Sunday, April 11, 2021

River of Light Trail


The River of Light Trail put on by the Culture Liverpool Programme, is a collection of eleven light installations along the Liverpool waterfront. With museums and galleries still closed, these large-scale artworks turned the city into one big art gallery. A clever adaptation that allowed for the event to happen whilst keeping visitors Covid safe. Liverpool has a rich history in arts, culture, and music; in many ways it’s what defines the city, and the loss of this connection to the arts and to each other has been a heavy blow for the community. So, an event like this was a meaningful reconnection to its heritage. The display opened on the 23rd of March 2021, this date marked one full year of lockdown, making it a significant moment of commemoration. As we have now been given a timeframe by the government for the easing and eventual end of restrictions, there is a sense that people are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to me the River of Light display felt like a physical representation of these sentiments. This was the first display of art I had seen in person in many months; also, the first time I had been into the city in as long.  Among the tall buildings of the cityscape, surrounded by lights and the chatter of happy conversations, it felt like quite a monumental experience, sort of like a big family reunion. Each piece was beautiful, but there were a few that stood out and felt particularly symbolic. The first of which was Light a Wish: a collection of floating illuminated dandelion seeds. As I was there with my family and this was the first installation we encountered, we reacted initially with ooh’s and ahh’s and that eventually turned into a moment of quiet while each of us made an individual wish. I could see others in the crowd doing the same and it felt as though there was a communal request for betterment. 

Light a Wish’ by OGE Group Israel Light Art Collection

Fittingly, the next piece was Futures; this immersive installation of corresponding light and sound played calming rhythmic beats as crowds moved slowly through its tunnel shape. The idea behind this installation was a transportation to a ‘place where we can envision the future we want’. (Visit Liverpool, 2021) This seemed to be the perfect continuation from the wishes we had just made at the dandelions. Walking through Futures was a peaceful time to reflect and a procession into something more positive.

‘Futures’ by Lucid Creates

The real star of the show however, was most certainly Rainbow Bridge, standing 30 foot high and 75 foot long, it was the largest of all the installations. Lit with thousands of programmable LED’s displaying messages such as ‘Happy Easter’, it continuously altered its colours and patterns which were then reflected in the waters of the Mersey. This installation gathered crowds of people keen to take selfies underneath its lights, it felt joyful and inclusive with everyone smiling and laughing under its arch. The rainbow has been a significant symbol over the past year, representing hope, and communicating gratitude for the NHS and frontline workers.  We’ve seen them displayed all over our neighbourhoods and it’s these kinds of iconographical symbols that show just how powerful art can be. Like a beacon for a brighter future, the River of light display felt like an inspiring start to a new chapter.  

‘Rainbow Bridge’ by The Looking up Arts Foundation

Visit Liverpool (2021) Futures [online] Available at: [Accessed 5th April 2021]

The House our Families Built by Caledonia Curry aka Swoon


'The House Our Families Built' by Caledonia Curry aka Swoon, 2021
Image by Hashimoto Contemporary

 As a child my Mom would read stories to my siblings and I every night before bed and one of my favourites was a book called Christina Katerina and the Box. It was about a little girl who asked if she could have the cardboard box from the delivery of her mother’s refrigerator. With it she created a castle, a boat, a race car and made up imaginative stories along the way. So, when I saw Caledonia Curry aka Swoon’s The house our Families Built, I felt really drawn to it and drawn to her artistic style in a strangely familiar way. It took a little while to realize why, but once that memory of Christina Katarina and the Box came back to me, I suddenly made the connection. Memories are a funny thing; they make up so much of who we are without having to live at the forefront of our minds; they exist somewhere in the background until some spark brings them back to life and you recognise their magnitude. The House our families built is like a box full of America’s memories, each one as different as Christina Katarina’s imaginations. Inspired by PBS’s ‘American Portrait’ initiative, Swoon created a travelling art installation/sculpture out of a box truck, in which live performances were held in various locations around the New York Boroughs. The truck opens up like a doll house; stairs extend out, the roof pops up, and fences and second hand furniture surround the perimeter. Inside sits a sofa and kitchen area, clothing hangs, picture frames sit on shelves, and detailed wallpaper lines both the inside and out of the truck. The wallpaper and detailed architectural embellishments were all created by Swoon herself, taking inspiration from both timber frame Cracker homes of early settlers and Victorian houses of the wealthy.  She invites both living and artistic depictions of people into this home. Her life-sized sketches are often done on plain white or light brown carboard coloured paper using a single colour to make her sketching’s, usually in black or blue. They have an ease to them, a connection to the hand of the maker, I can visualise her creating these sketches, no pretence or formula, just a natural capturing of everyday life. The pairing with live performances is the perfect marriage for this installation, the visual combined with the storytelling creates a unity and a connection. The stories taken from the ‘American Portrait’ initiative came from people from all across the country; sharing stories of familial and cultural traditions such as recipes, things they would like to let go of, their commonalities to one another, and their hopes and plans for the future. The ethos was “Our country is home to millions of people. Each one of us is unique, and we’re all part of the American story” This past year has been one of turmoil but also one of recognition, a chance to see where changes need to be made as well as  where connections can be made. Swoon believes that public art is community building, and she hopes that her art will fill a need and that through storytelling people can heal both personally and culturally. Just like the closeness I felt to my Mom when she read Christina Katarina and the Box to me as a child, Swoon’s art is a removal of otherness and a reconnection to humanity.

