Renate Wendel; Portrait of Rhapsody in Blue
James Sharp; Scrap Book
Tonight was the midpoint of this much shorter phase of the collaborative project
, at which artists returned to show the group their proposed work in progress, with reference to the committee instructions.
Interestingly, a couple of collaborators felt that the instructions had either allowed or directly caused them to go back to historic ways of working that they had not necessarily expected to revisit. In contrast however, some felt a genuine challenge resulting in a ‘great learning curve’ that they said moved them out of their comfort zone. The committee tried to push this challenge still further by reviewing the presented work and revising or in some cases simply ‘tweaking’, the instructions to result in an amended development. Some of those in attendance clearly found it more challenging than others to receive these instructions and it will be interesting to see the final results of this creative discomfort, perhaps more so than from those who seemed less phased by the challenge!
We had originally intended to complete the project at the December meeting on the 18th, however as this is actually only three weeks away in what is for many a very busy month (some people are unable to make it along and would be presenting in January anyway) we have agreed to defer until the New Year. This will give everyone a little longer to reflect on and respond to the new instructions as well as giving those who can make it a good excuse to get stuck into the mince pies! Annabeth Orton; Cupcake Karma
Because of this decision and as we’d spent quite a bit longer talking about the submissions than expected, we didn't really get onto any further critique; we agreed to save the other things people had brought until December. Lots to look forward to for the last little bit of 2013 as the second year of CRITgroup draws to a close!
After warmly welcoming two new faces to the group this month, we set about kicking off our second collaborative project; Crafting by Committee
. There were six initial proposals submitted (two remote) and whilst I personally found it quite straight forward to dictate procedures for carrying out projects that would challenge the artist (must be that teaching instinct kicking in!) I felt one of the hardest things was listening to the discussion about my
proposal without asking questions or feeling the need to clarify intentions that I thought may have been misunderstood. Surprisingly, I didn't find it difficult at all to accept the conditions applied to my proposal but I did find I wanted to ask for more clarification than might have been appropriate. I actually thought that everyone who was present for the committee discussion of their proposals did very well in biting their tongues and taking the feedback without query as the process could easily have caused some debate. Thankfully, that wasn't the purpose of the session tonight, though I am sure there will be plenty of time for that in future meetings! The committee’s decisions and feedback on the proposals can now be found on the second project page
By the time we had discussed all the proposals and decided on feedback (as well as agreeing the format for the next stage; progress to be presented in November with final outcomes submitted at the Christmas Meeting on December 18th), We enjoyed some time to chat about the creative projects of some of those attending. Christine asked for some thoughts on how best to go about selling prints and drawings that she has stored at home. Suggestions from the group included online sales, running an open house event, attending craft fairs and even initiating a ‘lucky dip’ project (probably online). This last suggestion was inspired by conversation around the fact that there was not one single style or process represented in the work and that it might be more appropriate to categorise or selectively ‘brand’ differently grouped pieces in order to target different audiences more effectively. The ‘lucky dip’ suggestion centred on the idea that people on a budget would still like to own a piece of original art and that they could submit a budgeted amount, receiving a corresponding piece of work at random. We also talked briefly about different websites that might be utilised including Ebay
, as well as debating how useful a social media presence really
is in increasing online sales.
Without wanting to put them too much on the spot, we then heard from our guests Melanie and Matt, who had both popped along on the off chance that they might find something interesting! Melanie joined us primarily in a research mission as a creative project manager who is involved in a new business incubation project in Inverness. The project aims to get creative and non-creative businesses and freelancers interacting to encourage innovation and ideas based cross pollination. Matt then introduced himself as a freelance illustrator who has recently moved to Manchester. He shared his portfolio with us and talked about recent projects he has completed for the Royal Navy and a London based brewery. Having sometimes struggled to make time for illustration alongside paying the bills (though a recent job painting Disney princesses onto bouncy castles fired a few CRITgroup imaginations!), He described his new routine in which he sets aside 4 hours a day for illustration. Group members suggested places he may find opportunities and support in Manchester including Creative Industries Trafford
, Castlefield Gallery
, Islington Mill
and some smaller local galleries and venues.
