movement in the gallery

August 22, 2016

After spending two days on Value, Creativity and Human Flourishing, an interdisciplinary  workshop at MMU my head was full of thoughts and questions around what my values are, how well I communicate them and how to create the best spaces (in terms of artwork, art workshops and the wider world) to allow these values to flourish in myself and others. More on this  will filter through in future posts I imagine. What struck me most was that the sensations of freedom and openness, understanding and connection that many of us receive when in play and learning shouldn’t be confined to discrete experiences of ‘the arts’ but integral to life in general. Creativity isn’t a skill exclusively owned by those working in the arts, creative thinking is necessary in all areas of life.  Being open and playful isn’t about being childish, its about thinking creatively and being receptive in the moment.  I could go on, but I won’t, you get the picture.  In this overloaded but reflective frame of mind I visited the Whitworth Gallery to see the Whitworth Late performances that evening.

Epiphany, a collective of classically trained musicians who improvise together, played sound portraits of individual subjects who sat on a chair facing away from onlookers, towards the group.  Epiphany say that they play with no previous plans and purely play what they see or sense in their subject. These portrait performances were truly lovely to watch and I imagine the portraits were rather moving and wonderful to be in the midst of. The sounds washed over and allowed my brain to loosen its grip on all the information I had taken in over the previous 2 days.

Naomi and Epiphany

in the drawing

Later Epiphany performed a 45 minute improvisation with Naomi Kendrick drawing. Having watched Naomi previously draw with musicians Dave Birchall and Dan Bridgewood Hill, I’ve witnessed the movements, noises and marks made by the drawing feed the improv of the musicians and vice versa. I imagine that both visual and sound artists are unclear as to who starts what within any given piece. I really enjoy watching the performances as whole moving images; Naomi and her shadow moving as part of the live drawing. I’ve attempted to draw this in the past.  Watching Naomi with Epiphany, a much larger group of musicians, the drama within the performance was heightened further still as they moved around the ‘canvas’ appearing to tail, beckon and group around the low moving figure of Naomi drawing.  The movements of the musicians around the canvas echoed the ebb and flow of their music and the vigour and delicacy of the drawing action and drawn marks.

Naomi drawing epiphany 3

the edge of the drawing

The 11 meter length of paper served as a simple canvas-stage but was also a very large area to cover in the space of 45 minutes and yet it did get covered, the image above bearing witness to a moment when Naomi in full stretch hit the edge of the paper nearest me and the mark recoiled on itself taking with it Naomi’s arm.  Check out Naomi’s blog post that articulates all this much better.

Naomi drawing Epiphany 2

after the drawing


A week later when I visited Huddersfield Art Gallery to view a performance in response to the Open House exhibition, I was most pleased to find that the artists’ talk that preceded the performance was by Sumi Perera, whose show Liminal Spaces is on til 15th October.

Sumi Perera Hudds 2

prints with shadow from skylight in education room

I’ve had the opportunity to handle some of Sumi’s books at book fairs before but never had the chance to hear her talk about her work.  The method of description also portrayed the approach to thinking and making; there was lots of movement and connections between ideas, even Sumi’s outfit described her approach well with interesting shapes and textures.  As an artist with an early desire to be an architect, a training in exotic medicine and a history of garment making and an instinct for prudent use of materials, Sumi explained that her work is about exploring the human form and the environments we build for it. I guess in a sense working with what she has in an embodied and also a materials sense.  Mark making is done through etching, inked and non-inked prints, laser cut, screen print, stitch, formed paper shapes, wooden and metal structures. In Liminal Spaces prints are hung, draped, layed and layered, they expand across walls and are refracted by glass balls. Frames and shadows cast from elements extending out of the surface entreat viewers to seek a different perspective from the head on view. Sumi actively encourages people to touch her work, knowing that at least part of the understanding is in that point of engagement.  But as Sumi questions through making, the work presented asks us to question, look for patterns and connections between different frameworks, techniques and materials to encourage curiosity and perhaps help with a wider understanding.

Sumi Perera Hudds 3

Printed paper, structure and shadow in gallery

For more info on Sumi Perera’s work see this printmakers council interview


The Open House exhibition was the end of a month long residency for a group of artists working in the gallery under two different briefs:

1 – Archives: Jim Bond, Liz Walker and Rozi Fuller set to work exploring the archives, creating a mini studio inside their gallery space to work on the project. This work resulted in a wonderful installation of puppet, archival objects and narrative animated film about an archivist carefully wrapping and labelling objects including himself.

2 – Wayfinding: David Armes explored the routes to Huddersfield Gallery through the memories and directions given by the people of Huddersfield. Over the month David set up a mini letterpress print shop in the middle of his allotted space and printed a textual map of the Gallery’s place in the collective minds of Huddersfield residents.

For more information about the Open House exhibition see East Street Arts.


Having myself stooped and leant to view the work in Liminal Spaces it was wonderful to watch the dancers move in and around the work in the Open House exhibition. Here too they allowed object placement to direct their gaze, there were movements in response to the shape of objects, the layout of the space, the sounds and motions of a mechanised lamp.  A typewriter and adana presses were played, directions and recollections were sung and the spaces were animated by 6 dancers moving in small spaces in front of a big crowd.


Turvey World Dancers respond to the work of David Armes in Open House at Huddersfield Art Gallery. Image by Roger Bygott.

I’d had the pleasure of taking part in a movement workshop run by Gerry Turvey the week before the performance.  Moving with a group of strangers in a gallery setting was both wonderful and challenging (for a typically solo dancer) and I felt honoured to share and witness the physical and emotional responses given to the exhibition.  And touched also for the artists to have had such risible responses to their work.  It seemed, with both the workshop and the performance, that the movements articulated responses to the themes and materials within the artworks that would not have been made visible or known any other way.  In so animating the exhibitions the performance and the workshop gave new life to the work and new possibilities for understanding and taking concepts further.

For more detailed information and many more exciting photographs of the performance go to TurveyWorld Dance responses to ROTOЯ exhibitions

What I enjoyed about all these events was how they subverted the gallery space and the way people behave in the space. It wasn’t particularly radical or confrontational, in fact in all cases here the manner was playful and gentle but thoughtful too. Each created a space that offered people the chance to spend more time in the gallery setting, get comfortable in the moment, being responsive to what was happening and have a dialogue with the work and the makers of the work. More of this!