Goodman, Wendy (2021) A Box Truck That Carries Our Dreams of Home See Swoon’s fantastical memory box on wheels, “The House Our Families Built.” [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1st April 2021]

PBS (2021) Swoon: The House Our Families Built, Exploring the beauty and the burden of our personal legacies [online] Available at:,About%20the%20Performances. [Accessed: 20th March 2021]

Cannupa Hanska Luger


Cannupa Hanska Luger is a multi-disciplinary contemporary artist of Native American and European heritage. He creates his work using ceramics, found objects, and in recent years has begun to incorporate social engagement, and social collaboration to his oeuvre to respond to social and site-specific issues. (Luger, 2021) He grew up on the Standing Rock Reservation of North Dakota, the area in which protests against The Dakota Access Pipeline were held. The Indigenous peoples of North America have suffered immensely as the result of European invasion and generation after generation continue to endure the long-term effects of colonisation. They still experience adversity, persecution, and stigmatization today. Of his work, Luger says he would like to “communicate stories about 21st Century Indigeneity … (and) provoke diverse audiences to engage with Indigenous peoples and values apart from the lens of colonial social structuring”. (Luger, 2021) Communication is the key word here, but not through script or conversation alone.  Cannupa uses his art as a kind of storytelling, it is a fluid form of communication that surpasses cultural and language barriers, it’s more personal and adaptable, and creates connections by involving wide range of audiences. The world is filled with antiquated stereotypes and these typecasts act as barriers for change, understanding and positive progression. They unfairly compartmentalise entire groups of people and fool you into thinking you have an understanding, but these biased snippets do nothing more than breed ignorance.  Luger’s work breaks these barriers, opening the floor to create an honest dialogue of the Indigenous experience throughout history, one that crucially includes contemporary experiences. So often Indigenous people are portrayed through a folkloric lens, frozen in time; his concepts blend both traditional and cultural themes with the contemporary, expanding the narrative and giving a deeper insight into Indigenous lives across time periods.

‘(No) stalgia’, by Luger,Cannupa Hanska, sculptural installation, ceramic skull, bone, antlers, thrift store clothing, 10 x 5 x 8 Ft,  2014

The installation entitled (No) stalgia was the first of Luger’s work I encountered. I was struck by this wounded animal, causing a visceral reaction of pain and sadness. The ceramic work of the skull and antlers are so lifelike, a clear display of Luger’s skill. The knitted entrails and hide made from thrifted blankets, like something your Nana would make, soften what is otherwise a gruesome scene and give it a tactility. The deer is not some warrior trophy out of a spaghetti western, it represents a life destroyed by empty nostalgia and the idea that we define ourselves by some past notion that is not our current reality, nothing is harvested, all is waste. (Luger, 2021) The contrast of old and new materials run parallel to the concepts in Lugers work of past and present perceptions.

As I explored Luger’s other works, I discovered he was raised on The Standing Rock Reservation. In 2016 protest camps were set up in the hopes of stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline was to transport oil just half a mile from the Reservation and would run underneath the Missouri River, a lifeline for the residents.  (Friedman, 2020) The protests gathered supporters from a mix of backgrounds, other tribes and non-Native peoples stood in unison. Luger saw this as an opportunity for collective change and a platform for communication. It was during this crisis that he curated the Mirror Shield Project.  He called for participation in creating these mirror ‘shields’ for the protesters. The protesters lifted their mirrors and walked in a swirling water-like fashion to reflect the toxic behaviours of the police watching from above back to themselves, thus using art as peaceful resistance. (Luger, 2021)

Both atrocities and celebrations have a way of binding people together; Luger channels the energy of those groups for the benefit of all Indigenous people and their cultural heritage. In his own words Luger says “I want to lay groundwork… to establish connections, to mobilize action. I want to make real impact, to collectively challenge the systemic conditions of capitalism while claiming space for urgent and emergent Indigenous narratives.”

