A Creative Life Collection

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Creativity for Wellbeing: a Collaging Workshop

On the afternoon of Wednesday 27th January, I was delighted to Co-Facilitate a Creative session via Zoom for PhD Candidates from across the London Arts and Humanities Partnership, hosted by UCL.

A dozen+ participants took part in the activities, which ranged from Shibashi upon arrival, and a basic exercise in observational drawing to loosen people up. Guided breaks punctuated the three hours, which sped by, including walks in nature where possible to avoid screen fatigue. Participants were encouraged to explore through the medium of collage, in their own space, elements of their research themes which resonated especially through the material they had gathered for the session, whilst a soundtrack of Dawn Chorus accompanied them.

In doing this, we were striving to create an environment, a safe space in which people could reignite enthusiasm and interest in their research. Especially, at a time when in the first month of the year and following the Lockdown over the Christmas break, people are subject to SAD or ennui, and could perhaps do with an injection of playfulness to restore and rejuvenate ahead of the new term.

Then following the creative practice we encouraged people to share their creations and bouncing ideas amongst themselves in break out groups, explore their new enhanced and inspired perspectives. Returning to the main group they were then invited to share their rehearsed material, to a positive and encouraging reception.

Judging by the creative responses and feedback we have received from a cross section of participants, we believe the workshop worked to great effect and I am delighted to share some of the outcomes here. Including the work of Aysha Strachan, to whom I am grateful for approaching me with the opportunity and with whom I worked to deliver this workshop.

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‘My research explores artists who have made art work using the city as support and piecing together “pieces of life” previously fragmented by authoritarianism and genocide.

In this collage I put together different works created by this particular group and combined them with a city map as well as pieces of scholarly texts and images that speak of the fragmentation of the body’. 

Micaela Signorelli, QMUL

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“I am working through the concepts of femininity and wildness in my current thesis chapter which looks at depictions of wild women in German medieval literature. 

In this collage, I depict how wildness is the sum of the words used to link body and landscape: the body and the landscape can be free, barren, foreboding, dangerous, different, subjective all at once. Wild promises escape, yet reflects the limitations of society and its confines, it entices yet threatens, it is a space of crossed boundaries.

 When wildness becomes engendered as female, we see how the female body resists, defies and threatens patriarchal order. I have collected images of femininity, collections of gathered leaves embellished with gold pen to highlight their branching veins. I include snippets of gender theory and discarded notes on the subversive and destabilising effect of the female figure in male authored texts and within male-dominated society. 

The theme I work with is spring as a feminised season of birth, rebellion, renewal, and I explore the female form through seasons, from blossoming to wilting, thinking of how woman is defined by men and through her availability to men.” 

Aysha Strachan

Joint-PhD candidate: KCL/HU Berlin

Latest blog post: Modern Theories, Medieval Worlds

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At first I had the image of a landscape that I cut in two, since I wanted to work on borders and thresholds, but when I started pasting I could not find the “other” part, so I ended up working on a circular layout and cutting a kind of wall with battlements which became the teeth of a sort of skull. Once the session was over, I obviously found the missing piece strangely swept under the carpet. I think this proves that Rebecca was right when she said that the process is more important than the result!

Rachele Shamouni-Naghde


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The Nature of Replication

Elaine Charwat, AHRC CDP PhD candidate
UCL & Oxford University Museum of Natural History 

“My research focuses on how knowledge, theories and new data about nature took shape and were circulated in 3D objects in the 19th and early 20th century. This concerns more obviously natural history models and replicas, but also objects considered “natural” – specimens or actual parts of organisms, such as bones, animal skins, taxidermy etc. Materiality shapes our knowledge and vice versa. It is the third dimension, together with space and time. 

One important aspect of this is scale. Thanks to much improved microscopes, tiny organisms and anatomical structures could be observed and examined for the first time in the 19th century. Foraminifera are marine microorganisms, but exhibit a beautiful and bewildering multitude of minute shapes. Enlarged models were made to literally “grasp” their complex development over time, and to contribute to an understanding of evolution and natural laws. These models were often based on drawings. The relationship between the actual specimen, its drawing and a 3D representation can reveal much about the ideas around objectivity in the natural sciences, and how they change over time. Today, we have electronic microscopes which show Foraminifera in all their complexity – we think! But a lot of our understanding was and still is simplification and abstraction. Everything we seek to understand we measure against ourselves in very specific contexts. 

