One day I will...

It has been another action-packed week working and travelling across the North West of England and beyond, before finally ending up back in Manchester to work with some rather excited and enthusiastic young people at the Royal Exchange. As part of the 'Theatreworks' project, I joined students from Our Lady's RC High School in Oldham at the end of what had also been a long and fruitful week for them too!

 

The young people had previously started on a journey with the learning team from the Royal Exchange Theatre at their school. They had begun to think about different ways they could work with the theatre to consider the 'future' after finishing school. They were given a tour of the different departments of the theatre and also creatively developed characters of their future 'selves' through drawing with Jim Medway, making story-boards, models and stop-frame animation with film-maker Matt Norman. It was my job to work with a team of young 'designers' to make sense of their journey and organise their artworks, ideas and reflections in an installation in the Lounge as part of the celebration.

 

My team of designers spent time creating visual backdrops for their fictional characters, devising a plan for the space and writing a wishlist of props and objects to creatively convey the roles of their characters. I also asked them to work on a timeline of their journey through the project, providing space to think about their feelings and reflections of the process, which were visually portrayed on the wall of the installation. Over the two days, the young people began to show more confidence and creativity and rose to the challenge of independently organising and arranging their artworks, which fit nicely into glass display cabinets that could rival any shop window display. I challenged myself to take a step back, which can be hard as a visual artist who wants everything to look spot-on and just so!

 

The project culminated in a performance by some of the young people and an opening of the Lounge exhibition, which the young people really took pride and ownership of as they showed friends and family their work in the installation. It was a lovely, heart-warming project to be part of.

Between the Trees

I've been venturing INTO THE WOODS, on behalf of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Associate Artistic Director Matthew Xia's brilliantly adapts the magical, dark and funny Broadway musical and story that merges three classic fairy tales (Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood) together, bringing it to Manchester in a truly spectacular fashion!

Working with young people from Brownedge St Mary's Catholic High School, Walkden High School and Parrs Wood Sixth Form (my old school and sixth form college!), I ran art workshops to provide ideas and techniques to make 3D, pop-up dioramas or mini story worlds. Using old books, a collection of papers, card, art materials, leaves and a good dose of imagination, the young people were given some inspiration to make their pop-out worlds (some of which are pictured above).

A selection of the best works from a multitude of schools across the North West were then added to the Between the Trees art exhibition which was installed (literally between some trees) in the Royal Exchange's Education Lounge by artist Johnny Woodhams. I was really fortunate to be able to catch the opening of the exhibition and also the Into the Woods musical, which was a perfect way to get into a slightly dark and festive mood after a long year of work.

 

Into the woods, It's time to go, I hate to leave, I have to though...!

 

 

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.

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. 

My Space at Manchester Art Gallery

I've had a really enjoyable time working with two groups of children and young people from Mottram, Cheshire at Manchester Art Gallery today. Focusing on selected artworks from the current House Proud exhibition, I planned a session with Joanne Davies, Senior Education Manager at Manchester Art Gallery, to develop a bespoke workshop that encourages young people to consider ways of looking at, interpreting and responding to art. It als o inspires them to develop their own creative ideas in relation to displaying their work and producing creative environments.

In the gallery, we selected three key abstract modernist artworks which represented domestic or imagined interiors through colour, shape, lines, symbols and framing. We asked the group to spend time thinking about and discussing what they could see, before then going on to digitally photograph their favourite zoomed-in shots of artworks and produce their own timed, fragmented drawings which were layered up to create a collective drawing piece.

Downstairs in the studio, the participants went on to create further drawings using different media in order to consider the way artworks could be displayed and presented in different studio environments, using projections and theatrical environments. It was great to see two different groups come together, share some intriguing, intelligent ideas and work so enthusiastically in response to a new way of working. I hope they got lots of ideas to take back to school and use when displaying their work and developing their own creative spaces!

 

All Coloured Up

In celebration of the Channel Crossings: English and French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery , I chose a cool colour palette for paint and light in a specially created ' Journeys of Colour & Light' workshop. Despite the busy crowds, the studios were awash with visitors reporting the positive effects of spending time in the colourful galleries and studios.

From spending time REALLY looking at the artworks, collecting colours and writing down our feelings in connection to the scenes before us, to REALLY focusing on the details of pointillist splodges of colour combinations to make cool colour charts, before hanging out to bathe in colourful light in the dark room... there was something for everyone.

And in what seems to be my longest week of gallery work ever, I'm really glad I got to absorb some of the positive, colourful moods of the 600 or so people who passed through the door this week. 

Check out the Gallery's Facebook pics here

 

 

 

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. I'm also really pleased to welcome and work with a great team of volunteer installation assistants from a local mental health charity, who work with me each month to develop, set up and deliver MAC.

For the latest MAC installations please see the pictures above. 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.

Many thanks to Jess, Brian, Ted and Stephanie for all your ongoing help and support with MAC!

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!

Reflective Forms

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

I've been following a bit of an abstracted, reflective theme over the past couple of months!

Here's a link to some Mini Art Club mirror-like fun at Manchester Art Gallery

Read about what we got up to here!