A video of the Mirror Shield Project can be seen here

Friedman, Lisa (2020) ‘Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Wins a Victory in Dakota Access Pipeline Case’ , in The New York Times, March 25th 2020, [Accessed online] [Accessed 17th March 2021]

Levin, Sam (2016) ‘Dakota Access pipeline: the who, what and why of the Standing Rock protests’, in The Guardian, November 2016, [Accessed online] [Accessed on 11th March 2021]

Luger, Cannupa Hanska, , [Accessed 11th March 2021]

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Studio Drift

                                 Lonekke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta (2010-2014), Shylight, Available at                         [Accessed 5/3/21]

Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta are the creatives behind Studio Drift. I first stumbled upon their Shylight installation on The Rijksmuseum social media page. As we are still on lock down for what seems like the millionth day, I, like many people, find myself spending more and more time on my phone and laptop. So, as I was scrolling through my phone one evening, I came across a video of Shylight in motion and I immediately stopped scrolling. I ended up watching it a few times, and was sort of mesmerised by these flowers opening and closing, they were beautiful, and it got me thinking about the natural world. We are living in precarious times, stuck inside, and often trying to pacify ourselves with whatever is on our screens, but the one thing that brought me a sense of calm that evening, was watching these silken flowers bloom and imagining myself outside amongst the flowers and the fresh air.  As human beings we can get so wrapped up in our digital world that we forget the world outside and forget that we are part of that world. It is so easy to take an anthropocentric view and disregard the wider environment.  This melding of nature and technology forms the basis of Studio Drift’s explorations. They describe it as “manifest(ing) the phenomena and hidden properties of nature with the use of technology in order to learn from the Earth’s underlying mechanisms and to re-establish our connection to it.” (Studio Drift, About, 2021)

Meadow, Shylight, and Semblance share a common thread as they were all created as an investigation into a process called ‘nyctinasty’ in which a flower closes at night as a form of self-protection. They show the connection between the physical change of the flower’s shape and the emotional changes human beings experience. Of their work, the artists say Most man-made objects have a static form, while everything natural in this world including people, are subject to constant metamorphosis and adaptation to their surroundings. Meadow is the result of examinations on how an inanimate object can mimic those changes that express character and emotions. (Studio Drift, Meadow, 2021)

      Lonekke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta (2017), Meadow, Centre Chodov Prague, Available at  [Accessed 5/3/21]

With a continued theme of metamorphosis, Gordijn and Nauta created a large-scale performance piece entitled Franchise Freedom using drones to imitate a murmuration of Starlings. Lullaby like piano played gently to complement this performance and add to the emotional connection. In the wild, a flock of Starlings moves in swathes, changing shape and direction and appearing from afar as though it is one solid object.  The artists saw a connection between these flocks of birds and groups of people. Each person exists within a social group, we find safety in a group, yet we also seek the freedom of our individuality. They ask, “What is the perfect balance between the two? Is freedom an illusion?” (Studio Drift, Franchise Freedom, 2021)

Lonekke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta (2018), Franchise Freedom, Burning Man - Photo: Rahi Rezvan, Available at  [Accessed 5/3/21]

                        Lonekke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta (2012), Fragile Future III, Available at                [Accessed 5/3/21]

The future of our planet hangs in the balance but green walls, wind farms, and solar panels illustrate how technological advances, human ingenuity, and nature can work together for a promising outcome.  Fragile Future III is an aesthetic expression of this concept that intermingles natural forms with the man-made. Comprised of a collection of Dandelion seeds attached to lightbulbs and encompassed by brass electrical circuits. The installation can be continually added to and expand in any direction. This multiplication imitates the natural spreading that occurs in Dandelion seeds. As an abundant and resilient plant, it poses the question: what attributes can we take from the Dandelion to benefit our own lives?  In Lonekke’s words she asks whether nature is the high-tech part in our world? Scientists look at the process in nature and mimic this and create a new technology, so in a way technology is an evolution from nature. (Studio Drift, Fragile Future, 2021) Whether we're looking for answers to our social and emotional well being or the well being of the planet, Studio drift's work encourages us to first, look to the earth. 