In the collage, I have used images of 3D models of Foraminifera and Radiolaria in conjunction with the drawings they were based on. Overlaying the model in the top left corner, the photograph of and the actual fern mimic a clock to indicate the dimension of time as well as degrees of perceived authenticity – the actual specimen versus a (photographic) representation. The actual specimens of Foraminifera, shown to the right, are like grains of sand, they are “unreadable”. The patterns to their right indicate how our mind often simplifies complexity, because otherwise we wouldn’t see the forest for the trees (photo to the right). Like Alexander von Humboldt we hope to measure the world and all that is in it (cue Humboldt’s ecological map of the Chimborazo in Ecuador), but we always measure the world against aspects of ourselves to make sense of it. Hence a drawing of my hand (as if trying to gauge the true scale of the mountain) to its right, with alternating contemporary SEM images and 19th century drawings of Foraminifera as fingernails. The wax cast of the foot of the Oxford Dodo overlaying my hand points at the transience of measuring tools, as well as of organisms and objects themselves. The Oxford Blackwell’s bookmark stands for all the textual sources I am examining, as well as the specific space, the local context of the objects I am looking at – at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The ants again symbolise changes in scale, but also the interconnectedness of the three dimensions of knowledge – materiality, space and time – and tireless research of course! “

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With extended thanks to …

Aysha Strachan, Principle Supervisor Dr Sarah Bowden and Valeria Farruggia, LAHP Senior Support Officer

20th December 2020, Thetford Forest, Norfolk. Image R L Greene

Lastly, the piece which I created, both in demonstration and relating to some of my own research, reflects on resonance. For me and my personal understanding, this is underpinned by the importance music and sound has played in my recovery, post Trauma. Reading around the subject, I have found supporting material for this argument and so too have explored it through workshops and in practice through singing and the Rav Vast2, Hand-pan drum.

I also recently learned that much like cats purr to heal themselves, so too do Giraffes through humming… hence the presence of this fine beast, now dwindling in numbers in its natural habitat, alas, no thanks to humans of a certain order…

The digital fragmentation, symbolic of the interactions we now complete through Zoom and the repeating colours in the labradorite. Which in turn picks out the colour of the coral, or sea anemones, the shapes of this echoed in the budding branch:

Attached by a golden thread, as running through this design for life, the twig I found discarded beneath a tree on my nature walk near the studio; the vibrant lichen gave me hope for Spring, fresh life and new beginnings 🌀

Healing humming collage, rLG Jan 2021

I first met Rebecca Lindum Greene at a workshop hosted by the British Academy in Cambridge in March 2020: Exclusion, marginalisation and Othering: how can the arts respond?
After an hour’s interlude between conference papers creating collages with newspapers, magazines, flowers and pastels, the speakers at this conference (myself included) were moved by the power of reconnecting with art. We found new, abstract ways of speaking about our doctoral projects through new eyes, exploring the links between our work and our creations. Rebecca’s work through the
Drawing Connections project really resonated with me. Art does not judge, but rather allows everyone the chance to express themselves, feel restored, feel connected. I wanted to offer a similar experience to my fellow doctoral students, who might be feeling disconnected during these times of increased isolation and distance. Reaching out to Rebecca was the best thing I could have done. I felt respected as a creative practitioner and hugely benefited from this creative collaboration. We were fortunate to gain a grant through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) to fund a collaging workshop online for PhD students. I would thoroughly recommend working with Rebecca and would gratefully do so again in future.”

-Aysha Strachan

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#Creatingwithjackmerritt 💛

‘Kintsugi -golden joinery’ is the Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with Gold lacquer; the philosophy of this is treating damage and repair as part of the history of an object, not something to disguise.

Rooted to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which is to embrace flaws and imperfections; marks and wear show character.

The work of Learning Together, I believe embodies this practice.

This piece of Yew has travelled with me for over a decade, a special type of wood, it has been waiting patiently to help me realise it’s potential and in that process has dried out and cracked.

Applying the concept-practice of Kintsugi, to fill the splits in the wood, I have used Gold pigment mixed with PVA and the saw dust produced when sanding the wood down.

Close up of central, left side of the Yew piece against the abstract portrait of Merritt & Jones, 2019-2021

This is for me a metaphor for the situation we face individually, and now collectively as a community, as we create together to fill the aching gap with Gold.

The various stages in producing this Yew piece, have all had a poetry to them. The following images document the process.

