Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I am included in ArtWash's Art Take-Out, which will take place from Tsang's Kitchen, 147 Iffley Rd. Oxford on 2nd June - 7-10pm. The basic premise of The Art Take-Out is: '

‘Customers’ can choose the work they want from the Take-Out Menu.

Works will be on view on the ArtWash website prior to the event.

Customers can then ‘acquire’ this work by fulfilling a pledge* determined by the artist.

The pledge will be the ‘currency’ for the evening.

The Artist will be under the heading they choose as in Starter, Main Dish or Desert.

The work*, however, must fit inside a tinfoil take-out container.'
Text above was taken from the ArtWash site I really like the premise of the show - and the idea of exchanging art for a pledge - also the idea of art being disseminated from a Chinese restaurant is fantastic. So, if you are in Oxford pop along to the take-away - I am on the starter menu.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Echoes From The Edge

On Saturday I visited the Friction Arts space in Digbeth to see their fantastic project 'Echoes From the Edge.' It is a fantastic multi-sensory experience, which unveils the history of the areas of Digbeth, Deritend and Highgate. The project responds to the developers very conscious use of industrial warehouse space as a buffer between an area undergoing a major gentrification process, and a highly populated, low-income area, under threat of clearance. I will not reveal too much of the experience, as a viewer discovering the secrets of the space, as you have to go there and see it for yourself. For this reason too I did not take any photographs of what happened, as Friction are keen for people to experience it first hand - if you like surprises, then make sure you get over there and see for yourself what Friction have achieved.
Echoes from the Edge - installation shot courtesy of Friction Arts.
Lee from Friction gave permission for me to use these images from their website, which show some of the constructed installation, but don't give too much away.
Echoes from the Edge - installation shot courtesy of Friction Arts.
After experiencing the exhibition the viewers all sat around the large table in the middle of the space to discuss with Lee and Harry (who was being Lee's assistant while Sandra was away) how it was for us, and also to ask any questions we might have. It was really interesting to hear how Sandra and Lee had set up the project. The process of working with the community had taken 18 months - the conversations which form the basis of the exhibition were not quick, cursory chats - but had been at least 4 hours each. I was interested to hear how the conversations had been instigated.
Lee on Friction's roof.
Lee explained it was just a case of hanging around a bit, and approaching people, but being open about what you are doing and why. The discussion also touched on the notion of exchange - and that the communities of Birmingham are fairly used to arts initiatives that happen for periods of time, which come in, consult them - do something with them, and then disappear. This, Lee said, causes a feeling of mistrust in some ways - which Friction had to work hard to break down. This certainly resonated with me. Lee said the idea of exchange is quite key to what they do, and that it is important it is not just one-sided, they therefore try to identify ways that they can aid the communities that they are working with, while carrying out the conversations that they wanted for their own purposes. This exchange might involve equipping groups with skills, or even the loan of equipment for a project. This is an interesting concept, not simply feeling that the community should be grateful that we (artists) are working with them, and that that should be enough of an exchange. Upstairs at the Edge.
I also put the question to Lee about what it means to be working with the community where you live, and whether that was something that was an issue for them - as this has been on my mind lately (since Beyond Bricks.) Lee offered some interesting insights here too, saying that though they live nearby, they are careful not to work with people on their doorstep. This is a conscious decision, as he said, often the people you are working with may need quite a lot from you - and some distance for your own mind is necessary - so you can go home and close the front door, and not be working out of your own living room. The Edge's situation is, I thought a really good middle ground though (Lee and Harry took us on a tour of the space once the show was over.) The space itself is really comfortable, and just like a living room anyway, but with the benefits of not being your home. Another view from the Edge roof, looking across to the centre.
After we had had a good look round Harry took us to the Anchor - which is Friction's second home, and the location for the Eccentric Auctions which harry and Simon put on every now and again to raise money for the printing of the Eccentric City newspaper.
Harry Palmer of the Eccentric City
We had a nice pint and a conversation about artists and writers working in prisons, which is something I am really interested in. Harry has been doing a residency at HMP Frankland.
Thanks to Lee and Harry for welcoming us to the Edge, we had a really great afternoon.

Aftermath Private View

Aftermath - the AirSpace studio artist's exhibition opened on Wednesday night at the Nicholson Institute, as part of the Leek Arts Festival. We were really pleased that people made the trek across the moorlands to see the show. There were some really interesting (unplanned) correlations between works - these included thematic links as well as material links and techniques. Some common themes that stood out included the struggle between urban and natural spaces, journeys and plants. Cross stitch, jigsaw puzzles, decoupage and other handicrafts are employed in an exhibition which infiltrates the civic art gallery with Trojan horse tactics.
Andy Branscombe showed a new sculptural piece, a bicycle made of living branches. This reminds the viewer of the urban phenomenon which can be observed in cities worldwide, where bicycles left by their owners for a short time are stripped of their wheels and seats and become part of the urban landscape, losing their use. It reminded me of Eirini Boukla's project 'The Bicycle Thieves.'
Brian Holdcroft showed a new photographic piece, which has to be my favourite piece that he has done to date. The piece consists of one photograph repeated and put together in a landscape assemblage, suggestive of a journey. All the other artists showed new work too: go to the AirSpace site for details of all the works.
Working within the Nicholson Institute raised some issues for us to resolve in terms of the curation of the work. There are rules when working in a place like this: the history and structure of the building dictates what can and cannot be done within the space. There are three heavy glass display cabinets in the centre of the room, which have an impact on the entire space, limiting the flexibility of where floor based works can go. The beautiful parquet floor also requires consideration. i.e. Brian's soil had to have plastic sheeting underneath it, which had an impact on the look of the piece. As well as this 2d works had to be hung from the picture rails. It was interesting for all of us to negotiate a new space.
For me the challenges of the space were interesting, and worked in my favour. The cabinets were perfect for the works that I wished to show. My collection of 1986 Garden Festival Memorabilia fit perfectly in the setting.
In the first flat bed cabinet I showed the guide books and other paper based objects from my collection. In the far end cabinet with 3 shelves I showed the 3d objects from the collection as well as the decoupage souvenir which I made.
Then in the middle cabinet I displayed the 52 copies of Woman's Weekly from 1986. The other element of the exhibition was a focus on the Woman's Weekly gardens from the festival in '86. Six of the plants planted in the garden would be resown and grown during the exhibition, and the middle cabinet housed an apple tree - like the one from the Woman's Weekly garden.
During the private view I did a seed planting performance, replanting the 6 chosen plants. These were rosemary, asters, rudbeckia, lupins, night scented phlox and foxgloves.
I was really pleased with how this went down, I just got on and planted the seeds, and people came over to talk to me while I was doing it. Most of the people that came over talked to me about the garden festival and any thoughts or memories they have about it. Mark Brereton (Blurb creator) talked about what a massive event it was, and how exciting to have a cable car in Stoke-on-Trent. He also said that he has a lot of photographs of the event which he will bring in for me to the second stage of the project: the secret guerilla planting picnic, which will repopulate the festival site with the flowers from the Woman's Weekly garden.

