188/365: I love...

On the Oxford Road bus to my past, present and future, considering all the things I love….

To see a warmer moment, click here.

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.

My Space!

 

Here's a lovely video of Myspace, a workshop I developed with Manchester Art Gallery's formal learning team last year, which brought together young people from Mottram Academy and The Fallibroome Academy to explore the House Proud exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. You can read more about the Myspace project here.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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!