We also had remote updates to share from a couple of absent friends; James could not be in Manchester as he told us he is busy preparing for the Fall Fair at the Robert Crown Center, Evanston in Chicago on Saturday! Renate, though a bit more local, has been equally busy with preparations for the opening of Oldham Symphony Orchestra's Golden Jubilee Exhibition
at Gallery Oldham. The exhibition celebrates the orchestra's history and place in the community and reflects on the work of the orchestra's late leader Anne Heeks. Renate will be exhibiting the portrait In Memoriam Anne Heeks
as a personal contribution. The exhibition runs until 4th January 2014
After stuffing ourselves on the promised pre-hallow e’en treats (and mercifully avoiding too many tricks), we melted off into the Northern Quarter night to begin brewing up our responses to the Crafting by Committee
Check back or join us at MadLab
next month to find out what we’ve pulled from the CRITgroup Cauldron!
This month we broke slightly with tradition and I stepped out of the organiser role to give a talk on my own recent practice. This work, which was exhibited at the Chinese Arts Centre earlier this month, looked at developing recent PlaceMaking
project work by engaging with Chinese Nationals both visiting the UK and as residents in China. Christine kindly agreed to take a few notes on my presentation (I can multi-task but probably not write an unbiased account of my own talk!). Her thoughts follow below.
Annabeth gave us a very interesting and informative presentation about her experiences this summer in China as part of her travels. The quote “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” from T S Eliot resonated with her experiences as you will see below. In the tradition of the artist collector, on their Grand Tour, Annabeth set out to gain experience, inspiration and artefacts to further inform her current practice. Her tour took in a variety of friends, locations and new contacts and participants – many of them new to ‘art’. Having already run a series of workshops in the UK (around Greater Manchester, York and London) she had pre-organised a series of workshops in China in order to be able to compare and contrast the responses of those taking part, from schoolchildren to the curious ‘grown up kids’.
Her recent current practice has been focused on interaction with people and city spaces and looks at creating improved relationships between the two. Much of her work is workshop based and outcomes are photographed by her in order to make a series of documented pieces. Looking at differences between the two cultures and identifying things about the UK have been key to the investigations she has made during her trip.
Working with a set of pre-made templates Annabeth asked three research questions:
* I remember
* I hope to see
* This place is
Participants, most of whom were not from any kind of ‘art’ background, were invited to write responses to these questions on transparent acrylic boards - contained in frames with the questions at the top of them – one set in English, the other in Chinese. She was pleasantly surprised in both countries that people were very willing to join in and nobody made any of the ‘what is art’ type comments that she had anticipated. Annabeth photographed each written response being held aloft in front of a location that would give the viewer a clue to which country they were in. The photographs have now been made into an on-line gallery and have also been exhibited at Manchester’s Chinese Arts Centre.
I could write for days about the information gleaned but in order to be succinct I will try to summarise below - you can of course find out more information here (on Annabeth’s website). Annabeth’s findings surprised her as there were more similarities than the differences she expected – however although the content may be similar the Chinese responses seemed to show much more love of their city and civic pride than the English ones and were also more evident of a communal and sharing society. This can mean everyone is more included but the downside is that there are a lot of things taught that very much continue traditions and the perfection of ‘craft’ but don’t necessarily allow for so much self-expression.
Even having worked with interpreters in China she found that she wasn’t able to fully get the ‘background chat’ and ideas inspired by her workshops so couldn’t know as much about the participants as she could in the UK. That said she did feel that the Chinese perspectives seemed more responsive which contrasted with more factual statements in the UK.
During her trip Annabeth felt that as her visit was very ‘managed’ there was an inevitability that she would only see what her hosts wanted her to see. With this in mind on a number of occasions she ‘deliberately got herself lost’ in order to see a bit more reality. Finding these forays ‘interestingly scary’ at times, she saw first-hand the stark contrasts between poverty and privilege. She also had her own personal voyage of discovery about who she is and what home is.
Realising that there’s a lot each culture can learn from the other in many ways, including educational methods of art training, Annabeth now believes there may be opportunities on a global scale to find ways to work together. She is planning to use the internet to move forward with her current galleries, potentially including a ‘virtual exchange’ and is also looking at the possibility of a residency in China.
I should like to thank Christine for her time in composing this passage; it's always fascinating to read about your work from an alternative perspective!
