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Windows of my Mind

It’s been a few months since my last post, and as usual, it’s a reflection of how busy I’ve been elsewhere! Since the start of 2018 I’ve been doing a lot more work with Portsmouth Cathedral on their annual theme programme, which has grown significantly even compared to the previous year.

I’ve also been doing a lot more making and even responded to a commission opportunity, so this seemed a good time to fill you in on what I’ve been up to, from a making point of view.

I must include a heartfelt note of thanks here to those wonderful chaps at The Maker’s Guild: Sam, Ming and Gav who have supported me enormously and most importantly, practically with moving my ideas from concept to a solid and sturdy reality. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done so far without their help and intervention.

At the end of January this year, the first of my installations went in. It was called A Journey Through Time and involved various site-specific installations throughout Portsmouth Cathedral building. Those visitors who braved and damp and dismal weather and came along ,remarked on how much they enjoyed it and how different elements spoke to them. The installation elements included projections in St Thomas’ Chapel, an array of mostly handmade candles in the Quire, a fountain in the font (it looked amazing!) and further projections onto the ceiling of the Nave. Each of these sections reflected how time travels and how natural objects can reflect the passage of time.

The next piece I created was for Harbour Church as part of their Good Friday event called ‘Renew’. At a planning meeting I had an idea about a piece featuring lots of small pieces of glass with black splodgy paint on one side and white splodgy paint mirrored on the the other. Although that concept was a bit too complex for the time available (we had only a month to action anything!) I was able to revise it to two larger pieces of glass with words on each side: life/death and hope/doubt. Originally I was trying to fit the word ‘despair’ on the other side, but the letters were so different, I was struggling to make it work. Nemo, who’s also based at Maker’s Guild said simply: “Why don’t you pick another word that means the same thing?” Genius! Yet another benefit of accessing MG (Maker’s Guild) is collaboration.

The finished piece Life/Death Hope/Doubt was constructed with the help of the fabulous Sam Asiri, whose carpentry skills far exceed my own! It was exhibited at Harbour Church during the event and for about a week afterwards.

The font was hand painted from a template I sourced online and it’s modelled on an ambigram – that is to say, certain letters are a mirror image of each other. What you see on the glass is a reflection of your perspective: do you see death, or life? Doubt or hope? Good Friday for Christians is very much about balancing on that knife edge and swinging betweenone and the other.

This piece then saw a new lease of life in the next piece of work I created: Windows of my Mind. For various reasons, I like to try and reuse parts of previous works in new pieces, so we decided to use part of the Life/Death frame in the construction of Windows of my Mind.

This piece was originally inspired by a call out for artists from an art festival in Basingstoke. Although I couldn’t attend the festival, the idea was still percolating in my brain, awaiting the proper time. The ‘proper time’ appeared in May 2018 to coincide with the wellbeing and mental health emphasis which we had as part of the annual theme programme at the Cathedral.

The premise behind Windows of my Mind is simple enough: our mental health changes how we see things. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. And in the same way we can catch a cold, or strain a muscle, we can also get run down, stressed or overloaded mentally and emotionally. How people are affected by poor mental health is manifested in these different windows. For some it’s despair – cloying and sticky, miring us in grief and inaction. For others its a sense of being foggy or directionless. For some nostalgia is what distorts our view: looking back at another time and believing it to be so much better than now. The whole piece contains 14 different elements which reflect aspects of mental health and it can be viewed in Portsmouth Cathedral, on the High Street, Old Portsmouth until May 25th.

Somerstown Stories – the story so far…

The first drop-in exhibition/workshop event took place on Tuesday last week at the Omega Centre. We didn’t have high numbers, but those who did come along  had some interesting stories to tell about their own experiences of Somerstown. I was able to interview someone during the event, and have arranged interviews with others to document their stories. This phase of the project will naturally include gathering (and transcribing) some oral history interviews which is, I believe, where the real treasure will lie.

This was  followed in the evening by an archive film screening of Portsmouth, hosted by Portsmouth Film Society http://www.portsmouthfilmsociety.org.uk/ using footage that is in the care of the Wessex Film Archive http://www3.hants.gov.uk/wfsa.htm

Meanwhile the Somerstown Stories website, also includes details about the great work that took place at Somers Park Primary School in the Autumn term last year, when the teachers and children were engaged in their part of the  project: http://www.somerstown-stories.org.uk/?page_id=100

Overall the project is now in its wider community phase, and local people are getting the chance to go on the same journey of exploration. As I start to gather oral history accounts from local people, these along with the photographs and maps will be catalogued and collated into the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the Local History Centrehttp://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/15605.html

This means that the conversations that are being started now can continue after the project has finished, and the material will be available for other people to access and add to.

Part of this second phase series of events includes a creative workshop being led by two local artists: Jane Kilford http://www.janekilford.com/ and Julie Graves http://www.artwanted.com/artist.cfm?ArtID=5843 who are also planning to do some preliminary work with the children at Somers Park, inviting them and their families to bring an object from the past into school to share with others and to use as a prompt for telling their own story of Somerstown.

Meanwhile, Julie has enabled me to make a link with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/architecture/. Her husband Francis is an architect and senior lecturer and his current cohort of students are engaged in a project whose theme is the redesign of Somerstown and some of the key buildings within it, including the churches of St Luke’s and St Peter’s. This is a beautiful overlap for me, and so I was able to attend the students mid-term review on Thursday of last week and see and hear first-hand their ideas and visions for the area. It was fascinating to see an area I’m so familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Francis has kindly invited me back to speak to the group about the Somerstown Stories project and share some of the resources I’ve found and what I’ve learnt so far. I was impressed with the breadth and depth they are required to consider and include in their planning and I’m looking forward to teaching and learning more about Somerstown with them.

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