Artists Together

Since November 2020 I’ve been working as the lead artist on St Helens Cultural Hubs ‘Artists Together’. It started under the stewardship of Mark Storor, who brought together and nurtured the creativity of a collection of artists of all disciplines in St Helens. It’s been a challenge so far to bring us together, with the advice to stay apart forming a looming backdrop to our efforts, but, with the generosity and patience of a wonderful group of artists we’ve spent some time ‘together’ on zoom gatherings, at virtual exhibitions and out on walks led by artists from the group.

Each of our monthly sessions have had a focus for sharing experiences, work and ideas, and January’s session was called ‘How to keep going’. It resulted in this set of instructions, which you may also find useful:

How to keep going (what is your gold?)  Don't be precious Loosen up Meditate, recharge, chill out Look inside  Who's your soundboard? When is your time? Where is your space? "I can help you to do this."  Step by step, what small thing comes next? Let's find other ways to do things How can I pivot? Use what you've already got, use it differently.  Say “ I am an artist”! be kind to yourself. An incomplete work is still work, that's like gold to you.

There’s more planned, as we hopefully are able to do more activity face-to-face too. If you’re an artist, and in St Helens, then you’re welcome to come and be together with us. Get in touch via the arts service: artsservice@sthelens.gov.uk

Here – Cultured St Helens

Since they opened back up in March 2021 it’s been great to get back working in schools. ‘Here’ is one of those projects, delivered by Cultured St Helens. It uses new technology to create a portrait of St Helens, exploring the history, geography, social make-up and diversity of the town. Artists and performers (of which I’m one) have worked with schools to create artworks which Impossible Arts will bring together for a final outdoor augmented reality exhibition in October 2021.

I’ve been working with Rivington Primary, Mill Green school and Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary as part of the project, combining performative actions with drawing and print techniques as we look at the past and present of St Helens. What has also been great during these projects (and has happened a lot more in the last 12 months) is the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in the delivery of the work.

With Rivington Primary I’ve worked with Mako Create, who took charge of green screen filming, and Altru Drama, who led a creative writing session, as we created a work about the traces and echoes of Victoria Park. What will happen when children from today bump into King George V and Queen Mary during their 1913 visit? Will they ever get unstuck from the climbing frame? Their drawings, words and actions form a video work that will be part of the AR trail around St Helens in November.

The sessions at Mill Green school have been a chance to work with artist Dave Bixter who combines his drawing practice with music and technology. We’ve looked at the skylines of St Helens, layering drawings, shapes, movement, print and sound to create and audio-visual work that will sit against the real skyline of St Helens.

Blackbrook St Mary’s have done most of their work with Henry Iddon and Jess Wheeler, connecting to their cross-school project about the conservation of rainforest habitats. I was invited in to run a print session with year 1 where we used stencilled screen-printed slogans devised by the pupils to print onto T-shirts. The children made studies of leaves in their sketchbooks and created rubber stamps out of them to make each of their t-shirts an individual representation of the rainforest.

You’ll be able to see more of these works once they’re out on the Augmented Reality trail in the Autumn.

Wishes on a Dandelion – Sherdley Primary’s 50th Anniversary

Every Dandelion you see today grew from the seed from another dandelion. Maybe the dandelion seed was blown by the wind, or maybe it was blown last year by one of the children from Sherdley Primary.

The seeds that grew last year’s dandelions might have been blown by another child who’s grown older and gone to high school now. Their dandelion’s seed might have been blown from it’s stem by a parent when they went to school. Dandelions can grow in all sorts of places and live for more than 10 years, so maybe, just maybe the dandelions we see today can be traced back to a child who was here when Sherdley Primary opened 50 years ago.

This is the premise on which a whole-school programme of arts activity was based to celebrate Sherdley Primary School’s 50th Anniversary in April 2021. Using something that we can see now in the present, to celebrate the past and make wishes for the future. Children from every class were invited to make prints onto a postcard and to find a dandelion clock and make a wish for Sherdley Primary’s future, with each class from Y1 through to Y6 taking part in additional art workshops that led to the designs for an anniversary mural and garden in the grounds of the school.

Delivered in partnership with Cultured St Helens these workshops included observational drawing of natural forms, stamp-making, experimental drawing using gestures, shadows and spotlights and workshops plus workshops by partners UC Crew which connected Hip Hop Arts and its values to those of the school community.