Later in the meeting, we also discussed our plans for beginning the new collaborative project next month. Crafting by Committee
will be a shorter, three session project taking us up to the end of the year in which each collaborator will produce a brief project proposal, situated within their current practice. The rest of the group will then act as a panel who will, upon hearing the proposal, specify particular criteria for how the project must progress. The practitioner must then follow these instructions precisely and return to the panel in November with the outcome. The hope is that we can then use these pieces to reflect upon how decision making within different practices can impact upon outcomes but also be an intrinsic part of the creative process. Again, these will be research pieces, starting points for potential development and pieces of work in their own right. As some members cannot be present on one or more of the meetings, we agreed that everyone would submit their proposal in a brief written format a fortnight ahead of the next meeting. This will allows some time to preview the proposals and have a think before forming our committee! Again, as a research project and with so many different practices in the group, the outcomes of this are naturally unknown but one thing is certain; it will be an interesting couple of months finding them out!
I can’t quite believe how quickly the last year has gone and already we are moving towards CRITgroup’s second birthday! It feels as though we have already achieved a lot with the successful conclusion and exhibition of Creative Whispers so I’m very excited about the plans for the next couple of months. Our next meeting is on October 30th and if you would like to become involved, feel free to come along, or drop us a message for more information using the contact form on the home page
We have had a quiet couple of months at CRITgroup as people take time out to make the most of the summer, both in creative and other senses.
I have had an especially exciting time of it, though I don’t want to give too much away as I shall be giving a talk on my recent PlaceMaking
project work in China at the next CRITgroup on September 25th. While you can see this work on my website, it will also be briefly on display at the Chinese Arts Centre
from the 10th to the 14th of September with a late night opening on Thursday the 12th; CRITgroup members are of course warmly invited to the opening!
One project I will
share that I have also added to over the summer is This Place Is
. A public project launched last year, it aims to build up a physical record of personal responses to a variety of places, starting from the UK and hopefully including places all over the world. I was in a good position to increase the global reach over the last couple of months and you can see my own use of the project booklets by visiting the This Place Is Summer 2013
Christine Wilcox-Baker has been getting political with a public art exhibition designed to raise public awareness and support for Asian Elephant conservation. ‘Elephant Parade’ is coming to Manchester before stomping off all over the country and arriving in London next summer. Christine has designed and painted one of the elephant sculptures titled ‘Stop the traffic’ that is the size of a real baby elephant! You can see it, at the Trafford Centre until the 12th of September.
James Sharp has also been keeping busy attending crafts fairs and running workshops. You can find details of his activities in textiles, artists’ books and journal keeping on his blog
As mentioned, the next CRITgroup will be on September 25th, when I shall be transporting you overseas with an investigation into Chinese approaches to public spaces. In October, we will be getting back up and running with our second collaborative project; Crafting by Committee.
It seems Summer is well and truly underway (despite the weather!) with many people on holiday (or conversely being so
creative they were too busy to make it!) I do however; have a couple of recent updates of my own that I shall share before including news from a few of our other regular attendees.
On the 15th of June, I was delighted to take the PlaceMaking
and This Place Is
workshops that I have been developing along to the Magpie Thunder Bureau Pop Up
as part of the Barnaby Festival
. In the morning, we took the PlaceMaking
boards on to the streets of Macclesfield and gathered some thoughts on local perspectives, especially in light of the recent approval of some major town centre redevelopments. This took a slightly new approach to previous sessions and rather than working as part of an existing workshop group, we approached Saturday shoppers and arts trail visitors. We got some interesting conversations going too, once we had persuaded people that we weren't trying to sell them anything! In the afternoon, I ran a This Place Is
demo session back at the Pop Up Shop and rather than asking for completed booklets there and then, they were made available for the duration of the festival for visitors to take away and return at their leisure. If you are interested in participating yourself, you can request a booklet online and find the return address on the project page
On a bit of a tangent, I additionally have four paintings on display until August 11th at Nexus Art Café as part of their Happiness
exhibition, along with Renate Wendel who also has work in the Malgras|Naudet Summer Show (until the 28th). Renate has been working on some still-life drawing & sketching and is currently in the initial stages of venturing into portraiture by revisiting the theme of music & musicians, a recurring strand in her work. Although she is experienced in life-drawing, drawing and painting portraits is a new venture and she is experimenting with drawing on old photographs, both studio portraits and live rehearsal/concert shots, and is beginning to explore them further through drawing, painting & collage.