Not least finishing the piece, or fine sanding back the excess ‘filler’ with very fine sandpaper. A 1600 grit paper which was part of a Guinness marketing campaign ‘Enjoy a Smoother Finish’ (c.2000/1(?).

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Sense of Place

Last Saturday morning at Kettle’s Yard…

A workshop was being delivered by Artist Lora Avedian, making collage in response to the new Exhibition, ‘Alfred Wallis Rediscovered’. I had the great honour of giving two house tours, each to a group of five whilst the other half were given a talk by Curator, Eliza Spindel on the Alfred Wallis collection. Unusually, we started our tours in the lower extension and in doing so, I wanted to use the opportunity to draw on a speech Jim Ede gave at the opening of the extension. With Prince Charles present and a concert given by Jacqueline du Pré & Daniel Barenboim, it was a grand affair.

The article from which I drew the speech, was written by David Owers an Associate of Leslie Martin Architects and published in the Cambridge Review, 29th May 1970. It’s a fascinating article, but most importantly, the quoted Ede’s speech presents Kettle’s Yard in it’s entirety. The essence of which is as important today, as he suggests it might be as it was when he originally spoke these words:

It is a sadness, that the House is once again temporarily closed for this second lockdown, but I encourage you to go on the website and learn about it…

Ede was an Artist, his vision following in the footsteps of significant Artists before him such as Morris, Ruskin, Wilde and Lawrence to name but a few:

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ -William Morris.

This is an incredibly valuable lesson at this time, especially under the circumstances whilst we spend more time in them.

Taking this sentiment and applying principles of balance and harmony when placing things around a given space, we are able to create sanctuaries in our own homes. That which you already have, remember how you came about owning it, perhaps you purchased it because it caught your eye, was it a gift, a souvenir?

Treasure these things. They hold memories and are more valuable than anything money can buy. If it is a bad memory, don’t hold on to it, let go. Gift it to someone else, or a charity shop if it is worthwhile, turning a negative in to a positive and doubling up on your good deed. One persons ‘rubbish’ is another persons treasure.

Many of the objects in Kettle’s Yard, are repurposed, found, gifted. Each has it’s story of provenance. I hope you find time during our second Lockdown to make space for yourself, to encourage wellbeing and ease the difficult situation we find ourselves in; and in the future look forward to an opportunity to visit Kettle’s Yard and see for yourself.

Stay well x rLG

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25 years of Artworks ‘95 to 2020

So I’ve been rediscovering the world of my GCSE through to Uni Artwork. It certainly tells a story. I’ve always held on to my work, many times over the years I have considered destroying the lot.

I would encourage people to let go of their work as it is created, and especially for myself now, because I believe it is holding me back. However, I also look upon it as a time capsule. Much of this work I created before my brain haemorrhage; when I was told by my Neuro-surgeon that I may never be creative again, I took it quite literally to heart. I felt bereft and for many of the early years of my recovery during Art School I didn’t believe I’d ever be as good as I was at A-level. And so it’s like letting go of a part of myself, that I believed lost all those years ago.

A lot has happened since and I don’t have the capacity to hold on to it anymore. So, in order to move on, I would like to create a book, chapters as project’s, interspersed with some of the poetry I have written over the years and some of my favourite quotes and reflections in relation to all that has come to pass.

To make this a reality, I need to raise some capital, so I’m looking at ‘auctioning off’ nearly all my works to the highest bidder. I originally thought as one lot, but I’m guessing that is less favourable, so I will arrange it in themes. Life drawings; GCSE/A-Level; Foundation work; University Project Briefs x y z. That kind of thing.

(And as a little teaser) This is one of my Foundation Briefs in Printmaking – Identity.

Watch this space, or if you are able to help in anyway, please get in touch…


Più Vivo

‘Più Vivo’ (Homage to the Hens) is repaired & back up…

The repairs are not discreet, steel wire now bracing the lid to the palette, reminding me of conversations with luthiers about whether a repair should be visible, or not (evidently, I believe they should be visible: I am an advocate of Wabi Sabi and Kintsugi).

Scars, or repairs are an intrinsic part of an object, or person’s story. We should not feel the need to hide them away for the sake of an ‘homogenised’ perfection; so many scars already go unseen, either mentally and in ourselves, or as skeletons in our histories. However, that does raise questions about labelling & our perception of the other.

Yesterday, I listened intently as two brilliant women talked about their lives growing up. Very different to my own up bringing, notably as I am white. One grew in London, listening to the stories of her grandmother’s experience as a first generation Jamaican migrant. The second growing up in South Africa, in the early years post apartheid.

