2020: Brighton Artists Network
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
Brighton Artists Network
In 2020, I joined Brighton Artists Network, an artist led, peer to peer network which advocates for artists and helps to facilitate their events.
I took part in the first collaborative project which evolved into an outdoor arts project, urBAN. We had a group of four artists (including me) that met up to talk and share ideas about art projects we admired or were inspired by.
Our initial idea involved working to create a project inspired by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. We were interested in the idea of mourning, of loss, change and transience. Our initial thoughts circulated around the fragility of life and love.
Flowers have commonly been used to represent this theme. Dutch 17th century painters used fruit, flowers and skulls to symbolise this impermanence. Anya Gallaccio, in her work 'Preserve ‘Beauty'’, exhibited an installation of dying flowers which made use of their smell as well as visual beauty. This project extends the use of flowers as a symbol for our mourning of the lockdown. In using flowers, we want to avoid ideals of beauty or saccharine decorations, but expose their ephemeral nature. Nowadays, shop-bought flowers are so genetically altered from natural flowers and it is this unnatural connection with death that is appealing as a symbol of our mourning for this pandemic.
We talked about the experience of lockdown and how many people have been lost, how many jobs have been lost, how many people’s experience of home has altered dramatically, how the silence of the initial lockdown period has been superseded by the usual noise of traffic and construction once more. Successive experiences under lockdown are little deaths, grief upon grief. We all feel the emotion of grief, but there is little space for the action of mourning. When will be the time to mourn and move forwards? Where is the place to pause and show respect? This respite to mourn is what this project hopes to provide.
In terms of location, we are looking at using phone boxes as alternative gallery spaces. We will use these spaces around the city to engage viewers in unexpected ways. Flowers are frequently left on the roadside but we need a more visually striking effect. The phone boxes, as well as serving as a location, represent a lost form of communication in a time when communication in isolation has been so vital. It also leads into questions of who can afford to communicate; just as phone boxes were a paid method of communication, so communicating through Zoom or working from home are luxuries unavailable for many.
So our project uses flowers as symbols for the expression of mourning this pandemic. Each artist will create or collaborate to create a space of mourning within a phone box. Some initial ideas include using flowers to fill the phone box, making prints of flowers and wreaths to adorn or hang inside the phone box, leaving the ashes of flowers inside the phone box, trussing the phone box in thread to mirror the trapped feeling of lockdown. These spaces of mourning will be reminiscent of temples or shrines although we are keen to avoid any adherence to one particular religion in the aim of inclusivity.
Ultimately, we hope the consistency of using flowers will link these projects together and we can create a map of the locations for viewers. There might also be the opportunity to create an event which engages the public in rituals of mourning and brings the project to an even bigger audience.
Our materials will be placed in and around the phone boxes of Brighton. They will all be made from biodegradable or non-plastic materials to reduce the damage from the risk of littering to the sea. They will not permanently alter or damage phone boxes.
‘For me, this project has created a time and place for me to face my feelings of grief, my fears of losing more people I love, my concern for the environmental, racial and gender impacts of the pandemic.
I have created cyanotypes of decaying flowers and dead seeds. Using negatives, plants and the sunlight, I have created prints that reflect death and the transience of life. I have placed these images along with the flowers into a phone box as ephemeral installations. They are not intended to last. Creating artwork that I could let go of, place in a phone box where it will decay, fade in the light, be ripped, graffitied over, stolen and otherwise damaged was a challenge but helped me to face up to the temporary nature of everything. Even as I installed, the prints began to fade and the rose petals began to blow away. I was mourning the silence.’
Mourning the Silence - Furze Hill, Hove
Trisha Stone’s work is about following the materials and letting the process evolve through experimentation and development. For her contribution to Mourning the Silence Trisha wanted to find ways that a unitarian phonebox could become a sacred space allowing people to take a moment to stop and consider. Using biodegradable materials was a step outside her usual practice and the materials brought to mind the fragility and vulnerability people are experiencing during the current situation living through and with the Covid-19 virus.
Instagram - #trishastoneart
Facebook - @trishastoneart
Mike Barrett is an artist driven by a joy of making and sharing discoveries, large and small, made through tinkering with processes and materials, day-dreaming about what the world might be. There is a fluidity to his work that comes from intention revealing itself through process. He captures objects and images at the point of transition. The quieter works have auratic aspects that connect you with a sense of a spiritual presence and in others, where storms break the silence, a struggle can clearly be seen and felt. He appears torn between summoning still quiet spaces for the resting of embattled lives and freely channeling the raw experiences of those lives. There are questions he asks us to consider - what is it to be mortal? How do we rest within the fragility of our lives.
You can find out more about the project here.