Christine Wilcox-Baker will also soon have some more updates for us on her contribution to the Elephant
Parade and has shared these photographs of a recent public art project she has worked on.
James Sharp continues to develop his range of textile coverings for notebooks and has started using some new tweeds from his re-upholsterer. James finds they make excellent slip covers for various books because they feel good as well as being pleasant to work with. James has also kindly offered a 20% discount on his workshop fees to anyone affiliated with CRITgroup. You can find more information about these and links to make bookings or contact James on his website
The next CRITgroup will be on July 31st and I shall be handing over to Christine for the update as I shall be in China! I very much hope to have a lot more to say about this in my talk scheduled for the September meeting!
James Sharp's Textile Poster
Preparing the Space
The CRITshow event was the culmination of the Creative Whispers
group project, in which each collaborator began by producing an item intended to represent their practice. These were brought along to each meeting (beginning December 2013) and passed on to a new artist. The task was to respond to each piece and bring it back the following month. The pattern repeated for 5 responses, with the intention being to discuss and review the outcomes in order to research the characteristics of practice and the effect of labelling work as the product of a particular discipline, though we also knew we would have some interesting pieces in their own right. The final responses were shared at our last meeting and some of those can be seen here
. Creative Whispers
was the first time we have either collaborated or shown work in what I am now coming to think of as more than just a networking group but actually something beginning to approach an arts collective. I normally try and keep my blog posts as neutral as possible out of respect for the fact that my views are not shared by everyone who attends our meetings. As the CRITshow day was much longer than our usual 2 hour slot however; I couldn’t possibly record enough notes to give everyone’s views an equal airing so in this instance I feel at liberty to make this a more personal reflection.
We had the morning set aside for a group curatorial activity, which is actually a very grand and ‘arty’ way of saying we all put our work up. I was very surprised how smoothly this went. My experience of hanging shows is that this can be quite a stressful experience and I have witnessed many a bitter falling out over something as apparently trivial as a 1 cm difference in hanging height on a wall. I think this was largely a result of the fact that the work we were showing had itself been collaborative and any sense of ownership was subsequently diluted. That the project had been by nature experimental also reduced the tendency for people to become precious about little things like how straight pictures might be or whether there were fingerprints on the walls! We did not take a structured approach to how the work was hung, despite having discussed some possible groupings in the meeting last Wednesday. In fact it turned into a very fluid and organic process and watching it all get hung put me in mind of a busy public square. People moved at various speeds and directions all with separate tasks and concerns yet rarely (!) collided and despite this apparent separation of purpose, still came together under the umbrella of one place, one moment and of course in our case one ultimate goal. I found it a real treat to sit back for a while and watch it all come together. Though the concept of CRITgroup was initially ‘mine’ and I have been facilitating the organisation of meetings, write-ups and project collation for the past 18 months, I do not usually find it appropriate to reflect on it as any kind of personal achievement as I feel this would undermine the intention of it being a truly equal, shared experience. During the hanging however, I did come to realise that these artists would not all now be coming together in such an harmonious fashion, nor indeed would any of the work exist, had I not undertaken these administrational efforts. Hanging and Threading
Once the work had been displayed we set about realising our planned method of demonstrating the links between each response. During discussion of how to illustrate the progression of the pieces, the word ‘thread’ kept being used to describe this and it wasn’t a huge leap to see how thread might be physically utilised. As we had not placed the work in any sequence beyond aesthetic or practical considerations, this naturally became very chaotic as we used coloured wool to trace a line in space from each starting point to the subsequent response. Personally, I feel this was especially effective as it not only illustrated the sequence but also reflected an unintended networking of responses which evolved as each outcome was received and responded to in the context of those that had come before it. Some also felt (including myself, though I know not everyone did) that it became increasingly difficult not to be at least a little influenced by all the other outcomes, as well as the one on which you were supposed to be focussing and that the pieces all became somehow linked, even tangled, in one another seemed to me rather an appropriate representation of this. An Urban Forage
We had agreed that after lunch we would produce further responses to the work in direct collaboration (as opposed to the rest of the responses that might really be viewed as only conceptual collaborations; shared and discussed but taken away and physically worked on individually), however it actually became a very much more reflective session with everyone content to simply spend some time digesting the fruits of our labours and enjoying the opportunity to engage in conversation about things outside of art, getting to know one another a little more deeply. This time also allowed us freedom to engage with members of the public who came in to see the work and I really don’t think this would have happened so productively if we had all been hooked into making. Having said this, we did eventually break into three smaller groups. Interestingly, these seemed to be formed by natural homologies in either our practices or our ideas, which seems to cement the importance of discipline or concept as a source of commonality. Irena and Kevin for example (see Irena's video below) , took random photographs from fixed points of passers-by in what they described as a visual Flâneur (a stroll or meander). Not only did the photographers default to taking photographs, their recent contributions to Creative Whispers have both included elements of voyeurism in response to public spaces. Equally, that Christine, Renate and I decided to embark upon a ‘walk-shop’, which we christened ‘Urban Forage’; a scavenger hunt about the Northern Quarter in search of wild (actually in many cases not so wild) food plants, was a clear continuation of elements of each of our recent contributions as well as our wider practices. Shirley and David went on an exploratory mission into the city and their work too has many similarities in representing urban aesthetics through the appreciation of light and reflection. These groupings formed very naturally, and it was both productive and enjoyable for them to have done so, however I do wonder if we might have derived more in terms of research from a deliberate attempt to ‘mix up’ our disciplines a little more. Maybe that will come out of our future work.