Pupils hands were covered in chalk and charcoal as they created larger scale drawings of each other’s shadows expressing emotions, seed-filled sculptures were constructed, sketchbook pages filled with drawings of flora and fauna that was gathered from nearby greenspaces, and spray can techniques were practiced in the sunny spells between April showers.

All of these elements were brought together into a design that uses stenciled elements that I have used in my previous works such as Keep the Pavement Dry and Migrate combined with the graffiti art skills of James from UC Crew. This was complemented by the beginnings of an anniversary garden in front of the mural sown with perennial flower seeds, dandelion clock sculptures containing more seeds and golden stones with drawings of dandelions edging the planting areas.

Two trees, hands and leaves are spray painted onto the side of a storage container. Petal shapes are formed on the soil in front, edged by golden stones.

Constellations of Kindness

Stars are the specks of light in the dark skies, and are there even when we can’t see them. They have been used as symbols of guidance, energy, hopes and positivity and in the Autumn of 2020 Allanson Street Primary School and St Peter’s C of E Primary School used them to create images, actions and objects that mean something to us as individuals.

Beginning by passing our positive actions around the class with a symbolic handful of light, we worked to create a number of art installations which take the idea of stars and how we view them collectively in constellations as a metaphor for how a community can work together. The story of Hoshi and the legend of the origami lucky stars inspires a creative activity where the classes worked together to create their own jars of paper stars, which led to some pupils setting up their own club following the sessions.

One night while watching the stars, something happened in the sky that made her sad and she began to cry. The stars were falling out of heaven like a shower. So many of them were falling that she was afraid there would be no more.

The story of Hoshi

With magazine cuttings, found text and images pupils used compositional skills to lay out a design that created a message linked to emotions and kindness, then used drawing pins to prick holes into black card along the outlines of those shapes. Placed together against a window, these formed our third art installation, full of symbolic objects and positive text. A short poetry session using the principles of Concrete Poetry creates an additional literacy related artwork.

The incredible deep splash
a few amazing homes.
A great tender cat,
fantastic animal friends
were being brave & fun

A new rebooted world. Brave NHS
incredible NHS,
look how the NHS helps us.

A good new heart
in our little wonder world.
Incredible world.
Team up, play
like a little wonder.

Y4, St Peter’s C of E Primary, 2020.

This set of workshops gives pupils the confidence to develop a collaborative contemporary artwork using visual symbolism and metaphor, which connects to the PSHE, Art & Design and Literacy curriculum. This workshop is part of Cultured St Helens programme (LCEP). If you’re outside St Helens and would like to book this session for your school or organisation, get in touch.

A summer of Projects

Look at this, I have a long-neglected news page on my website. That’s the way with the projects I work on, lots of things happening in the background that occasionally put on a public face. There’s been quiet, ongoing projects, ideas developing with schools and some bigger projects where it’s important for the work to just stay between me and the people that I make it with. August is nearly here, and a flurry of work directly with people is coming to a close, so I thought I’d share some of that over the coming weeks. For now, here’s some pictures of what’s coming…

Will you wait? People wanted for artist performance event.

Can you wait for 3 hours as part of an artistic commission?

Will you wear one of those barriers that you find in an airport as a belt in public?

Are you ok with being filmed as part of the creation of this artwork?

If yes, then artist Claire Weetman needs you!

Performance of What are you waiting for? Stuttgart © Daniela Wolf


Claire Weetman has created the artwork, ‘What are you waiting for?’ which will be staged in St Helens to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2018.  For this she needs up to 10 people to wear the specially made belts with a tensabarrier attached.  As part of this role you will be asked to wear the belts in a public space and to move through that space in a choreographed way.

The performance will be filmed and the subsequent footage will be exhibited as an artwork by Claire Weetman.

Requirements:

  • There will be a 1 hour briefing/rehearsal session on the morning of Tuesday 18th September, which will be paid at £10 for the hour.
  • 4 people are required for an event at Thatto Heath Library 1:30-4:30pm on Tuesday 18th September. This will be paid at £30 for the 3 hours.
  • 10 people are required for the event at Thatto Heath Library 1:00-5:00pm on Wednesday 10th October.  This will be paid at £40 for the 4 hours.

By taking up the role you agree to be paid as a self employed person, responsible for your tax and national insurance responsibilities.  If you cannot guarantee this, but would still like to be part of the performance, travel and reasonable subsistence expenses can be reimbursed on receipt of evidence of expenditure.

