The initial partnership began when Emily asked Nick to participate in her PhD project researching drawing as an emotional, autobiographical, feminist gesture. A series of interviews produced in-depth discussion on topics that began to intersect in issues concerning hierarchy; the problems of being a woman artist, artist mothers, the inherent difficulties in verbal and written communication, and the importance of both knowing and not-knowing when art-making, particularly in drawing – traditionally low in the pecking order of material gesture. After two years of talking about drawing, they decided that it would be an amazing opportunity to take some of the findings from their discussions and make them into more material gestures during a three-week residency at The Garage.
Nick and Emily deliberately started from a precarious position of ‘not knowing’ what was going to be made, just using available, low-value art materials and found objects – and to play around with them. Very quickly they decided to embrace mistakes as part of the work, generating as many ideas as possible by making rapidly, rather than creating polished, finished pieces of work. The collaboration quickly became a joyful, humorous dissemination of information, celebrating feminist, anti-patriarchal leanings and questioning the role of language. All the work stemmed from a large wall drawing which was continually added to (and will continue to be worked on) with all the ‘thinking’ that is behind drawing as a feminist and autobiographical gesture, illustrating links between thinkers, artists, materials, and themes.
They made a series of posters and badges, playing with language and colour, using quotes from artists, writers and theorists as well as using their own words. A large ‘quilt’ was made using baby wipes and rubber stamps (a work in progress), the words a never-ending tide of all the actions that are performed at home all of the time. A simple sound piece involved recording both Emily’s and Nick’s washing machines and playing them simultaneously – invoking a different kind of ‘domestic’ conversation. The game of ‘enjambments’ was devised, using words from the wall drawing in order to generate longer ‘three word’ combinations that better describe ‘domestic’ and ‘autobiographical’ practices. ‘Sun-grams’ were made – beautiful images of low-value, found objects that were then playfully paired with made up, non-binary, humorous labels consisting of the usually quite ugly words to describe male/female genitalia. The three weeks culminated in an ‘open residency day’ with tea, cake, free gifts! And a talk and an open discussion that posed questions around guilt, shame and how serious, important work can be made about domestic, interior life.
Nick and Emily consider that the successful collaboration that began during the residency to be just the beginning of an ongoing partnership for future projects based around a feminist manifesto for drawing. Many ideas for potential work have been generated, foregrounding drawing practice as a place in which non-hierarchical, non-binary, caring, reparative and collaborative gestures can be made.
During my week-long residency at the garage I was able to work in a much bigger space than usual and make use of the lighting, beams and big white walls. It gave me the time, space, and silence(!), I needed, which is not always possible at my home studio which, inevitably, has become packed with a muddle of old and new work and ideas, as well as the risk of interruptions from the two people who call me Mummy! So, it was great to have a large clean empty space to breath, some distance from my past work and the opportunity to create something from scratch.
My original plan was to film myself creating a large abstract work, based on a piece of writing I made. The piece is called “Brief for an Abstract” and was written in protest after I received the not so helpful (and unsolicited) advice “Oh, don’t do abstracts”. It reminded me of all the other times people give unhelpful advice and comments, in that moment of frustration, I wrote a brief for myself to do the exact opposite.
Over the past couple of years I’ve loved making abstract, expressive, colourful pieces of work. It can be really easy to begin to believe you should give that up because something tells you that your own enjoyment in the making, has little value in the ‘art world’. So I decided I must make it, and so I created a film piece documenting the process (which will later be edited and the writing read as a voice over).
An added layer to the piece, around finding ways to do what you love even when there are barriers in place, were the limitations I set around it. I only had a selection of domestic items, children’s toys and craft objects to use as my tools; Calpol dispenser, headlice comb, wooden spoon, spatula, dolly. As well as only 5 pots of premixed colour to play with. The marks I made were intuitive, bold, wrong, frustrating, with the tools and with my hands, all while wearing a pair of pink rubber gloves. I hope there is a real sense of humour, the ridiculous, and perseverance, in this work.
The resulting painting has been a real surprise as I was making the work predominantly for video, so the piece itself would have otherwise been inconsequential. However, what I created was unexpected, an imagined landscape with a figure emerging. Titled “Mother of Mountains”. The other surprise was an experiment, hanging a painted sheet to dry on a washing line, and the layering of cut up canvas shapes, as well as the beauty found in the discarded baby wipes I used during my performance – all future fodder for new work!