More information can be found on Studio Drift’s website at


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy Exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery


Curator, Laura Smith from the Whitechapel Gallery gave a fantastic talk on the life and works of the surrealist artist Eileen Agar. I feel embarrassed to say I had never heard of Agar until last week, and what a shame that is because her art much like her personality is filled with joy, playfulness, and curiosity. With a career spanning over 70 years, she utilized paint, collage, photography, sculpture, and fashion to create an exuberant body of work.  A rare female within a male dominated group of surrealists, against the will of her parents, and in a time when war loomed over the world, Eileen unwaveringly dedicated her life to her art.

Eileen Agar, The Autobiography of an Embryo, 1933-4, Tate Modern, London

Agar displayed a fascination with natural forms and organic matter throughout her oeuvre. Drawn to organic forms for their absence of any man made overhead or male construct, they posed no threat of deviation to her own artistic expression. The biodiversity of the sea served as a great source imagination and ingenuity for Eileen.  Often combing the beach for shells, star fish, and other found objects for her assemblages and imitating the swirling forms of the ocean in her paintings.  The Autobiography of an Embryo is divided into 4 sections which are the four seasons or the four stages of the embryo.  Within each section are images of sea life: fish, coral, fossils, and waves of colour; human silhouettes are created in varying shapes and patterns and a foetus rests gently in a circle within the first panel.  The narrative of the painting is not implicitly clear without Agar’s explanation, which is a common thread amongst surrealist artworks. She describes her painting as ‘a celebration of life, not only a single one, but life in general on this particular and moving planet.’ (Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, p.240) Though Eileen had not set out to paint in a surrealist style, she simply created things of interest to her. It was only when Paul Nash, Herbert Read, and Roland Penrose visited her at her studio in Swanage that they declared her a Surrealist. (Five Women Painters, Channel 4, 1989) It would seem to me that at this early stage in her career she may have been going through a stage of contemplation.  Eileen made a conscious decision not to have any children as she felt it would detract from her artistic pursuits.  I wonder if this piece was an exploration of her feelings about motherhood or the lack thereof, a kind of simulation process to help her confirm that decision. On the other hand, I can look at this piece and see it as the conception of her life as an artist and the entanglement she felt with the natural world in which she drew inspiration from. 

Eileen Agar, Angel of Anarchy, 1936-40, Tate Modern, London

Being thrust into the spotlight in 1936 as the only British woman to be included in the International Surrealist Exhibition was a landmark moment for Agar. Among the most famous of her pieces in the show was Angel of Anarchy; made from a plaster cast of her husband Joseph Bard’s head. It was adorned with decorative feathers from her mother’s hats, surrounded by beads, shells, and scraps of fabric with haphazard stitching. It was created during a tumultuous time when the UK was amidst the Second World War. The distinct blindfold over the eyes is purposefully placed to show that people had become blinded by the war and blinded by hatred. She wanted it to be a “terrifying but powerful symbol.” (Five Women Painters, Channel 4, 1989) Her mask can also be seen through a feminist lens. Agar was surrounded by powerful, influential men who primarily saw women as nothing more than muses, their value lying only in their outward appearance. Women, just like in the Angel of Anarchy, have historically been told to cover up, decorate themselves with accessories and fine fabrics, and been discouraged to strip back the blindfold, and see the world through their own eyes. Eileen’s piece poses a challenge to those misogynistic practices and gives an opportunity to create a dialogue for change.

The works discussed are but a snippet of the vast amount of art Eileen created until her to death in 1991. She has been a source of inspiration for many contemporary artists such as Lucy Stein, Allison Katz, Michaela Yearwood-Dan, and Penny Slinger just to name a few.  If I could rewind time, I would love nothing more than to spend hours with her combing the beach for treasures and joining in on the hunt for a face in the clouds or a shape in the rocks. If I am completely honest I’m envious of the freedom she demanded for herself; no deadlines or outside expectations were able to penetrate or stifle her creative process.  She says, “You must take life not only seriously but playfully, the more playful you are in your work, the better it will be”. (Five Women Painters, Channel 4, 1989) It takes a strong sense of self to know exactly what your passion is and be determined enough to make that a reality.  This self-assurance coupled with a great artistic talent elevated her to a level of success many other women artists were unable to achieve.


Details of the exhibition can be found at and large collection of her pieces can be viewed online at .


Allmer, Patricia (2009) ‘Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism’, in. exhibition catalogue, Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester 2009, pp.1-24.

