Henny Burnett‘s work reflects a fascination with both museums and the personal memorabilia we all gather, asking the audience to examine how we view such artefacts today. She works in a range of media that include casting, installation, collage, assemblage, photograms, light-boxes, projections and sound. Her work explores impermanence and memory; is rooted in the fabric of the home, yet presented in an historical context.
Henny has been awarded numerous grants, commissions and residencies, recent examples: Animating the Archives funded by Heritage lottery; National Memory – Local Stories lead by The National Portrait Gallery, London; Cicatrixin Montreal funded by ACE and British Council.
Esmé Clutterbuck makes work which explores the physicality of life through drawings and prints based on hair – a subject with qualities at once human and ‘other’. She currently uses her photographs as grounds on which to draw and enjoys trying to get the two elements, digital image and handmade marks, to coexist and together make something new. Esmé has exhibited nationally and internationally and shown in numerous open exhibitions including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. She has work in public and private collections; is a member of BV Studios and a sometime member of Spike Print Studios, Bristol.
Emma Gregory enjoys using her hands. Her engagement with materials and process is playful and direct. She employs a range of media: drawing, print, assemblage, installation, text and sculpture to explore concepts of ‘family’ in relation to time. The resulting work has been described as ‘a bold, tender and honest account of mothering’.
Emma exhibits nationally and internationally, benefitting from long-term collaborations with print studios in Alkmaar and Köln.
In relation to education, Emma has contributed to the gallery-based learning programmes of the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward, the Whitechapel in London, and the Bluecoat in Liverpool. She is a visiting lecturer at universities and teaches at Bath College and Spike Print Studios in Bristol. Finally, Emma is a member of Spike Print Studios and A_N.
From Emma Gregory: Esmé, Henny and I began working together in September 2019, members of a group who met for practical sessions to explore drawing. We were travelling to Drawing Projects UK in Trowbridge. Days of shared activity built a level of trust which allowed for great conversations in the car there and back. We thought we’d like to put time aside to look at the relationships between our own practices – a short burst of creative collaboration and play.
I also had my own agenda. I am at my happiest playing with ideas, throwing out rapid makes without judging or reflecting too much on what I’ve done. Conversely, I’ve spent comparatively little time considering how to resolve or present pieces for an audience. This is an obvious area of strength for Henny and I wanted to learn from her.
Esmé’s work is sometimes representational and sometimes not. It is telling a story but indirectly. I’m trying for a less direct approach to narrative myself and wanted to understand how unconscious or conscious her approach to the subject was.
From Esmé Clutterbuck: I realise, looking back, that I had no idea what to expect and very few preconceived ideas – which was good.
People think in different ways. Our working processes took different forms. Some work was brought in as a starting point; some pieces were made together and others in response to another’s work or an instruction.
Emma: There were common threads: the domestic; nourishing others; loss from the perspective of a mother; that kind of thing.
Esmé: Drawing, making, placing. Chance and happenstance.
Original ideas around nurture and feeding were developed and modified.
Playfulness is liberating but ideally one needs other people to play with. Processes that are often more private became shared.
Calm, bright professional space.
Perhaps the spirit of generosity which is manifest ‘at the Garage’ infused itself into our time there.
We learnt not to be critical but playful.
Our working processes took different forms. We were not always all there at the same time; sometimes it was a question of bringing pieces into the space and leaving them for the others to react to or not. Sometimes we all three met together and sometimes in different groupings.
From Henny Burnett: It’s surprisingly liberating to be able to play in another artist’s presence. I’ve only recently had the confidence to collaborate truly and reveal my thinking and making processes. It’s not something I could have done a few years ago and it was only possible because we’d already worked together on the drawing project.
The Garage also proved a versatile space: allowing for play and a formal presentation. It was also important that The Garage was a neutral space, not one of our own studios.
Esmé: I feel I have been refreshed. Gave us the chance to stand back, figuratively and literally. It’s been a hugely enjoyable and creative time.
Emma: The true value of this residency was in its timing. No-one could have known how important ‘close contact’ would become, or sharing or collaboration. These are all aspects of my practice which I was investing in and actively developing prior to lockdown. Covid-19 wiped this out and forced me back into the role of full time carer. For the last month The Garage has been where people reflect and confirm my identity as an artist. In terms of hanging on to my sense of self through a very difficult period it has been critical. It has felt like a gift.
I’ve never had a studio outside the home. I see how important it is now. Lifting the work out of a domestic setting changes its meaning. The stuff I made during the residency was stuff I couldn’t have made at home: I had the empty space, both real and in my head, to ‘see’ new outcomes.
Henny: I’d like to get all of this into a different space and show it. I think we’d see it all differently again.
I received a lot of good and constructive feedback about the cast pieces. I’ve got lots of ideas about how to present them in next year’s exhibition.
This opportunity was invaluable – particularly coming so soon after the March to August lockdown. It felt like a key transitional moment. All practices need time and space to regenerate so they can move forward and the three of us were granted this through the generosity of the artist/owner Helen Acklam.