Growing up in the military afforded me an unusual start in life, moving every 2.5 years from birth, everything changing except my family and the objects that defined the home. In the first instance the culture of a ‘dependent’ overseas was shielded within the confines of the base, culture from Britain filtered through and infused with culture of other places too. It was a good start in life, albeit a transient one within an institutional framework.

At the age of 11, my father recently commissioned in to the officer ranks, I left my parents and sister to get some continuity in my education. When my family delivered me to the school I asked them not to contact me for several weeks, as it would just make it harder and heighten the home sickness (similar feelings arose at the beginning of lockdown). So here I was, in another institution and after several weeks of feeling miserable I considered my options; carry on being miserable and have a terrible time, or accept this was where you were for the next seven years (apart from holidays) and make the most of it.

I chose the latter and had the best time I suspect I could have. Looking back I undoubtedly had dyslexia: terrible spelling and a preference for creativity; gazing out the window & doodling. So no doubt my school grades were better, in classes less than 20, than they would have been had I gone to any one of a number of high schools I might have traversed through…

The experience set me up to get on with life whatever it may throw at me, which in my 39 years has been some considerable events. However, everyone has their story and our ability to cope with and respond to events is informed so much by our formative years. For all the changes in my early years, there is no doubt I had a loving and privileged up bringing. Something not everyone is able to say, and whilst adversity can and has made some of the most astonishing people, it is certainly not with out struggle.

Listening to Louise Power and Myra Cooke on the Power Hour yesterday reminded me of this and I found myself reflecting on some of the films I have watched over the years: Tsotsi at the BFI in 2005, when I was making selections as a Committee member for Lincoln Film Society and the one which profoundly effected me watching it on a visit home when I was 11 or 12; The Power of One. Both of which I recommend giving some of your attention to…

Today marks a significant and auspicious time, as the day with the greatest moments of light. Reflecting on some of the events in our recent and past histories, the traumas experienced & perpetrated by our ancestors call for healing, as does the planet, Mother Earth, our home.

Please let us now move forward to a time when we see our differences, acknowledge our scars, lay skeletons to rest. Receive one another as equals & celebrate our collective achievements, for some of the horrors in our pasts have ceased, by an effort oftentimes, carried out by those most deeply and severely effected. Can we hold them (metaphorically) & perhaps even carry them with honour, out of respect to those who paid the price? In doing this, will deep and true healing come? To finally set firm foundations for a better tomorrow…

Considering again the piece of work, I have now repaired… Remarkably the oxidising and deteriorated areas of this piece withstood the gusts that otherwise affected it, some parts which did detach have now been placed as decoration. The story of this piece: a palette placed in a tree, on which I sat & studied the rescue hens as they pecked & scratched beneath. The oxidised form, a garden incinerator in which we cremated the hens after a fox paid a visit. Their ashes now dug in to the earth, under the tree from which I watched them. They taught me so much, without saying a word.

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‘The Machine Stops’ by E. M. Forster

Today, 7th June 2020 marks 50 years since the death of author, an Alumni of Kings College Cambridge E. M. Forster, know for his Edwardian works such as Howard’s End, or A Room with a View. The latter being made in to an exquisite film by Merchant & Ivory.

Recently, however, in a reading group with esteemed colleagues, I was introduced to an usual piece of writing for him; a Sci-Fi short story, less than 30 pages called The Machine Stops. An incredible work, cognisant of the time we currently find ourselves in, a parable of sorts, or cautionary tale? Though with slightly harsher Earthly conditions, given current trajectories not far beyond the realms of possibility. Fitting also, in respect to our ancestral troglodytes, whom we share with Bonobos and Chimpanzees some 6-8 million years ago, but I digress. We can reflect on Will Self’s Great Apes on another occasion…

To return to the Author of the day, E.M. Forster, if you have never read any of his writing, The Machine Stops is a good place to start. Alternatively, returning to the text a few weeks ago, I had fun making an audio of sorts, each chapter about 30mins long. Please excuse the odd pop & crackle and miss pronunciation, this was a first attempt. I also made the recording across devices, to try and evoke a reel-reel, distant, down the tubes sound & accompanied myself on the Rav Vast2, a delicious instrument I have recently found much healing through… Enjoy?!