Chakrabarty, Sonia. "Eileen Agar". Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 Nov. 2020, [Accessed 3 March 2021]

Eileen Agar, The Autobiography of an Embryo 1933–4 [Accessed 1st March 2021]

Five Women Painters, Eileen Agar, 18:30 07/10/1989, Channel 4, 30 mins. [Accessed 02 March 2021]



Monday, March 1, 2021

Eve Provost Chartrand on Ageing and Ageism

Old hag. Over the hill. Battle-axe. Old biddy.  She’s such a Karen! So many creative ways to insult an older woman. Who knew crows’ feet and saggy tits could cause so much disdain. Seriously, why are we so scared of getting old? It’s strange because “vintage” is so trendy, I guess just not vintage humans. Why is it that older women are seen through such a negative lens?  I had the pleasure of listening to Eve Provost Chartrand discuss her work recently. Centred around themes of ageing, ageism, death, regeneration and the metaphysical connections we make to objects and the departed; she explores the mental burden these negative social constructs place on women over a certain age and how those negativities invade the physical body. As there are many different approaches to ageing globally, Eve has chosen to look specifically at middle aged white women in North America.  Inspired by the tragedy of witnessing her parents suffer from degenerative diseases in the final years of their lives, and the loss of agency they experienced, her sculptures and assemblages act as a tangible re-establishment of emotional bonds, and portray the eternal perpetuation of life. 

Conservo. The Father – The Daughter – The Mother (Installation view) 2017, Eve Provost Chartrand.

In her piece titled Conservo, she states, “I wanted to create family portraits of both my parents and me and found objects that most effectively represented and recalled my mother’s and father’s late health struggles, hence the bed pan and the urinal, as well as my own frays with the degenerative state of my own ageing body, ergo the pie safe and reversed spinal cord.” (EveProvostChartrand, 2021) Here she uses clinical, sterile objects as the central theme of each piece, yet they become more of a plinth for the decorative adornments that surround. The collection of curiosities instead becomes the focus of interest. As in life, it is not our final moments that define us but the culmination of memories and experiences.  

Is There Any Body Home? Specimen #2: Dentures (+ detailed view). 2018, Eve Provost Chartrand

The Saprotrophic Body (detail). 2019, Eve Provost Chartrand

Mushroom cultures in the studio. 2020, Eve Provost Chartrand

Is There Any Body Home? Specimen #1: A Brooch (detail). 2018, Eve Provost Chartrand

Icons of Absence: The Body as a Memorial Site (detail). 2021, Eve Provost Chartrand

The delicate undulating floral like curves of the fungi and elaborate rococo adornments of The Saprotrophic body are in direct juxtaposition with the grotesque Specimen # 2. Its deep cavernous shape rimmed with human teeth and filled with beads in similar shade to that of oral tissues is akin to that of a horror film. She complements her pieces by writing poetry and taking bacterial samples from the objects. This layering of her concept expands the channels of comprehension for the viewer, giving a well-rounded view, thus opening a window into the deeply personal connection she has to her work.  Her words conjure up visions of tenderness and childlike innocence. As a result, the repulsion softens and is transformed into an affinity for the owner of the objects.

 The bacteria growth in the petri dish come with surprising results, the samples taken live, grow, and reproduce. Despite potentially having existed without any use for years, they still contain living organisms, potentially organisms from the previous owner. They contain a living essence, that essence is both tangible and made visible through the growth within the petri dish, but even more intriguing is the intangible, enigmatic sense of soul that is connected to the item. We relate bacteria to the realm of living, and somehow once the items cease to be used, it would seem any connection to the living stops, illogical I know, but so often we are guilty of unconsciously seeing life in finalities. Eve’s work challenges those habits of compartmentalising.

A study in feminist Gerontology found that older women are culturally devalued, and older women’s bodies are judged harshly for showing signs of age. (Garner, 1999) In a world where Botox and plastic surgery have become commonplace, many live in fear of aging and losing their aesthetic appeal. Eve’s work shows the beauty and worthiness in all stages of the evolutionary process of life, that there is no definitive end and every living organism makes a contribution.

Eve Provost Chartrand [Accessed 18/2/2021]

Garner, J.D. (1999) ‘Feminism and Feminist Gerontology’ in Journal of Women & Aging, v. 11, n. 02, pp.3-12.

Sabik, Natalie J. (2013) ‘Ageism and Body Esteem: Associations With Psychological Well-Being Among Late Middle-Aged African American and European American Women’ in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, v. 70, no. 2, March 2015, pp. 189–199. 

River of Light Trail

  The River of Light Trail put on by the Culture Liverpool Programme, is a collection of eleven light installations along the Liverpool wate...