During the residency I invited fellow Artist, Maria Jose Carvallo, to spend the day in the space together. We made work, reflected on motherhood, pandemic times and artmaking. We talked about books and films we had discovered including “The Lost Daughter”, “Art of The Anthropocene” and more. We both went away with new ideas following our conversations and analysis of each other’s work. Artist, Rachel Handley, came to view the finished work, and we recorded an interview discussion about the project. It really has made a difference to have been generously provided this space for the week and I can’t thank Helen enough for providing this opportunity.
Phil Root is a visual artist and Associate Lecturer for the Fine Art course at UWE. He works primarily in the field of ceramics, specifically investigating and researching relationships between function and sculpture and it’s connection to place investigating the cyclical nature of ceramics, building industry waste material and local materials. Phil currently runs a ceramic studio in Bristol, Counterslip Clay from which he works and run workshops and is also co-ordinator for an online mentoring programme “brb…” with Caraboo Projects which supports 6 young and emerging artists based in the South West which last year hosted residencies at The Garage for the participating artsits.
In contrast to my usual routine of working from a shared ceramic studio, spending time at The Garage allowed me the space and time to focus on making larger more complex works and reflect on the processes involved. Having a space in which to lay everything out isn’t always possible in a functioning ceramics studio, thoughts tend to become streamlined and focused instead of circular or meandering. During the three months I spent at the Garage I worked mainly alone but it also afforded me a space in which to meet and talk with other artists which again generated new avenues of exploration within the work. The strands of my thinking and making really came together during this time and was lucky to be able to present the finished work in the space after my works had been glazed and fired alongside a reading group around Václav Cílek’s essay, Revolution of surface: The semiotic value of asphalt organised by Helen Acklam and Emma Gregory.
Matteo Amadio is a musician and audio-visual artist currently based in Bristol.
His current and past work focuses on interactive and generative music systems, multimedia installations and interdisciplinary projects that explore the relationship between sound and other phenomena.
His interest in the use of contamination and feedback as creative factors often leads to the combination of various kinds of media and different forms of art to create artworks where all the elements are deeply connected.
I started my first residency here after a long search for a space that would give me the possibility to freely work on an installation idea I had been planning and holding inside for several months.
For this reason, I spent three intense and very focused weeks translating my many ideas and sketches into a physical artwork that combines surround sound, projections, lasers, prisms and light sensors. For all these elements the spatial factor is quite crucial, so the process of releasing them in the space and being able to work on a one-to-one scale was absolutely liberating and inspiring.
Using such a space created an important contrast with the desk-oriented way of working that had been predominant for me in the previous months. Being able to walk in a room and hear how the sound changes from place to place or seeing how projecting on a wall modifies the character of every other object present in the space adds an extra dimension to the whole work.
Having the possibility to shape the atmosphere of the entire room was exactly my goal and The Garage was the blank and elegant canvas I needed for building, piece after piece, the immersive environment I had in mind.
During the residency I also met Alice Smith, a Bristol-based dancer, performance maker and Pilate’s teacher.
Thanks to our common interest in collaborative and interdisciplinary performance, we began to explore the possibilities of placing a moving body into the installation.
This brought up questions: how is the space influencing the movement and how is the movement influencing the space? Is the body choreographing and composing the sound? Or does the setup of the space choreograph the bodies within it? What happens when you move freely within the installation and how does that differ from when you move with intention?
We are three artists, Kirsty Lovell, Steph Holden and Jean Smyth who met during Spike Island’s Press Play course run by Emma Gregory in 2018/19. During the lockdown we spent time together in the local environment gathering thoughts, ideas and finds.
We started the residency with these shared experiences and were excited to work in a large space and have dedicated time to play and explore. We were not sure at the outset whether we would work collaboratively or alongside each other. After a day’s settling in and creating a collaborative piece, we then sat together and talked about what we each wanted to get from the experience. The discussion enabled us to understand that the experience of being together was more about shared values, discussion and letting one another in to each others’ practice rather than collaborating on a particular piece.
Being in the space and working alongside each other was transformative as day by day we deepened our understanding of our own and each others’ work and practice. We continued to create our own pieces and the ongoing dialogue enabled growth and inspiration that propelled each of us forward in a way which would not have happened if we had been working alone.
We concluded our three weeks with an open event to showcase the work we had been doing and having conservations with visitors about the pieces and our process. These conversations brought new perspectives and created a deeper understanding for us through speaking about our work to others.
This has been a very special time for us and has given us valuable insights into our work, ourselves and how we move forward. But perhaps the most important learning we took away was to trust the intuitive flow of the process and the gift of being able to let the right person into your practice.