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Walking on Sunshine
"After a day of documenting the Creative Whispers event, I turned my camera and attention to the space outside of the MadLab. Positioning myself by the door I documented the activity going on directly in front of the open door. The images work as still images, but I wanted to make them into moving images, I wanted to capture an extended moment of this day. The film documents the sunshine, people enjoying the sunshine and the essence of the Northern Quarter of Manchester." Irena Siwiak Atamewan
"These photographs of buildings around the Northern Quarter of Manchester are part of our initial research and also starting points for a new collaborative project that we intend to develop. Having both just completed our respective courses we now want to work collaboratively, linking both of our individual approaches to develop art works using paint, photographs, glass, metal, acetate and perspex." David and Shirley Hammond
Discussing the Work...
Upon returning to MadLab we ended the day with a reflective and analytical discussion, to which we also welcomed two new faces who have not been involved in the project. I found it useful and informative to have input from people who had not been ‘embroiled’ in the project. (...and analysing the cakes!)
The first key point covered was primarily that everyone felt participation in collaborating had been very much a positive experience, even described as an ‘antidote’ to working as a solitary artist. It was identified that the continuous changes every month kept work and individuals developing, and also moved it outside of the usual creative experience. Most of us felt that not producing the work with the intention of it being viewed by an audience outside of our circle was a good thing as it freed us up to make mistakes, allowed risk taking and encouraged individuals to step out of their comfort zone. It was also noted that the ‘peer pressure’ or obligation to complete work for each meeting in order to not let each other down helped to not only motivate but also facilitate new ideas. On the flip side, the social tendency towards ‘politeness’ resulted in many people (though not everyone) making choices to avoid potentially upsetting each other (especially when it came to ‘destroying’ work) so it might be that this is an area of risk taking that was under-explored. The reluctance to deconstruct another’s work was an interesting instinct and there was a debate around whether this came from moral or political reservations in relation to the destruction or preservation of art which has often been used as a vehicle for expression in more oppressive situations.
