As spring moved into summer, I had the gift of spending time as Artist in Residence at Stretford Public Hall in collaboration with Elevate Arts Manchester. I got to share in a beautiful open studio space and I couldn’t wait to get started! The process has been a bit like being a student of my own practice as I get to create sketchbooks and do research while thinking about why I do what I do, and it is a great opportunity to push my practice further. It’s something I would encourage everyone to make time for! Right now I am exploring my love of pattern, colour, collage and communication. I also ran workshops for people of all ages both over Zoom and in person – at last! In one I worked with the group to explore the ballroom and the foyer looking for patterns to draw. We then turned these into collages using bright paper and scissors and these beautiful artworks will be featured in an exhibition at Stretford Public Hall on 17-18th July.
The beauty of time on the residency, as well as creating art, is looking at practice and having time to play. In the studio I get into the ‘zone’ and I have to remind myself to eat and drink, as well as make time to explore the local community. I love to immerse myself and connect with the neighbourhood, including the people. I also love to get into my process because you start to make connections. A big connection I made is around my love for spatial design, including environment and installations. I thought that started at FE college after high school when I did 3D Design, not digital but in woodwork, and I loved making things. As I thought more and more about it, I realised it truly started in my dad’s workshop. He was an engineer and I loved being in there amongst all the tools and equipment – it brought home my combined love of calculations and creativity. This helped me develop my current piece which will use space and I am going to lean into 3D art, including my love of pattern. I am of British-Jamaican heritage which is naturally connected to African culture and I love the language of print, including Ankara/Dutch Wax Cloth (the names of which has its own history which I will explore in future posts). I love how print is used to communicate as well as enliven a space, and I want to develop my own language through pattern design. That’s the real privilege of this residency: you get to reconnect with your roots and in your roots, you find yourself.
On this note, the past few months have been full of change, challenge and opportunity and I spent time exploring my experience of Black Lives Matter (BLM). This movement has really impacted me and my working relationships over the past year, which I have explored in my art. Here are a couple of my reflections taken from my sketchbook:
‘Microaggression’ – Microaggression is “a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural or environmental slights, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes towards stigmatised or culturally marginalised groups”. These have been commonplace throughout my career, and sometimes in my personal life, but I only learnt about the term through BLM. I am finding real power and energy in beginning to share my story and experiences in this way. It shows the power of having the language to describe and articulate challenging experiences.
Ugly Feed – Despite being an artist and a true glass-half-full optimist, even I couldn’t beautify the toxic ways some people were responding to BLM. I was shocked at their disgust at the increased visibility of people of colour in the media, especially adverts. I could not believe there are so many individuals who were so confident in their bigotry and prejudice that they were happy to splash it across social media. It affirmed that I was not imagining the veiled prejudice I have experienced and it was powerful to see how many people (‘Advocates’) there are who are willing to take a stand against racial prejudice and discrimination.
Among those advocates, I was on the panel for the open call for under-represented artists alongside local legends Shirley May (Young Identity), Dan Williamson (Senior Producer at ArtReach and Journeys Festival) and Kate McGeevor (manager of Stretford Public Hall)
Love, Vee xx