattern and colour, I took artist Wassily Kandinsky's colour theory as a starting point. Kandinsky believed that if people are given three shapes (circle, triangle, square) to colour in with the three primary colours: red, yellow and blue, then there is an intuitive pattern or universal correspondence that people are likely to follow when matching the shapes with the colours. He believed that people were more likely to match the colours and shapes as follows: blue circle, yellow triangle and red square. He handed out a survey to his students at the Bauhaus school in 1923 and surprisingly there was a consensus which agreed with his theory. Although one could argue that he may have influenced his students.

I wanted to test this out with younger participants who knew nothing about the theory, some of whom are yet to be conditioned (culturally) to see colours in a certain way. I asked families who entered the space to colour in the three shapes as an introduction to thinking about how we see primary colour. They were asked to think about their choices and write down what each coloured shape reminded them of. The display of colour-shape correspondences grew over the week (but I have yet to count up the results as there are so many of them!). Watch this space to see which colour-shape combination was the MAG favourite.

Participants could also interact with the primary colours through form, line and light which were incorporated in different ways within the interactive installation space. It was interesting to see how absorbed participants were with the space as people spent hours moving around the different areas, exploring texture, light, movement and paper construction. I also learned that some children and adults found it quite hard to articulate their choice, and if anything is clear just by looking at the visual display board, most people couldn't agree on a consensus. 

The Whitworth Way

Since the Whitworth Art Gallery's re-opening on February 14th, I have been tasked with managing an ambitious and fun-packed Early Years learning programme. This has kept me very busy as I have tested out the new Welly Walks guide with families and school groups out in Whitworth Park, woken up as an early bird to simultaneously set-up and run busy, weekly Toddler Art Club sessions x 2 and also the new Early Years Atelier which runs all day every Monday. 

It's my last week of covering the role of Early Years Learning Coordinator and I'm excited to be switching to the position of the Whitworth's resident Atelierista or studio artist as I immerse myself in fully exploring the possibilities and developments of the weekly 'atelier' space . However, before I start this role, I will set up one last sensory, gallery installation designed especially for small babies and their parents (in the form of Brass Baby and Art Baby - Music Baby) as musician and vocalist Nancy Elizabeth creates a melodic soundscape with her mini harp. It has been an absolute treat to take over a different gallery space each week. It has also been extremely useful to talk to the many mums/dads who have told me what a godsend the weekly sessions are, as they provide the perfect excuse to leave the house, spend some quality time with their little one, socialise with other children and adults and experience stimulating gallery environments and artworks.

The photos above give a snapshot of the numerous activities on offer each week and demonstrate how lucky Manchester residents are to have such a variety of free cultural institutions and weekly / monthly activities for all ages from birth onwards.. 

Reflektor

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!

Another Dimension

I've just had a fun afternoon in the new Clore Art Studio at Manchester Art Gallery. How time flies! Our installation has been taken down and the space has been re-developed by artist Sarah Bridgland. Sarah exhibited two beautiful artworks in the First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery in 2012. She has since developed ideas to create a space where people can engage and interact with her process and practice. The work also makes connections to influences within the new neighbouring Sculptural Forms exhibition.

As part of the new installation, plinths of modulated heights are arranged in a grid formation. In the centre of the grid, a table with compartments of different coloured, paper shapes can be taken out by visitors and endlessly placed and composed upon the plinths.

Studio Saturdays invites different artists such as myself to pop in and create an intervention which relates to our own interests and practice. My intervention (pictured above) is mirrored shapes and cameras and I'm particularly interested in how this can alter the way people arrange their compositions and also document them, as the mirror opens up a new world of reflections, symmetry and oppositions. The mirror also provides further opportunities for the imagination as younger visitors place it in their composition as a portal to a mirror-image world. In this world, things may seem alike, although appearances can be deceptive! 

A Space for Curiosity and Free Play

After a long period of planning, research, studio time, workshops, material sourcing, installation, documentation, delivery and reflection (phew!), I am uploading my experience of working on the new Clore Art Studio at Manchester Art Gallery. Working in collaboration with fellow artists (and partners in crime) Sarah Marsh, Katy McCall and Family Learning Manager Alex Thorp, we created and produced the Clore Art Studio, a playful, interactive space which took initial inspiration from Grayson Perry's current exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences. For more information about the exhibition click here. The process behind Grayson Perry's work can also be viewed in his Channel 4 documentary In the Best Possible Taste (still available online on 4OD). 

Our brief was not to develop a direct interpretation or response to Grayson Perry's tapestries. Nor was it about creating a learning experience that attempted to 'educate others' and explain the concepts, processes and ideas behind Grayson Perry's work. It was more significant for us to respond as individual artists, distilling visual or aesthetic elements of Perry's work which related to our own practice and interests.

In addition, the intention was to create a space that would provide opportunities for free play, open-ended interaction, conversation and inter-generational activity, whilst at the same time making connections to Grayson Perry's exhibition in the neighbouring gallery . 

To develop this space, Sarah and I initially tested out our creative ideas and activities on a class of 5-6 year olds from St Augustine's Primary School, Monsall, Manchester. Workshops took place over one week, allowing us to develop themes, processes and a wish list of materials, resources and structures. Sarah was interested in 'lines' and I focused on the interplay of objects, colour and sorting. These themes were all pulled out as conceptual strands from Grayson Perry's tapestries, during our initial planning meetings.

As the week of research progressed, we began to understand the ways children could totally pull apart, deconstruct and re-figure a theme or idea! With this in mind, we needed to create a space that could provide endless opportunities for interaction with a number of robust, appealing objects and materials within an equally engaging, unbreakable installation framework. At this point, Katy came on board to lend her wisdom to the positioning and installation of tables, storage, furniture and objects. 

The end result was a deconstructed version of Perry's world of furniture and colourful, domestic objects in a vibrant, quirky installation. In his work, Perry suggests that different household objects and interiors are indicators of a particular class taste and identity, but what happens when children are placed into such a space? At what age does a child begin to demonstrate a sense of taste and a preference for one item over another?  And why? Would children even place such meanings and values over a particular object or would their response be completely 'innocent' and untainted in relation to adult-oriented notions of class taste and identity? 

In the Clore, a storage unit fashioned out of reclaimed deep, blue crates displayed an arrangement of enticing, colourful, domestic, pound shop items, textiles and ribbons laid out ready for play. White, deconstructed furniture provided a framework for play and interaction within the space. Opposite, a drawing table was laden with silverware and looping lines of words, which encouraged people to look at and choose objects to draw in a continuous line. Meanwhile, key words were positioned around the space, prompting action: wrap, stack, sort, shadows, line, patterns, twist, weave, hide, same, different, etc. Meanwhile, on the side walls, photographs of children from St Augustines were displayed, facing old TV monitors with films of children playing within the studio space.

To follow-up on the installation of the space, we were invited to facilitate artist-led interventions within the studio during the weekends, while a team of volunteers were trained to maintain and run the space throughout the week. The studio became a lively, popular place for visitors of all ages and many observations were kept of the variety of weird and wonderful interactions and happenings witnessed over the four months! All in all, it was a rather, wacky, ambitious and fun project to be involved with, once the inital stress of rushed installation deadlines was out of the way!! 

For more information, see Manchester Art Gallery's Studio Sketchbook blog. Click here for a write-up by Alex Thorp and also click here for my Top 10 observations working in the Clore!