Reflections on the difference between ‘art’ and ‘craft’, along with their perceived hierarchies then became the dominant topic. One suggestion was that ‘craft’ is very much more defined from the outset with a prescribed outcome that will be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ on a technical level, while ‘art’ tends to allow the outcome to be very much more formed or influenced by serendipitous changes that occur during making. It was discussed that if this can be accepted as a distinction then the ‘art’ approach tended to embody a more modern perspective, while the ‘craft’ was more closely linked to traditional values. We also discussed situations where the ‘artist’ passes an idea on to a ‘crafter’ to be physically realised and I personally think this is also an important distinction where ‘art’ tends to be more concerned with ideas and concepts to be communicated where ‘craft’ idealises physical outcomes that can be identified as having a specific purpose. We questioned how valuable these semantics are to us under the even broader categorisation of ‘creatives’. It was generally felt that these questions underpin important current debates in the wider financial climate with regards to applications for arts funding as well as proposed changes to arts education. If work can be sold, it is commoditised; however it is also self-justifying, where publically funded art is often seen as a ‘past time’. Though arguments that the arts satisfy a deeper, emotional or social human need may themselves be justifiable, they will always take a back seat to physical needs, especially in times of for example, rising food and energy bills. As a teacher, this definitely put me in mind of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
! We discussed the perception that many modern art forms have had the requirement for practical skill removed, especially in areas where it is either more conceptually driven or specifically intended to demonstrate that ‘anyone can be an artist’. This led us back to discuss recent discomfort with the notion that an artist does not always physically make their own work, though we also recognised a long tradition of this. We discussed how important the process is to the outcome, and while we accepted that this is not a black and white distinction but something that depends on the work, some comments comparing visual arts to performance based disciplines suggested that in fact it was the outcome more often than not that embodied a majority of the value ascribed to it by the audience. This developed into a discussion of artists’ statements and while many felt them to be an unnecessary intrusion into the relationship between the work and the viewer, some equally noted that being informed about a piece of work could actually allow an audience to get more out of it. It was generally agreed however, that ‘lazy’ or poorly written statements, especially those that were self-aggrandising or that use unnecessarily inaccessible language did more harm than good.
I am very happy to report that he day finally concluded with a discussion of plans for the next stage of collaborative working. Titled ‘Crafting by Committee’, the project will run over the three sessions at the end of the year, starting in October. Participating artists will submit proposals for projects which will be discussed by others forming representative ‘panels’. The panels will then feed back to the submitting artist with clear instructions for how their proposal should be realised. There will be one further meeting (November) for review of project development in a similar format before submission of final products or outcomes in December. We will then look into the differences between the initial proposal and the realisation of the project at completion stage, analysing how any contrasts between disciplinary approaches might have impacted upon this and how it affects our investigations into practice and discipline. A Round of Applause?
To summarise; it was a long but relaxed and very enjoyable day and I feel we all benefited from the opportunity to spend more time together than usual. Seeing the work we have produced all in one space was an important conclusion to a project that we each drew different creative sustenance from and the variety of outcomes, ranging from those that were unapologetically self-indulgent to those attempting to flush out opportunities for debate, from the purely aesthetic to the entirely conceptual, were all drawn together under the common seizure of a chance to push personal boundaries. That the work became a catalyst for discussion of the wider state of arts from a socio-political perspective as well as a creative one, validated the project in a contemporary and research based context, and that each participant is demonstrably keen to be involved in the next phase must be the clearest indication of all that we have not only facilitated a meaningful discussion between different practitioners but also motivated productivity. I am therefore very satisfied at the end of this important development that CRITgroup can be seen as continuing to healthily achieve its two primary aims.
An exciting May meeting saw us sharing our final responses to the Creative Whispers project and it was fascinating to see the number of ‘threads’ that felt as though they had come, at least to some degree, to a conclusion in a full circle. There was some discussion that it had been challenging not to be influenced by the breadth of responses as well as the piece that was supposed to be the focus and many questioned the role of the subconscious in this. Being made aware of something, whether that be a material or conceptual approach may influence a practitioner unintentionally but are we always really aware of what we are aware of? Can we avoid our work being influenced by these things, whether that be through an attraction or an aversion to them and what does this imply for our work? Aside from an exploration of our relationships with spaces (domestic, urban and rural) which really did seem to underpin a vast majority of the work, one key question that seemed to come up in relation specifically to the collaborative element was that contrast between destruction and preservation; is it acceptable to destroy in order to develop or should we aim to preserve wherever possible?
I shall skip over these issues in written form as briefly as we did at the meeting; we swiftly moved on to the nuts and bolts of planning the CRITshow on Saturday and it is at this event that we intend to really dig deep into the questions that have arisen from the project. On Saturday morning (you can join us from 10am); we will be sorting and displaying all the outcomes in one more or less logical form or another! Some talk has involved use of physical threads to illustrate the paths of response, while the likely display has also been described as something of a Venn diagram! We will then spend the afternoon in small groups responding further to the outcomes and indeed the entire project in a practical fashion, so there will even be a further series of collaborative outcomes! We will conclude with a discussion of both the project and the day and a bit more analysis of some of the previously mentioned observations along with anything else that crops up!
A very exciting development for CRITgroup and as far as I am concerned, the 25th of May can really not come soon enough!
