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.
The interesting thing about writing and tracking my thoughts on my making process is noticing the shifts and changes between intention and event. On revisiting my thoughts
in anticipation of The Garage residency in my blog, on my website. I read there an energy and ambition that has played out in different ways now that I look back on what was made.
I was keen to adopt a spirit of playfulness and also, following the certainty of the RWA Academician Candidate show in October, to release any requirements to create finished pieces. I was seeking freedom, play and ease. And what do I notice about what happened there? It takes both looking back as well as forward to see the whole picture, and even then, there may be gaps.
I called the writing before the residency, Active Withdrawal, and the transparent raincoat in yellow PVC with wired orange binding that I made from scratch during the residency took on that name also.
I heard the phrase Active Withdrawal at the end of last year, used by a consultant in an Intensive Care Unit. It is used when a patient is receiving 100% oxygen, entirely reliant on a life support machine, and they are described as ‘actively dying’. The decision is made not to resuscitate, and there is no realistic prospect of recovery once the machine is turned off. The patient was my father. He died on 3 December 2020. Like life, so in death: peaceful, calm and dignified.
There is a sense of parts being at odds with each other. The playfulness I spoke of, in wanting to release the responsibility of the neon yellow rope from its obligation to tether, tie and secure the ceramics, didn’t sit well with the wired, slumped yellow raincoat. Maybe, in hindsight, it’s not the time to be free and easy and playful. Maybe there is still a need for certainty, security and a sense of being held or holding. This time in a different way.
The ceramics I made were unfired: raw clay, first thrown on a wheel, then fitted and turned. It was painted with a white slip which, when dry, removed it from being recognisable as clay. Without the narrative function of the glaze this time, the unfired clay became precious when stacked. It was reminiscent of modular concrete cylinders by the side of the road or on building sites. Except: mine rise up.
I wanted to make the coat from scratch. Many Long Slow Waits (2018) utilised existing coats where I replaced the binding with the colours I had chosen. For the Garage show, I bought a short raincoat to take apart and to use as a pattern to help me learn about the design making process. The idea being that this will then lead towards the creation of sculptural forms for future, larger-scale works. For this coat, I kept it simple – no buttons and no pockets for security or possessions. You don’t need them in times like these.
The transparent yellow PVC and TPU material is reminiscent of the UV screens that used to line shop windows to protect stock from fading. The wired seams and binding in nicotine orange animate the coat into a slumped position, devoid of its owner. Have they slipped away? Or perhaps, the coat is like fallen shop stock, out of place and left where fallen.
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.
This is the second residency at The Garage, Clifton, for Emma Gregory, Esmé Clutterbuck and Henny Burnett.
They are building trust and making collaborative drawings, sculptures and installations. Their ongoing shared project is called The House Protects the Dreamer.
The residency took place over four weeks from December 2020 to January 2021, between the first two Bristol Lockdowns. This stretch of time was broken up by Christmas, which took place with severe restrictions on getting together and transport. Unlike during their first Garage residency (September 2020), the artists were not allowed in the same space at the same time and had been leaving each other notes, found objects and pieces of work in progress to complete.
For the following conversation Henny is on the outside and Esmé and Emma are inside, masked, 2m apart at all times. The Garage space has been filled and refilled. At one point it looked like this:
Record of chat end of second Garage residency:
EG: Let’s just list some words that come to mind looking at the work we’ve made here… struggle for order; control; tension
HB: humour, lots of humour; ‘the domestic’; femininity; there’s lots of gender stuff here
EG: like used up, worn out?
EC: Like misery, as in ‘abject poverty’
EG: what do you make of the plait in this piece?
HB: hair-pulling, nastiness, it worries me
EC: I’m getting upset actually because that’s how my cousin ended her life
HB: My cousin did the same thing
EC: …but all my work has hair hanging in it. It hangs down your back. That’s what hair does.
HB: The petticoat is on one strap. Uneven. A bit desperate.
EG: I think it’s me bringing that element in. You often come in and balance things.
HB: Yes, I like symmetry. That’s why it upsets me – more than anything. I don’t like things slipping off.
EG: It’s louche. It’s lost its virginity.
EG: The net pieces are deeply sexual. Were the ones with willies made later?
EC: No they were made first. Turned into pants. It’s partly because of your legs (Henny).
EG: The legs were a catalyst.
EC: I made long legs with tissue first and then bound them up.
HB: They could be tails.
EG: They’re not though, are they? Those are male pants and those are female pants.
EC: I made a big one from a towel but then I thought… oh no. Can’t go there.
EG: Sometimes one makes a thing and wishes one hasn’t seen it.
HB: Your piece Emma with the tights is obviously referencing the pants.
EG: Everything I’ve done references the legs Henny or the Esmé’s nets. The butterfly net piece wouldn’t have been made without the Esmé’s nets first.
EC: I’ve been trying to make something with nets for years.
HB: But Emma your (bamboo) house was the starting point for all of it really. I’ve been making in response to that.
EC: Also, you said if I were going to use the towels I’d cut them up.. and so I cut them up.
EG: I like this piece that talks about knitting and I really like the piece stretching from wall to table. It’s just a twiddle but placement is everything. I’ve tried to twist it: put a torsion into it.
I love the ambivalence of the black things on the house.
HB: Protective? Danger?
EG: Malevolent tongues – sticks and stones will break your bones – and then they’re spears protecting and then they’re flames destroying…
EC: Charred wood in a house, bombed out…
EG: Ravens’ wings, all sorts
HB: There’s something happening between your fabric piece (Emma – pink monoprint on sick cloth looks like a stretcher) and your patchwork, Esmé.