I also showed the 6 completed decoupage examples on the wall. These consisted of the photographic explorations into the festival site as it is today, repopulated by 1980's characters from the Woman's weeklies.
The show has been quite well attended since Wednseday - and so far there has been some interesting feedback. My favourite two comments so far (as relayed by Andy - invigilating on Saturday) 'It's not up to the usual Staffordshire Artist's standards,' and my second favourite comment from a viewer that my work was obviously about the Duchess of York. Brilliant.

The show is on til 30th May - so there is still time if you fancy a gander...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The AirSpace Group Show - AFTERMATH opens tomorrow night at the Nicholson Institute in Leek.
I am quite looking forward to showing my new work - an investigation into the 1986 Garden Festival. This includes photographic works, decoupage, a collection of memorabilia, and a performance.
Here is a sneak preview and description of the work and the show:

Anna Francis work examines private histories, public space and civic languages; using forms of intervention, mapping and photography to investigate the impact of art and culture on the regeneration of cities. Aftermath sees the artist showing her investigations into the 1986 Garden Festival for the first time. Francis is interested in excavating the site as it is today, uncovering the physical remnants of the Festival, as well as probing the impact and legacy in other ways.

Memorabilia from the festival have been collected, as well as created. The investigations also find the artist seeking to variously repopulate the festival site with people and flowers.

DETAILS: 21st May – 31st May Nicholson Institute, Stockwell Street, Leek, Staffs 11am - 4pm
Opening reception 20th may 6pm -8pmAirSpace Gallery presents new works from artists Anna Francis, Andrew Branscombe, Bernard Charnley, Brian Holdcroft, David Bethell, Katie Shipley, Phil Rawle and Stuart Porter.

The exhibition explores a range of themes including urban regeneration, nature, and aspects of the human condition. The works are representative of the artist’s working at various stages of development; there is both explorative and resolved works on display. The exhibition therefore presents a developmental snapshot of contemporary art and artists living and working in Staffordshire.
Aftermath the show’s title suggests what is left over after an upheaval. The works presented here have come directly from or are influenced upheavals, social mental or physical, the work examines change and it’s results. The interim and explorative nature of some of the work also suggests the idea of a recent disturbance of the artist’s work, its processes and results.
All the artists are housed within the AirSpace Gallery’s studio collective, based in Stoke-on-Trent. The gallery is one of the most recent arts developments in North Staffordshire, and is committed to bringing to the area a diverse range of contemporary international art as well as providing a platform for the development of home grown talent and practices.
The inclusion in this year’s Leek Art Festival of these artists sees the group working collectively outside of their usual environment and also sees cutting edge contemporary work being shown in one of North Staffordshire’s architectural gems. The combination is sure to be one of contrasts, conflicts and intrigue.

I will post up installation shots and information on how it goes later.

Beyond Bricks is finished!

So this fantastic project that I have been working on with Katie Shipley for the last 6 months is finally over (save for the publication being printed). Saturday (16th May) was the final day - and was marked by the showcase event, which was pretty full on really. Katie and I arrived in Lozells at 9am and proceeded to do a 4 hour workshop: below the calm before the storm.
We decided that as well as scanning in hands with our giant suggestion box on wheels we would also do a seed planting workshop - to continue the theme of working with our hands while talking to the people of the area. The workshop was actually so hectic that it was hard to have any really meaningful conversations with people about how they feel about the area, but this was ok really, as we have been doing this for the last 6 months.
It was a good opportunity to talk to people about what we have been doing, and show them the brochure we have produced in order to feedback to the developers on what people think. Once the morning workshop was over we had said we would pull the box to the days' second venue - it had been pouring with rain fro much of the morning so we thought that may have to be cancelled, but then the sun came out. So we made our way to CMAT in East Handsworth. On the way people were really interested in the box, and shouted from cars, what's in the box?

We were really pleased to see the display that Multistory had set up for us to showcase our project, and we parked the suggestion box with our other posters.
The afternoon was a chance to catch up with the other artists and practitioners that have also been working on the project. We watched the wonderful, moving films that have been made as part of Beyond Bricks. Go to the website for more details.
Now all that remains is to write up the findings for the publication, which is due later this year.
Below - our brochure

Go to our blog if you want to see the entire project as it unfolded: Give Me Your Hand.