KIRA – Kingsbrae Residency for the Arts, Canada

Kingsbrae-02I’m (well, I was when I wrote this two days ago) in Halifax (not that one, the one in Canada) waiting for my flight home to the UK after a month spent at Kingsbrae Residency for the Arts in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Time spent in such a beautiful place has had a profound effect on my soul, whilst I’ve also had the rare chance to dedicate a complete month to my printmaking practice.

Kingsbrae-03Alongside four other artists, I was selected from over 250 applicants to spend July here housed in a restored New Brunswick mansion with a dedicated studio on site and next to Kingsbrae Botanic Gardens, of which I had full access to, to develop my artwork.

Kingsbrae-06Whilst spending a whole month solely creating monoprints has been intense and hard work, it has also allowed me to have a continuity to my practice which has meant my technique has improved, I’ve been able to experiment with different styles and have been re-inspired to ‘do’.  I’ve also had the chance to connect with the St. Andrews art community, which is an extensive and engaged group of people.

Kingsbrae-04The best and most special part of the residency has been the chance to spend time with and get to know the four other artists – generous, talented, funny and wonderful – I have made four new friends for life – thankyou.

Kingsbrae-05Oh, and seeing over 20 humpback whales surrounding our boat, blowing air, tail-slapping and breaching was pretty amazing too…

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Natural:History (a fable of progress) or, ‘oh no, we’ve killed the last unicorn’

Nat-Hist-02So – a belated post about my three-month exhibition at Gallery Oldham, in which Richard Dawson and myself presented a series of works exploring the era of the Anthropocene, questioning humankind’s impact on, and changing relationship with, the natural world from the 19th Century to the present day.

Currently Climate Change caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) presents an extreme threat to life on our planet and this, combined with loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and pollution were issues explored in this exhibition.

Nat-Hist-01We each presented a series of artworks that, whilst varied in style and technique, all aimed to highlight these themes, and engage people in thinking about and exploring them further.

Nat-Hist-04I aim to do a post (or at least photos) of each of the pieces I created.  However, the works I was most pleased with were:

The Denial Machine (an ode to lying) Or, ‘are 97% of scientists wrong?’ a vending machine that spat out RIDICULOUS quotes from climate change deniers

Splendour awaits in minute proportions (The Dovestone Doomsday Vault) Or, ‘272 seed specimens displayed by colour’ a seedbank of a local beauty spot

The Greatest Hoax Ever Perpetrated (The Drowned World) / (The Death of Grass) / (Earth Abides) a triptych of dioramas with classic science-fiction titles presented as reality from a dystopian future following climate change

Nat-Hist-03We got some great feedback and a rather lovely review from Robbie di Vito at Corridor 8 that says everything we wanted to say about the exhibition far more eloquently than I ever could – it’s here

 

The Absence of Nature

The printing, upholstering and final result of ‘The Absence of Nature’ chairs.  The blue chair, entitled Chair (The Presence of Nature) Or, ‘Life’ is upholstered in a six-colour screenprinted fabric.  The white chair, entitled Chair (The Absence of Nature) Or, ‘this should be an empty space on a plinth, though the plinth wouldn’t exist without nature either…’ is upholstered in a single colour screenprinted fabric.

The piece is meant to highlight the beauty, detail and intricacy of nature against the bland, colourless state of the alternative, exploring biodiversity and the loss of nature.

The fabric was developed during my AA2A residency at UCLan in Preston.

AA2A Residency – University of Central Lancashire

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Since October last year, I have been artist-in-residence at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston.  I’ve been working on a specific project to create a piece called The Absence of Nature, which (I think) will be a series of chairs highlighting the increased extinction rates of beetles due to climate change and loss of habitat.

I knew that I wanted to use metallic and iridescent inks to screenprint fabric for the chairs so have spent a large amount of my time at UCLan experimenting with different inks, finishes, fabrics and pigments to get what I wanted.  I’ve finally started to achieve something with Golden’s interference colours (thankyou Golden!) but it took a lot of research and experimentation.

I have also spent some time at Manchester Museum‘s entomology department, drawing from the thousands of specimens they have.  I plan to go back and do some more research – Dmitri and his colleagues  at the museum couldn’t be more helpful and to draw from real specimens is invaluable.

As part of the residency I’ve been experimenting with textures and fills, using trugrain and various media to achieve what I wanted, playing around with levels and exposure in Photoshop and when exposing the screens.

I’m finally starting to see the results I want – just need to create the final designs for the fabric using the many beetles I have been sat drawing since the residency started…

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Community-Created Sofa

For the last three months, I’ve been working with community groups in Ashton-under-Lyne on a project based around illegal money lending.  Aimed at educating and raising awareness about the dangers of loan sharks community groups created lots of textile patchwork art that I am in the process of upholstering onto a two-seather sofa.

Whilst similar in style to the Bentley Library Chair, this sofa features more drawing, writing and printmaking than the other one which had a lot more sewing, applique and other needlecrafts on – maybe due to demographics of the groups and also timescale of the project.

Funded by the national Illegal Money Lending Team, the sofa will be used around Tameside as an educational and promotional tool before going to it’s permanent home at Cashbox Credit Union in Ashton.

Work in progress

There’s something here – I’m not sure what yet, but the awfulness of these dolls (their design, colour, body shape and permanent make-up etc) is going to be used to create some kind of suspended installation.

I’m currently concentrating on their heads – I like the slightly macabre feel of the doll’s eyes looking at you as the heads rotate on their strings but the bodies deserve to be used too.   Just as a note of interest – before their redesign last year, the shape of a Barbie doll’s body was such that, if real, she wouldn’t be able to walk…

NB. Please contact me if you have any Barbie, Sindy, Disney, Bratz or other dolls that you don’t want any more.  I’m happy to have ones with missing legs, feet, adapted hairstyles etc that might not sell so well on Ebay..!

Chester Zoo BumblebeeAbode

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Since September last year, Arbarus and I have been working on a commission for Chester Zoo‘s new Bumblebee Garden to create a home for Bumblebees.  Based around a used garden shed, the structure houses a number of Bumblebee boxes to provide a safe, dry environment for the bees to nest in.

The project kicked off last year on a sunny day in September with a drop-in workshop at the Zoo’s Wildlife Connections Festival.  We worked with Chester Zoo’s visitors creating lots of artwork to decorate the outside of the shed, whilst learning about the best flowers to plant in your garden to attract bumblebees.

Over the winter, Arbarus did lots of research into the right type of home for bumblebees, designed and built the shed and then we worked together to finish it, using all the artwork created at the festival to decorate it.  The shed was installed on a chilly January day, to give it time to bed in and for the brilliant horticulture team to create the shed’s green roof and plant up around it before the queen bumblebees start to emerge.  We aim to return soon to get some pictures of the shed with some green around it, instead of just some January mud!  Fingers crossed that some bumblebees will have moved in too…

STOP PRESS!  Whilst we await with bated breath for good news from Chester Zoo, Arbarus has had success with his own bumblebee boxes.  Two of the homes are now occupied by queen bees and there is a quiet satisfaction in watching them go in and out of their nests…