Next month we will meet on Wednesday June 26th and there will probably be a ‘reflective debriefing’ on the May event in terms of what we have learned from the organisation of it but also how we want to move forward into phase 2 of our collaborative research project. If you are interested in getting involved, I highly recommend coming along to that meeting, even if you can’t make it on Saturday the 25th!
It was a short yet sweet meeting this month; there were four of us present, though we had a full contingent of Creative Whispers
responses as those who couldn’t make it had either emailed or posted their work in. For once, deciding who would get which response next was easy as it was our final swap and so it was simply a case of passing on pieces to someone who had not yet worked on a particular thread. We briefly reviewed and discussed the contributions (as well as engaging in some particularly interesting conversations surrounding ownership of artwork) before moving swiftly on to the exciting business of discussing our upcoming CRITshow on May 25th!
Initially proposed as a group Show event, as we have worked through the Creative Whispers responses (always intended to be a research project) it has become clear that what we are working towards is not so much a polished or traditional exhibition of art work but instead a continuing of the investigative nature of the whole process. We have decided that the hanging of the work is a critical part of responding to each other and our perceptions of discipline and so we will embrace this and make it a part of the event. We will give ourselves three hours at the start of the day in a collaborative hanging and curation session which will culminate in the work being… somehow… displayed! We decided an effective way of illustrating the potentially confusing ‘threads’ of responses was by utilising just that; a series of threads, which we plan to use to indicate connections between the pieces, from one to the next, or maybe several flowing into one. We anticipate the outcome to resemble a giant art-based cat’s cradle, or maybe a rather creative spider’s web! Of course this is a somewhat movable feast owing to the flexible nature of the project but quite an exciting prospect none the less and I for one am really looking forward to putting the work up now (which I often find one of the least enjoyable parts of exhibiting!).
The rest of the CRITshow day will be spent in further collaborative responses, where we plan to work in small groups to either suggest a potential development or even produce further pieces. We will then end with a group discussion on the day, work and project whilst enjoying some well-earned afternoon tea (thanks to Christine for agreeing to organise this!). We have yet to pin down exact times for the day but I hope to have those details soon and we will then publish our official invite!
We have just one more meeting before the CRITshow, next month on Wednesday 22nd of May, at which we will share our final responses as part of the Creative Whispers project. We’ll also have some last minute discussions on the content and format or the CRITshow! Can’t wait!
There were lots of things to get through this month so we started off by looking through some copies of Patternotion
; the book published as part of a project by Alban Low
which looked at different systems for facilitating creativity. As we felt that the current Creative Whispers
project fitted this theme pretty neatly, we submitted some work at the start of the year. Everyone agreed that our contribution worked well in the book and we look forward to involving it somehow in the CRITshow event on the 25th of May.
Our main ‘feature’ this month was a talk by Christine Wilcox-Baker
, who has been a regular attendee at CRITsessions since early on. Christine has some upcoming talks to give at various events and was eager to not only share her work with us but also get some feedback on the content and pace of her presentation.
I have shared details of Christine’s work before
, especially last August, following her involvement in a show garden for the RHS Flower Show
at Tatton Park. Her practice is largely inspired by plants, especially those that provide us with food and she is interested in exploring issues of man’s interaction with, reliance on and increasing disconnection from the natural world and the sources of our sustenance. Her practical outcomes cover a broad range of different disciplines and the work she shared included installations, paintings, illustrations, metal work, exterior 3D design, textile design and environmental interventions involving plant growth. It is perhaps no surprise to learn that her equally broad industrial background includes graphic and interior design as well as work for TV. Following her involvement in Cow Parade
, Manchester in 2004 however, she discovered a love for public art and it was following this personal creative revelation that she embarked upon (almost!) a decade of work committed to the natural world, including the completion of an MA in Art as Environment.