EG: It’s not just the pink?
HB: I guess it’s because I know they’re both about your children.
EC: I see that as a stretcher
EG: Helen (Acklam) saw it as one of those Eskimo sleds
EC: Where is the rest of it
EG: It’s all still there in the plaits
HB: I love that you could reverse it… I think there is a lot more here than the first time around. More exciting.
EG: Helen thought so too. We’re getting closer to pushing each other.
HB: Particularly when you play ‘Puck’!
EG: It’s all those sessions on Zoom talking about the project and writing the (Black Swan) proposal. Hours and hours of chatting. As soon as we started to think about the house as being ‘unsafe’ for the dreamer. The house is ambivalent, sometimes a place for sanctuary but sometimes not. Then the whole thing is allowed to go a bit darker… Weirdly, some days I’ve been either too depressed to come or I’ve come in, burst into tears, and then started making. Really very raw. I don’t think that shows, that distress.
EC: It does. We’ve just been talking about how dark it is. I’ve just seen this (the two pairs of legs on the window wall between the windows). I like it because it’s standing up but it’s not legs. It’s something running down the wall.
HB: Well something went wrong.
HB: I’m excited about the show (Safehouse 2, London, in Sept 2021).
EG: We’ll have to watch the install and not play too safe. I’ve had trouble even sharing on Instagram this time. I’ve been feeling too vulnerable. You’ll have to make sure I get there (to the point of exhibiting). I’ve been having real trouble putting things out there for over a year. Instagram was my way of pushing back against this but now I’m having trouble even with that.
‘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.
Emily Snell lives and works in Bristol and is both a visual artist and art psychotherapist. She creates sculptural forms in silicone which reference the body and explore themes of femininity and touch. In her work, Emily seeks to let the materials speak for themselves and evoke emotion in the viewer. She is exploring ambiguity, seeking the spaces in-between and investigating the place where an artwork ends and her body begins.
Spending three weeks as artist in residence at The Garage gave me the opportunity to respond to the architecture of a space and make new work on a larger scale. My aim was to try out new ideas and be playful.
I was initially daunted by the empty white space and had mixed feelings of excitement, expectation, fear and anticipation. I had a few works in mind, but mostly I wanted to focus on the making process and respond intuitively to the space and its architectural features without being burdened too much by the need for a fixed outcome. I began by filling the room with large sheets of silicone, lengths of cord, plastic tarp and metal fixings spread onto the floor. I tried out different configurations and ways of hanging, juxtaposing the softer more fluid silicone materials with the harder industrial metal. Highlighting the contrast between the two materials brought a sense of tension between the body-like material and its environment – an idea I explored further in several of the resulting sculptures.
Spending consecutive days at The Garage helped me to focus intensely on developing my practice without other distractions. Inviting others to view my work throughout the residency and in the final weekend not only helped me to resolve my ideas to a point that felt more final yet still playful, but also gave an opportunity for insight into how others experience my work. This as an important aspect of my practice, as I aim to communicate with and generate emotional states in others through the materials that I use. Being an art therapist means that I am constantly channelling my emotions in an open-ended way through my work and others observing my work is a way of being seen.
Reflections/observations gained through completing the residency:
The silicone sheet material worked best when manipulated only lightly e.g. draped, suspended or creased. The material is read in different ways depending on the context, sometimes appearing like leather or fabric.
The metal fixings and beam clamps introduced a sense of tension and this sometimes felt clinical and uncomfortable.
There was an absence of text and titles which was intentional. I was keen for viewers to explore the work in the present and in a spontaneous and childlike way. I wanted people to experience the work as sometimes teasing, seductive, subtle or joyful. Viewers told me they were also interested in learning more about my making process and it would be an interesting idea to include more documentation of this.
The context of the work is me and this is something I want to explore further. What is the connection between the materials and myself? How do I capture the materials in space? Are they fixed or fluid? How does my body interact with the materials? And how do I want others to experience these intimate moments?
As artist in residence at The Garage for three weeks, I was able to gain a distance from and reflect on my practice in a new context away from my studio. I found this immensely valuable and it has inspired me to further explore the links I want to make between myself, the work and those who view it.
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.
Karolina lives and works in Bristol, but was born in Nowy Sacz (Poland). She gained her MA from The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 2010 and in recent years, she was enrolled on the Turps Art School Correspondence Course.
Karolina works across painting and installation and articulates poetic, inter-subjective dialogues. It results from myriad sources: psychoanalysis, linguistics, the mundane as well as art history and pop culture.
Karolina’s works mirror painterly sensitivity defined by vitality, drama and sign-tracing. She highlights the physicality and psychology of the painterly gesture. She asks a question if the image has a body, and if yes – is it a social, a physical or a psychological one. Ptaszkowska addresses these aspects in various layers of her practice.
I spent three months working at the Garage towards my (postponed) solo show with a gallery based in Warsaw (Pl). Time at the residency aligned with the national lockdown, and the cycling to the Garage became my window on the world.
I have a home-based-studio and work in isolation, therefore I appreciated regular friendly chats with the host (first month only through the window glass), as well as other studio visits, that initiated longer discussions about methods, and ideas behind the art; and led to new social connections.
I was able to comfortably immerse myself in the work, experimenting with a scale, different structures and textiles for my paintings, as well as non-linear narratives. Being able to focus on a few pieces at the same time, as well as a prolonged time-frame for my thought and material processes resulted in a more consistent approach to the overall picture for my art and future possibilities.