How to get involved

To express your interest in being part of this event, contact Claire Weetman by email

claireweetman@hotmail.com by Sunday 16th September.

Project Zei: Returning to something new.

Reflections on an artist residency.

I’ve been doing this for a while now – being an artist. June 2018 marks 15 years since I graduated from University with a Fine Art Degree and started along the path of self-employment, art making and enabling other people to make art. There’s key points along that path that have pushed my practice in particular directions and one of those was an invitation to exhibit in Stuttgart in 2008 as part the 60th anniversary celebrations of the twinning programme between that city and my resident St Helens.
It was in essence a small event, an invitation to send artworks to the sister city and to travel to the opening event where I created a performed drawing, however it showed me the possibilities that being in a new place has for my practice. Experiencing new places, working out how to use my tools and practices in response. New drawings, installations, processes and ideas emerge and adapt, ready to be shown, shared and tested in other locations. The 3 days in Stuttgart in 2008 may have been short, but they had long implications for my practice (and my drinks cupboard, I still have the wine festival glass I brought back).
Since then I have been fortunate to work in Linz, Istanbul, Shanghai and Southend as an artist in residence, often in short sharp bursts – a week in the spring, a fortnight in the summer, a week in the snow, four weeks in the rain – they’re not your typically advertised artist in residence period. Those are often 3 months in one place – who can commit to these timescales? A small number of artists, yes, but those with partners, ongoing work commitments that sustain a practice over the long term, children, parents in need of care, for many it can be a struggle to engage with this process.
But sometimes it happens differently. So, to celebrate the fabulous flexibility of Yellow Door Artists who invited me to return to Stuttgart in spring 2018 (wow, it’s really 10 years since I was there) and their partners St Helens Council and GEDOK artists studios I’d like to share with you how precious even a 5-day ‘residency’ can be.

Day 1:
17:45pm arrive at GEDOK studio house. Introductions, bumping into an old friend, eating hurriedly prepared cous-cous, going to a forum to meet artists, to understand some of their practices. Translation, listening for german phrases I remember, zoning in and out as the conversations develop. Stomach-turning biscuits embossed with images reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch, faces in paintings, questions about installing works. Sharing my work, recruiting 6 artists to make a performance with me, choosing a location and a time less than 48 hours from now. Settling into the studio flat, sleeping at UK bedtime.

Day 2:
Waking early to the sound of church bells, buying breakfast (and beer for later), talking to my family at home, heading out early to explore locations. The Jewish Cemetery, Universität, Hauptbahnhof, Milaneo. Making a pilgrimage to C&A to relive my teenage fashion aspirations. Exploring the beautiful Bibliothek, considering its potential as an exhibition and intervention space. Holding onto original prints by Eduardo Chilida in the graphothek, wondering if we could have the same in St Helens, or if artists from St Helens could feature here. Reflecting on the similarities of the bibliothek space to the purpose of the cloisters at Norton Priory – deciding to include this location in a series of embossings I’ll produce here for an exhibition back home. Sitting out in the square outside the library on a deckchair in the sunshine. Warming my damp winter-weary bones in the spring warmth whilst watching how people move through the space. Areas of transit, areas of relaxation, areas for socialising, waiting spaces, places to promenade. Considering the role of the performer in my work, how to choreograph it, what is the script. Deciding to walk back to the studio, discovering the Chinese Garden, zig zag paths to confuse the spirits. A quick freshen up and then out to an artist-led space. Meeting more artists, sharing ideas about waiting, understanding the context of refugees in Germany, thinking about what an artist does differently in situations. Exploring the city, lakes, stationery shops, the crest of St Helens cast into the floor, the old castle, its cloistered passageway, thinking about how this could link to my work in progress for Norton Priory. Walking back home, meeting the other visiting artist in residence, taking a walk up the hill. Getting lost, finding our way, talking about studying, families, reaching the tower at the top. Back home to eat late, share food and drink that beer.

Day 3
Staying in the studio, saying good morning to my family, then time alone. Thinking about choreography, how to communicate my ideas to the performers with little time and no rehearsal. Getting excited about graph-squared tracing paper, making an analogue stop-motion animation. Heading out to find out what the general strike today is about – looking for the gathering. Waiting for the demonstration. A truck is bounded by four people carrying warning tape, marking out space, moving through space, don’t enter this space. Whistles, banners, translating their demands through photo-translate, being part of an event whilst also being an outsider. Back home, making a flyer to give to the performers, translating it, transcribing it, copying, pasting. Packing the work into a rucksack, taking a selfie before I leave, hoping I don’t get anyone arrested, walking back to the square with plenty of time to spare. Waiting, for my performers, working out where to start, a photographer arrives to document it. We intervene, we move, we wait. Shifting, obstructing, channelling, kettling, connecting, disconnecting, zig-zagging, disbanding. Watermelon Ice cream and gifts of thanks. Then, to a symposium, a lecture, hard to follow, not enough time to cover everything. We walk, find falafel and eat together. Find the crests of St Helens and Brno cast into the pavement and explore our connections to Stuttgart. Then home.

Day 4
The main aim while being here – the performance – is ticked off. Change of focus. Scribing spaces into parchment paper. Aerial views of a cloister, library, university, auditorium. Spaces of learning, writing, solitude, community and focus. The cloister is the encapsulation of an artist’s residency. The rain pours outside the window and I head to an invitation for lunch. Taking a new route, buying strawberries which makes me late. Welcomed into the studio by home made aromas. Sharing over food, finding the commonality between practices. Time, place, layering, ephemerality. Finding ways to connect in future. Off again to visit an exhibition venue, how can I exhibit work here? But look, the plaza is embossed with a grid – how can I work with this space? I watch, I film, I count how big the space is by how many steps people take. 1,2,3,4,5,6, nearly 7. Now him; 1,2,3,4,5,6, and a bit. How about her? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. How can I use this space, as a maze, will my intervention from yesterday work here on a massive scale – think I might need to write a proposal. Choral music emanates from an auditorium, I explore and remember that we were in that room 10 years ago – speeches at the exhibition opening, an unexpected custom. Disappointment that the paternoster lifts are not working, I head down the stairs. Hot chocolate and a fig tart. Time to think, then let’s squeeze in a lecture before my next meet up. Time, time travel, how do we communicate an idea from the future back to the past, how can the future us save ourselves? Across the city to a theatre, ready to meet Labyrinth theatre company as they rehearse for a show tomorrow. Shoes! Shoes! Who wants shoes that will transform your life? Young men, with stories to tell. Stories of struggle, of hiding, of the ice man who is always lurking in the shadows. Watching how they work together, how the team supports them, how the director pushes them to strive for the best performance they can all give by working together. It is late, but I don’t need to go home to anyone, so back to the symposium for a film. Some context about Kurdistan, Syria. Confinement, wanting to help. Different ways of helping that get conflicted and corrupted, everyone wants the best for their families. Nearly midnight, I slope off from the post-film Q&A and walk through the night.Day 5
The last morning to be woken by the bells. Becoming fond of the whistling kettle. Packing, breakfast in the sunshine with friends new and old before an excursion to the flohmarkt. Remembering buying a bicycle from the flohmarkt on a residency in Linz and falling off in the tram tracks, looking for a darning mushroom to use as a printing baren, deciding to just buy ice cream shaped buttons. Saying goodbye and heading back to the studio. One last ice cream in the sunshine as an end of residency treat. Artwork on stickers, Yellow Door taught me about slap ups last year, and #freeartfriday. It’s a day late, but I’ll do it anyway. Marking my route back home. Helped up or held down? Time to leave. But I’ve still got this time alone whilst I travel. Still working in the airport, and on the plane, sharing the creativity with the father and son next to me. Good luck with your exhibition. Home again and the intensity breaks.….
5 weeks later
I write this piece, having gone to a library I wouldn’t normally go to. Taking the lessons from the solitude of a residency to give me space to think and to plan. Wondering how all of these experiences, connections and ideas will unravel into my future practice, into new works to realise, whether at home, back in Stuttgart or in another location in the future. The residencies I participate in may be short and sharp, but they extend far into the future of my work.

Christmas print sale, 9th December

This year I’ve been making a lot (for me) of print work, exploring monoprinting and adding in a little bit of screenprint for variety. I’ve participated in the Hot Bed Press 20:20 print exchange, which saw a flurry of print activity and furrowed brows at Platform studios in St Helens as 9 other artists joined together to create a series of 25 prints at 20cm square.

To celebrate this joint enterprise, we’re having a festive celebration at Platform studios on Saturday 9th December from 1-4pm. You’ll be able to view the works produced for the exchange, see the works we’ve received from other printmakers across the UK, eat cake that has been baked to fit the 20x20cm guidelines and enjoy a warming hot chocolate.

I’ll have a selection of prints for sale, some are especially festive and others are things I’ve worked on during this year. There will be prices from £2 to £10, and all of the proceeds from these sales will be ploughed into producing a new programme of work planned for 2018 that works directly with people who have been displaced from their home countries. Available prints and prices are in the gallery below, if you see something you like but can’t make it on the 9th, then get in touch and I can post it out to you for the price of a first class stamp (an extra 75p).

 

Public View – The Bluecoat

I’m really pleased to share that I’ll be exhibiting at the Bluecoat this spring as part of their ‘Public View’ exhibition, celebrating the Bluecoat’s 300th anniversary. The list of artists exhibiting is really amazing and I’m humbled to have been invited to exhibit as part of this show as an artist who has exhibited there in the past. The exhibition will feature works that have been shown throughout the Bluecoat’s history, some that were made at the same time as the artist exhibited there, or as a completely new artwork.

My history with the Bluecoat stretches back to around 2003 when I volunteered in the gallery whilst at University, then exhibited my degree show work ‘Sit and Draw’ in the old windowbox space in 2004. The Bluecoat have been brilliant at supporting artists as they develop their practice and invited me to exhibit in 2008 as part of Next Up and to create ‘Passing, Watching, Waiting, Following’ in the College Street space. Sara-Jayne Parsons invited POST Liverpool to exhibit as part of Global Studio and supported me to create ‘Two installations’ in the Vide in 2013 following my residency in Shanghai.

It is work from that latter exhibition that I will be representing in Public View, showing one of my pinned collages that acted as a study for the interactive projection work that featured in the Vide. I’m really thankful of Sara-Jayne Parsons and Bryan Biggs support over the past 13 years, and am really happy to join in the celebrations of a brilliant Liverpool institution.

For more information about Public View, go here.

Public View, The Bluecoat
Sat, 04 Feb 2017 – Sun, 23 Apr 2017 

Artists include:
John Akomfrah / Graham Ashton / Conrad Atkinson / Glen Baxter / David Blandy / Derek Boshier / Sonia Boyce / Mark Boyle / Jyll Bradley / Pavel Büchler / Chila Burman / Marc Camille Chaimowicz / Stephen Chambers / Edward Chell / Jagjit Chuhan / Pete Clarke / Maurice Cockrill / Sue Coe / Common Culture / Cornford & Cross / Graham Crowley / Adam Dant / Mal Dean / Jeremy Deller / Maurice Doherty / Sokari Douglas Camp / Bill Drummond / Alan Dunn / Stephen Dwoskin / Nina Edge / John Edkins / Stephen Farthing / Alec Finlay / Leo Fitzmaurice / Pete Frame / Neville Gabie / Malcolm Garrett / Georg Gartz / Melissa Gordon / Jean Grant / Tony Hayward / Peter Hagerty / Sean Halligan / Ian Hamilton Finlay / Rowena Harris / Susan Hefuna / Adrian Henri / Lubaina Himid / Lin Holland / Pam Holt / Nicholas Horsfield / John Hyatt / Andrzej Jackowski / David Jacques / George Jardine / Brigitte Jurack / Peter Kennard / Michael Kenny / Naiza Khan / Juginder Lamba / John Latham / Mark Leckey / Hew Locke / David Mabb / Elizabeth Magill / Bashir Makhoul / Clement McAleer / Don McKinlay / John Monks / Jacqueline Morreau / Paul Morrison / Val Murray / Niamh O’Malley / Yoko Ono / David Osbaldeston / Brian O’Toole / Tony Oursler / Keith Piper / Nicole Polonsky / Tricia Porter / Imran Qureshi / Peter Randall-Page / Paul Rooney / Marisa Rueda / Emma Rushton / Walid Sadek / Lesley Sanderson / Peter Saville / Yinka Shonibare / Jamie Shovlin / The Singh Twins / Mark Skinner / Robert Soden / South Atlantic Souvenirs and Trouble / Emily Speed / Imogen Stidworthy / Elizabeth Stuart Smith / Mike Stubbs / Pádraig Timoney / Ray Walker / Sam Walsh / Claire Weetman / Ann Whitehurst / Pat Whiteread / Tom Wood / George Wyllie