One of the key things that came from Christine’s talk (aside from a shared appreciation of her accomplished and varied work) was again the question of how one describes a practice and whether or not it should be considered a strength or weakness in an artist to be simultaneously engaging in a range of disciplines. One question posed to us at the start of the talk seemed to almost ask for help defining the body of work presented but it was a unanimous response that the work defined itself and that in this case it was the concept that was the key uniting element rather than the method of expressing it. As Christine had already mentioned that she was viewing the talk as a ‘dry run’ for various professional commitments, the conversation naturally led on to issues surrounding how best to approach applications for a variety of opportunities and whether or not things should be left out of a portfolio presentation if they did not obviously ‘fit in’ with what might be perceived as a main body of work. It was agreed that much like in any industry, it would be appropriate to ‘tweak’ or review this with relevance to each application and that sometimes it would indeed be better to present a more focused series of work but that this fact did not undermine the validity of engaging in a variety of disciplines as part of a justifiably consolidated practice. Christine’s talk was an inspiring demonstration of how one opportunity can grow into another in a very organic fashion and there seemed to be much about her approach that mirrored her subject matter; by ending on an outline of her upcoming projects it was certainly clear that this fertile practice is not only blossoming but definitely bearing fruit!
Though we missed Shirley and David this month, they had still managed to get their Creative Whispers
contributions in to us and so reluctantly moving on, we spent the next half hour sharing the third round of responses. These can be found on the Response 3
page. We have one more swap, at next month’s meeting, before concluding the project with the CRITshow event. We also spent some time discussing how we are going to approach this and it was agreed that the day will take the form of further research into our original question
, rather than attempting to realise a ‘polished’ show. The focus of the work displayed will very definitely be on the process of the Creative Whispers project and will hopefully enable us to effectively reflect on the findings of this an equally dynamic and creative fashion.
As mentioned, next month is our final swap and we will also spend a bit more time working out how we will tackle displaying the work. We all felt that making the concept explicit was critical and there are a variety of ways that we could approach this so it will require some further discussion.
On another note, I hope to be confirming new dates for the rest of 2013 soon and I shall publish these on the home page
as soon as I have them!
Christine reveals her illustrative responses
Tonight we started off with a bit of housekeeping and discussed the outcomes of a meeting I had with one of the directors of MadLab
about potentially arranging an exhibition of the Creative Whispers
work. As expected, cost is going to be the main factor in deciding how long for and when we want to do anything but aside from sending me back with a new list of questions it seems we are still looking likely for getting something organised in the near future. Once we have agreed dates (and how we will pay for it!) then we can start discussing the finer details of organisation. We were also pleased to welcome back Jo Scorah
who shared her textiles work with us last October.
We were of course keen to get on to sharing the second round of responses for the Creative Whispers project and started with James Sharp, volunteered to go first in his absence! James had taken my photographic responses to Irena’s starting point and had interspersed prints of the images with prints of his journal pages in to a bound, textile covered book.
David shares his interventions in Irena's found book
We also looked at photograms from Irena, rubbings from Kevin, manipulated photographs from Shirley, Japanese additions to a found haiku book-come-photo album from David, Illustrations on canvas from Christine, a developed conceptual ‘object’ from Renate and finally a mixed media drawing from myself. Jo took away some prints that Shirley had made in response to Renate’s original acrylic on canvas starting point and will join in with the project in a ‘branched’ thread!
This is really just an overview and you will be able to see more of these over the coming weeks as I get sent images with which to update the Creative Whispers
project pages. We finished the discussion on the project with many agreeing that they have found the opportunity to take some risks and be a bit experimental very refreshing. While we may not all have produced work that we are necessarily happy with in a way that we would normally associate with producing work, we have certainly appreciated the stretch of being kicked from our respective ‘comfort zones’!
Glass and Ceramic Transfer by David Hammond
As we managed to finish with a bit of time spare, we were delighted to hear more from David Hammond, a mature student now in his third year of a BA(Hons) in 3D Design at MMU, who shared some of his recent work with us. We discussed some photos of his work in glass; sculptural pieces that make use of ceramic transfer techniques to involve 2D drawings, photographs and collages of modern urban architecture in a spatial exploration. We discussed the link between the materials and the subject matter being closely related to David’s inspirations; the interaction between the buildings and the environmental features around them such as reflections and negative spaces. The glass, it was agreed, is a medium that naturally lends itself to play with light as well as reflecting (no pun intended!) the actual building materials of the architecture.
We are now looking forward to March, when we will be sharing the second ‘layer’ of responses as it gets increasingly complicated to pass on a piece without it going back to someone who has already worked on it! In addition, Christine Wilcox-Baker will be giving a much anticipated talk on her sculptural work relating to food plants and gardens! This seems particularly appropriate as we move into Spring; there’s certainly a lot of new creative growth sprouting about us; check back next month to see if it’s started blossoming!