Although the Garage has been going for 18 months, this was my first time in the space. I wanted to work with artists who were making work around similar themes – of the body, abject, loss, identity – but with different practices.
Having other artists actively engaging with my work , and the conversations around all of that, was so valuable– I experienced and saw it differently. I think the journey of the work, during the three weeks, tells the story.
At the start of the residency I brought some paintings into the space of a shape I’d been thinking and making around since the start of the pandemic. Painted on silks and satins, with the length and breadth of my body, these hung sac-like in the space. They were soft, slippery, quiet.
During the residency I saw the work being stretched, knotted, rolled, beaten, caressed, nursed, rocked, folded, worn, breathed into, hidden under, played with. I felt excited, expanded, joyful, energised, trusting, open, closed, vulnerable, ashamed, fearful, sad, hurt, grateful, inspired, recognised, expanded.
The work I made during the residency was scarred, burnt, bleached, stretched to breaking point.
I arrived with questions –
How would we would ‘mix it up’, work together?
What would happen when another artist, with another practice and their own life experiences, engaged with my work?
Could I offer it up and let go?
What would I need to put in place?
What if I don’t want to/can’t do anything?
And had lots more during and afterwards –
Watching someone else respond – and not respond – to the work. How was I affected?
What was being unlocked?
How are we (creatives) connecting in the space – together or apart? What difference does that make?
What worked? What does that mean? What didn’t work?
What/how am I judging?
What do I want more of?
How do I feel at the end of this?
So valuable.. big thanks to Alice Smith, Alice Freeman, Lou Baker, Emma Gregory, Wayne Hill
Lou Baker makes public things that are normally private. She is both a maker and a facilitator. Her work provokes a range of conflicting responses- attraction, repulsion, horror and hilarity.
I absolutely loved having the opportunity to work with a painter, another sculptor and a dancer. It was also wonderful to have some time alone to develop work in such an amazing, uncluttered, well-lit space.
I found the interactions and conversations with the others very inspiring and thought provoking. Working side by side with them produced a deep and different kind of conversation.
My time alone in the space really surprised me. Following conversations with Helen about her unstretched silk and satin paintings, I was struck again by the potential of cloth as a medium in art, how its soft, impermanent nature evokes the human form and its mortality, revealing alternative meanings in its folds and surfaces (Barnett 1999: 186), seeming to ‘take on a bodily resonance rather than to offer up symbols as such’ (Nixon 2005: 174).
I consequently spent my time alone in the space manipulating various different pieces of cloth with a staple gun. Each piece of cloth measured 2 square metres, the approximate surface area of the skin of an adult; each staple was like a stitch. For one sequence I also used a stitched canvas sculpture. Here are links to a couple of the resulting stop motion animations, which I see as performative drawings:
I was delighted to have the opportunity to trial new ways of working and I’m hoping to explore further many ideas that have come out of the residency. Many thanks Helen, Alice and Alice for your company, conversation and inspiration. I hope we can work together again soon!
Barnett, Pennina, 1999, ‘Folds, fragments and surfaces: towards a poetics of cloth’ in Hemmings, Jessica (ed.), 2012, The Textile Reader, Berg: London, New York pp 182 -190
Nixon, Mignon, 2005, Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a story of Modern Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press
Alice Freeman is a Bristol based artist working in etching and sculpture.
Her work draws from forms and textures found in biology and nature, enlarging the microscopic and emphasizing the every-day.
This residency was a chance to explore new collaborations and experiments between Helen Acklam (multi-disciplinary), Lou Baker (sculptor) and Alice Smith (performance artist) and myself. The Garage was a neutral space for offering ideas and developing work together.
We began wanting to inject movement into the work by incorporating more playful elements with the usually stationary pieces. The aim was to create a performance with the works either in situ or freed completely. Unfortunately Alice Smith had to isolate for the final showing. Her performance was seen on a screen in the space, surrounded by some of the works used and developed during the residency.
I entered this residency wanting to try and move my work in a new direction but unsure of where I wanted to take it. What became apparent in all our work was the need for playfulness alongside a sense of strong femininity. The final showing I felt emphasised the strength yet also the fragility of the work, as well as the artists. It has helped me see the path my work has been taking without my knowledge and has encouraged me to stop trying to take the work too seriously.
This residency was very freeing and the project is going to be continued and taken further in the near future.
As a dancer and choreographer, I was incredibly interested when approached to participate in a residency with three visual artists. I was excited to find out how four artists with different practices, aesthetics and processes could collaborate and what we would produce. Within my choreographic practice I work with improvisation, and I am interested in making work that is playful.