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Month of May, 2020

The following text I drafted to share through the RSA as I had been accepted as a Fellow. I didn’t get round to publishing it through them and there have been several posts made by people in a similar vein, but I wished to share it as it holds true now, more than ever. Please let us be better as a collective, people, for the sakes of all our futures, for the future of the planet and all her children.

Original Image -JD Magwitch, Words -Shakespeare

In this month of May, 2020 I am delighted to have been accepted as a Fellow to the RSA, as an organisation that strives to effect positive social change. To mark this significant personal event, I wish to share a few words recent events have given me cause to write.
The Seven Stages of Man a Progression in Human Knowledge & Culture – A collaborative piece.

At a time when we have been called to make significant changes to our daily regimes, are seeing loved ones, friends and strangers affected, or befallen to a unseen predator; appreciating those who labour on regardless, when reflecting on the current Global situation I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare, as spoken by Jaques in As You Like It:
“All the World’s a stage…and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” Wishing to share the words more broadly, I looked through some of my recent works and photographs for an image to pair with the lines, when a friend shared his work through social media. The image was something he had drawn back in 2015 when he was in prison… it seemed appropriate, so I put the image through a few in-App filters & added the words.
Reading and re-reading those words alongside the image (above), especially having learned the story of the man behind it; considering the work I have done with people at all levels and on both sides of the Criminal Justice System; digesting some of the lectures witnessed via the internet, and a few articles recently read online, I find myself thinking further about this place in time we find ourselves. Given some of the considerable failings at a selection of top level world leadership, married with the relentless work of those who are managing things and working at the frontlines; to the individuals caring for their neighbours, listening to those in need; to everyone rallying to make PPE where there are shortages, or if it is found lacking. I am drawn to see a ‘Grassroots Movement’ that like the wind unseen, moves all it passes over.
Over the last two decades with the advances in mobile technology, we have seen a swell in inter-global communication, education and for some, sharing our personal outputs has become ubiquitous to the point of saturation. If there is a niche to meet, no doubt a search engine could deliver. Look at some of the amazingly creative ways recent technology development has enabled many to do things, when perhaps they wouldn’t have due to impairments. Advances in technology have also made this time safer and more palatable for some of us. Facilitating essential works and meetings at the forefront of scientific investigation, to coordinating and implementing beds, people and strategies. And for those of us lucky enough to have access to the internet, feeling the pressures of being stuck at home, we have been able to escape our confines by binging on Media Platforms, engage in weekly workouts, performances and exhibitions beyond our wildest dreams. That is not to say I am blind to the darkness that prevails at times, all things have their opposite, but we do now have a Kaleidoscope of new and varying perspectives, which contribute to a broader understanding. At the end of the day, it is where you place your focus that matters. Technology, when presented with malcontent, certainly for me increases anxiety, raises fear and mistrust of what our future may hold, but if we, as a collective, can learn together and come to understand that these developments stand to benefit us all internationally, we can make them work for good in life.
Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is quoted as saying “Inside of me are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.” This is true of what is within us personally, and also within the vision of our world and our societies. There is a lot of wisdom yet to be appreciated from these indigenous peoples, the world over. It is our responsibility to ensure that we learn all that we can from them.

Technology already has some solutions and may yet offer us many more, but this cannot be at the determent of our natural world. Wildlife and nature is resurgent, more so once the conditions are right (as we can see). We need to maintain and improve what we can of these conditions for theirs and our best possible survival and for the benefit of generations to come. This is also our opportunity to implement strategies to see that we deliver a world that will still be beset with problems, but less catastrophes.
Several months before ‘lockdown’, I had the privilege of visiting the Great Room of the Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce at the Adelphi and seeing the work of James Barry RA. The series of six pictures illustrates the ‘progress’ of human civilisation depicting some of the greatest thinkers of our time, and in Barry’s own words ‘endeavoured to illustrate one great maxim or moral truth, that the obtaining of happiness, as well individual as public, depends on cultivating the human faculties.’
One thing is clear, things will never return to how they were by the nature of space and time, change is our one constant, but we can strive for higher ideals.
Our job and personal responsibility is to make sure we act with love and kindness, to the benefit of all. Whilst the stages of man are often depicted and illustrated in terms of age, I understand the stages to actually be those of our consciousness. If we can move beyond the constructed echo chambers which are underpinned by miss-representative algorithms and machine learning, perhaps the world at large, will now come to understand we are all one. Both in our humanity and in respect of all life on this planet, we call home.
Rebecca Lindum Greene FRSA
Honorary Artist in Residence, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge