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.

Interval 1.1, Ordsall Hall, Salford

My work ‘What are you waiting for’ will be exhibited again from February at Ordsall Hall in Salford as part of the next iteration of Markmakers’ exhibition ‘Interval’.

Interval 1.1

Opens Sunday 11 February 2018, 2-3.30pm
Exhibition continues to 13 May 2018.

Ordsall Hall, 322 Ordsall Lane, Salford, M5 3AN
Open Monday – Thursday 10am-4pm, Sundays 1-4pm

What is an interval?
Is it just blank space?
Is there anything of interest in the gaps?

As a group of artists, ‘Markmakers’ come together to explore common themes through each artist’s individual contemporary art practice. Over the past year their theme has been interval. What is an interval? Is it just a blank space? Is there anything of interest in the gaps?

The exhibition will include new work directly inspired by Ordsall Hall with some interventions in other areas of the Hall.

Have a break, visit interval.

Getting there:

Car Parking: Please note that car park charges apply during the Hall’s opening hours (Monday – Thursday 10am – 4pm and Sunday 1 – 4pm). Costs are £2 for up to 3 hours and £6 for over 3 hours.

Tram:The Hall is very close to the Exchange Quay Metrolink Station on the MediaCity UK / Eccles line.

Bus:Any bus to Salford Quays on the A5063 stops on Trafford Road (the Copthorne Hotel) leaving a short walk to the Hall.

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).

 

First performance of ‘What are you waiting for?’

On Monday 7th October, 4 people wearing crowd control barriers on belts waited in Runcorn Old Town.

What are you waiting for?


This work is included in the exhibition ‘Interval’ at the Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn until 25th November 2017.

For more information about the work, visit its portfolio page

Interval – a Markmakers Exhibition

My new work, What are you waiting for? features in the latest exhibition by artist collective Markmakers, which opens at The Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn on 2 October 2017.  This set of six custom-made belts feature retractable crowd control barriers, designed to be worn by performers in a public space, creating moveable spaces for waiting as the wearers move around a street.  The first experimental iteration of this intervention will take place in Runcorn on Monday 9th October 2017 and if you’d like to join in or come and observe, then get in touch via my contact page.

The work is part of the exhibition Interval, by Markmakers.

What is an interval?
Is it just blank space?
Is there anything of interest in the gaps?

The latest exhibition by Markmakers invites you take an interval. Step inside the punctuated, whitewashed walls of the gallery and consider self imposed breaks in life. Explore concepts of time. Sit, stand, look or listen.

Have a break, visit interval.

The Brindley Gallery, Runcorn
2 October-25 November 2017

Meet the artists event
Saturday 7 October 2017, 12:00-13:00

The Brindley, High Street, Runcorn, WA7 1BG
FREE. Mon – Fri 10am – 5pm, Sat 10am – 2pm.
Closed Sundays & Bank Holidays.

Power Up by Chrissie Tiller

Power Up, a think piece on the sharing of power and decision-making, has been released this week.  It’s written by Chrissie Tiller for Creative People and Places and includes responses to the questions that that are asked within the piece. Some of their responses were in written form, some the result of interviews, others emerged from practical workshops on the themes. A group of artists who had been involved in the CPP Northern Faculty of Social Art were also asked to make visual responses to the themes of Power, Reciprocity, Cultural Capital, Privilege, Participation, Values, Ethics, Collaboration, and Politics.

My responses were in the form of monoprints, which feature at points among the article. It’s currently available online, with a print copy becoming available soon.  For more information about the article, read Chrissie’s blog post about it here.

Explorations with the Foxton Centre

Between March and September 2017 I’ve been working with a lovely group of people from the Foxton Centre in Preston at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.  It started out with a request from Kyra Milnes, the Harris’ outreach worker to do some work which linked into their Martin Creed – Artist Rooms exhibition and has developed slowly and organically as we’ve developed our working relationship together.  We’ve shared stories, aired our grievances about PIPs, got lost (literally! we had to pick up two people from the police station as they had no way of finding us), shared our skills (Gail can find you the perfect charity shop bargain), fallen in the sea, searched for a set of false teeth in a receding tide, got a panda-face sun tan and learnt about how to make art together and alongside each other.

As a programme of workshops it’s been different to a lot of what is usually commissioned by galleries as we had a starting point, but there was no pressure to get to an end point.  We’ve created objects, drawings, sculptures and videos along the way, but a lot of the time it felt like I wasn’t doing much as an artist/workshop leader.  On reflection it’s been quite Creed-ian – nothing happened, but at the same time lots did happen, it’s all been a bit like the lights going on and off, you have to sit in the room for a while to appreciate what is already there even when you think that there is nothing. If anything, now that the workshops have finished, it’s like the group are in a great place to begin.

Here’s some of the things that happened over the last six months

The adventures of the inkpot and the quill, by Nirmala Dholakia

 

The Crosby Trip, performed by Neil Black

oooh, plan, you, see, lord

 

With thanks to Paul and Laura who work tirelessly with the Foxton Centre, to the always-present Neil, Gail and Nirmala and everyone else who worked with me over the past 6 months.

Drawings – July-September 2017

I’ve had a recent flurry of drawing activity that has had a public showing over the summer.  A pair of monoprints titled ‘Helped up/Held down’ won the Drawing category at the St Helens Open exhibition at the World of Glass, these drawings are also due to appear in a national arts publication soon, which I’ll share when it is published:

And a set of three drawings that are part of the ‘Drawing the Collection’ exhibition, also at The World of Glass. They are based on observations in the hot glass studio of The World of Glass, observing how the ellipses of glass morph and change in the process of hand blowing different vessels.

‘Drawing the Collection’ is on show at The World of Glass until Friday 3rd November 2017.

At the library – a meccano portal

On Saturdays 17th and 24th June at Meadows Library, Maghull we celebrated the legacy of Frank Hornby and the library’s Meccano collection. Families were invited to design and construct a full scale Portal Door to be housed at Meadows Library, becoming our magical gateway to a host of imagined worlds. Using vintage Meccano multiple generations explored building techniques, playing with both small, scale and human scale creations.  Together we imagined the worlds that might lay beyond a portal, with the initial idea coming from a 1930s Meccano instruction manual before scaling up our ideas using contemporary construction materials. The families ideas came together to result in a time travelling portal, complete with whirling rotor blades, steering wheel for setting the gauges and options of which world to travel to next.