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. 

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!

Building A Bridge of Books

I'm currently immersed in a new project at Tate Liverpool, working hard to bring the world of children's stories and Tate Collection artworks alive! As part of the Liverpool City of Readers initiative, I'm working with artist-educator Denise Wright, filmmaker Jake Ryan and groups of young children and their adults to create narratives and stories, inspired by children's books, artworks, gallery spaces and materials in the studio. For my first session, I installed a story den in the Clore Learning Studio which became our base for story-telling and making. This initiated the beginnings of our adventures to discover a 'strange land' in the galleries as children encountered artworks, installations, puppets, props and provocations to create narratives based on their experiences. Back in the studio, children explored materials which they could use to create costumes or make models and props for their story.

The project will culminate in an exhibition and celebration day in the Clore Learning Centre in November. Check out my guest blog post on the Tate Kids website.

  

Abstraction Construction Reflection at Tate Liverpool

As the Mondrian and his Studios exhibition opens alongside artworks by Indian abstract artist Nasreen Mohamedi at Tate Liverpool, the theme of Abstraction into the Real World is explored throughout the building with a soon-to-be-opened interior viewing space created by architect Claude Parent.

In response to this focus on abstraction and architecture, I have created a colourful, tactile, constructive space, which brings together aesthetic and conceptual elements of Mondrian, Mohamedi and Parent in an interactive installation in the Clore Learning Centre at Tate Liverpool. Working with Learning Curators Katy McCall and Debbie Goldsmith, we have developed a space which invites visitors of all ages to play with colour, line and shape composition, exploring 2D, 3D, time and space. 

The installation invites playful, geometric construction and composition with beautiful *hand-painted blocks of different sizes and forms. It also encourages exploration of light, shadow and reflection as coloured windows and mirrors reveal slightly alternative, distorted worlds of light, shape, movement and time. Families can enter a space which attempts to embody the ethos of Mondrian's studio and his neo-plastic world. Here, though, participants can playfully engage with the physical act of placing, sorting, constructing / de-constructing and imagining.

The space is in progress and may evolve throughout the next four months, so come and play!

Find out what's on for families at Tate Liverpool this summer. Come along and join me for a playful, hands-on summer of abstraction and architecture in my two workshops But does it float? and My Colourful Pop-Up World in the Art Dock Studio. 

*Thanks to Jim Medway for his help painting the blocks so artfully!

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!

Our Exhibition, Tate Liverpool

Working as Early Years and Families Learning Curator at Tate Liverpool alongside my job-share Katy McCall, I have been involved in developing an Early Years partnership project with two local children's centre community groups in Liverpool. After a year of the project, we hosted an exhibition which showcased the different ways we have so far worked with young children, their adults and artists at Tate Liverpool. Our research question is 'how do we make visible children's learning at Tate Liverpool'?

The exhibition took place in the Art Dock studio and was open to the public for a week in June. It featured artworks made by the children, insightful quotes, documentation of the project and interactive, playful exhibits that visitors could engage with. The event was opened as a celebration day for all the children, staff and parents who participated in the project. 

Here's a glimpse of the exhibition during a quiet interval after the crowd of children and parents had left...

To see a video that show what I've been up to working both as Artist-Educator and EYF Learning Curator, click here and scroll down to Tate Liverpool's video!  

Mini Art Club at 60

Mini Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery is still going strong at 60! Well, it's probably a lot more than 60 as we actually run the same session twice every second Friday of the month. The session has certainly evolved and progressed since I first started running the session in June 2008 ... that's five years ago!

Here are a selection of pictures taken from Mini Art Club over the past few months. Sessions responded to Cyprien Gaillard's video The Smithsons, Kelley Walker's Dreams Without Frontiers exhibition, Paul Nash's Nocturnal Landscape and Marion Adnan's The Living Tree. We incorporated themes such as 'cityscapes', grids, musical dimensions and surrealist landscapes and dream spaces. 

Many thanks to everyone who helped support and run each large-scale installation and session.

Click here for the latest on Manchester Art Gallery Family workshops.