We established early on in the process that this time would be a research period to test and experiment with ideas that could be developed in the future. I saw this as an opportunity to build new relationships with artists that I could continue to have long term collocative partnerships with. We gave ourselves permission to not have to produce anything. Our approach was to follow the process and see where it took us. We didn’t know whether we would make a performance, instillation, film, exhibition, all of the above or nothing!
We talked about body, movement, time and space: how can we use the object as body and body as object. Placing sculptural work in space and making it choreographic. We finished our residency by offering an open studio/sharing of our ideas. Presenting sculptural pieces and paintings as hanging, slouching, draping and moving ‘bodies’ within the space. We also shared a film and soundscape using sounds recorded from the movement of the sculptures in the garage.
Unfortunately, due to self-isolation I had to work on the residency remotely on the final week and was not able to move live in the space during our sharing. However, we would like to develop some of these ideas further in different spaces.
I arrived at the Garage, my first residency, excited to have so much time and space (and headspace) away from my domestic environment but also a bit daunted.
I had written down my intentions: to explore, to experiment and to work big. So that I didn’t find myself too overwhelmed by all the big white walls I immediately taped an enormous piece of canvas to the wall and got stuck in.
I was working on my ‘Body of Work’ – paintings about life drawing and whereas I always work from life (or zoom life at least) – here I was working from studies and using house painting brushes and playing with the colours on my palette – all of which freed me up. Some of this work will be included in my exhibition at Centrespace in September
Coming as it did in the early stages of things opening up again it felt like a bit of an explosion, a creative blossoming and, whilst I’m not sure I came away with quite the pieces I’d intended, there were lots of fresh shoots I want to follow. It was great to have the opportunity to really push myself and explore things – so much of my work from the past year had just been squeezed into the cracks in our lives.
Having this time at the garage has been so transformative for me -making me bolder and braver in my work – thank you.
As an Artist I was looking for an opportunity to explore my practice, utilising recycled or found mediums to create colourful, playful, multipart pieces. Trained as an Illustrator, my recent work has transformed into a more personal expression; with an internal language communicated through mark making and motifs that adapts as it is abstracted.
Normally I work in a small, cluttered space. At The Garage, I had space to play on a bigger scale, working mostly on the floor, with time to make mistakes and explore my curiosity. This demonstrated the scope of my practice and what I am capable of.
My work became sculptural in a way I hadn’t expected. I was able to exercise mark making and further develop my distinct style. It encouraged new processes that uninhibited my image making, embracing mistakes and opened up the arena of interactive art. It made me feel reassured by the longevity of my processes. Not all pieces have to be “finished” – a constant conversation which is always evolving. I now have a stock of wood, and pieces may find their way into any one piece.
Having your work up on a white wall, with good lighting, an interested audience of Artists and the public with feedback makes you feel like you grow as an Artist too. These conversations are especially helpful as they extract and justify the reason you are making. I am deeply grateful for being given this opportunity and it is an asset to Bristol.
‘My paintings are composite landscapes, built from elements either invented or observed separately in different places. There is a perfect word for this in German ‘Mischlandschafen’. This word, and the beautiful Avon Gorge makes me think of dark German forests and the romantic landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich’
I studied Fashion Design at Kingston University and Painting at Wimbledon School of Art. And have worked as a professional artist since 1990.
Bristol is now my home after spending time in Oxfordshire and London. I have a permanent studio at ‘BV Studios’ in the south of the City.
I have also, since 2014 been the co-ordinator of The Gallery at Centrespace Co-operative in Bristol city centre.
A beautiful warm, peaceful studio space.
It was good to spread out and concentrate on several projects at once. Some large charcoal drawings, a new canvas and the continuation of a series of small paintings started in the autumn called ‘Takeaway’, an on-going collection of paintings on flattened cardboard food boxes.
Clifton has many very old and beautiful trees, cliffs, rocks and sprawling woodland leading down to the Avon Gorge.
A Lovely, perfect way to spend the first month of a new year.
My residency at the garage proved to be a fantastic opportunity which enabled me to further explore ideas and resolve unfinished work that had been knocking around my studio since lockdown began.
The whole experience provided time and space to think through ideas and consider the installation of the work – something I often struggle with in my small studio.
During socially-distanced studio visits with Caraboo members and my brb… mentor, we discussed material processes and the ideas underpinning my practice. I gained a great deal of insight from these conversations – valuable perspectives which continue to influence my work.