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.
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.
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.
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.