WYC MAKES: Light, sculpture, sound

Whitworth Young Contemporaries artist in residence Helen Newman reflects on her 6 weeks Makes course hosted at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

As part of the young emerging artist residency the artists are asked to produce and run their own six week course. Helen talks about her course and how she engaged young people with the gallery and contributed to their skill development.

For six weeks I was given the opportunity to plan, produce and run a series of workshops for 15 – 25 year olds. As my practice reflects on our interactions with everyday objects, I knew I wanted to produce a series of workshops that used everyday materials, sounds and objects to transform and make new. For my first workshop we looked at the work of William Morris and his use of the natural everyday environment in his prints. I asked participants to go out and listen to the everyday sounds in Whitworth park and turn these into illustrations. The illustrations were then turned into stencils which we used to make screen prints. As I wanted the workshops to focus on how objects and tools could be made from everyday materials, I demonstrated to the group how a simple screen could be constructed from a picture frame, silk or even a pair of old tights, and a squeegee from a block of wood or a window squeegee! The workshop was a great opportunity to demonstrate to participants, especially students,  how techniques used by contemporary artists today could be created at home using cheap materials and still gain good result.

Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.19.01

Continuing to look at sound and the everyday, my next workshop focused on sound and animation, were participants were asked to make sounds from everyday objects and again illustrate or sculpt these using a variety materials. From there I would teach them how to construct a stop motion animation. What struck me most from my workshops was the diverse range of participants attending from students studying art, science and maths to art and video practioners. This struck me most during my smart phone projector workshop. Participants took cardboard, card and a magnifying glass to make their own projector. I enjoyed having different conversations with different people and gaining individual perspectives on art and workshops they had engaged in before. Although a great experience for me to work with a variety of people, it was also great to watch different relationships develop between people from different backgrounds and see the unique and individual art work created.

Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.26.08Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.26.25

When originally planning my workshops I wanted to focus heavily on the work in the gallery, the collection and contemporary art. As my workshops continued and the diversity of participants joined, I realised that we could just use the work in the gallery and collection as inspiration to create art. We looked at David Batchelor’s Plato’s Disc to make colour reflecting mobiles, and Mary Kelly’s Multi-Story House to make light bulb circuit boxes. The workshops for me became more about a place for people to meet and to make new connections and the work in gallery created a platform for conversation.

Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.33.24Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.33.42

Makes has been a valuable learning experience for me as an emerging artist giving me confidence in my ideas and the confidence to carry on creating and leading workshops. Most importantly I have enjoyed working with people from a variety of backgrounds with different skill levels and engaging in conversations and building relationships with them. Workshops in galleries provide a great base for people from all backgrounds to connect through art. As I led my workshops and watched relationships grow, Nathan Coley’s sculpture sitting near the workshop studio expressing the words Gathering of Strangers felt so relevant.

Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 12.41.11