Conversations Series was first established back in 2016, as a programme of artistic projects and residencies delivered by Venture Arts, aimed at creating new work in a shared exchange of art and ideas.
The programme brings together a range of artists, with and without learning disabilities, to develop collaborative, reciprocal learning and creative exchanges. Through this, it is hoped that open conversations and new dialogues about the role of art in contemporary society will be generated.
‘Conversations Series III: Narratives’ takes the form of a new collaborative residency, working with ten artists for whom personal narratives around heritage are central to their work. Collaborating with Castlefield Gallery, The Lowry and Explorers, we have commissioned five local artists for whom cultural identity is important in their work, or who would like to create new work about their personal stories and narratives.
The project began at the end of May 2022 and the resulting work will be shown in an exhibition at The Lowry from January to March 2023. To follow the project in the mean time keep an eye on this page and our social channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), where our Narratives artists will be taking over and sharing insights from the project every Friday.
The Narratives residency is encouraging both collaborative and individual work, with the artists having spent every Friday together since the project started back in May 2022. The work detailed below is what has sprung forth during that time.
Jennie is an artist based at Venture Arts who illustrates and paints, using familiar tv cartoon characters and lots of repeated phrases in her work like Stockport, BBC, Jennie Crying and Pop. During this residency, Jennie has been reinterpreting the other artists’ work to filter their work through her own identity and expression, creating fast paced collaborative paintings entangling the other artists’ work into her own.
Parham is a painter operating under the shadow of the digital and internet culture, relying on and expanding on the histories and traditions of Western and Persian paintings. He is currently working with several of the Narratives artists on performative interaction with his large mural style oil paintings, hanging these on rough moveable structures resembling stage backgrounds for a travelling show, transplanting people into new surroundings, different lives.
He is also working with Ahmad Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre looking at the Scientific Racism Collection, Project 81 Films (Moss Side riots), and the Posters Collection, exploring propaganda versus “truth” and heritage versus colonialism.
Jackie has a huge collection (over 800 pieces) of fancy dress costumes made when she ran House of Haynes, a costume hire business in Manchester between 1998 and 2012. Every session, there has been costume interaction within the group, particularly with Deborah directing and acting the artists in improvised films. Jackie began documenting the costumes in the evocative spaces of the social club (changing rooms, playing fields and function room) as performative films and photographs. She aims to continue to make the collection available to optimise its shared use, as a new, low carbon way of earning a living as an artist. As a creative manifestation of the Manchester scene between 1998 and 2012, of pop culture history and the story of the city, these clothes have the capacity to open up exciting stories of identity in the present, by using what already exists for new purposes.
Raheel, a sound artist from Nottingham and Horace, based at Venture Arts, have been working together to create sound pieces based on Horace’s thoughts and memories of the music that he loves and grew up with in 70s & 80s Moss Side.
Merida, a musician based in Manchester is collaborating with Horace to transform non Reggae pop-songs which he loves such as ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ and Julee Cruise’s ‘Falling’, into new reggae classics. Merida is also collaborating with the whole group and preparing a fully programmed Narratives TV channel complete with adverts, interviews, artist films and documentary.
Manchester based film maker Dom Pillai is also collaborating with Horace and Merida on a music video for the song, inspired by the overwhelming style and character of the social club in which the project is being run as well as huge comedy, reggae and supper club influences of Horace’s idols such as Sid James, Sparrow Martin & Julie London.
Deborah, based at Venture Arts, is interested in her Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage, particularly because of the death of her mother from Covid in 2020. Deborah has close familial links with the two countries and is creating banners mixing national emblems and colours with family imagery and personal pop culture. She has also been making very funny green screen videos during the residency, collaborating by enlisting the other artists to act in her films and focussing on bringing to life characters from The Little Mermaid to the Beaver Bar in Ghana where she has worked.
Laura Nathan and Sarah Lee recently discovered a shared family history of the holocaust and Jewish heritage. Both had grandparents who were makers and experienced persecution due to their beliefs. They are working on the residency at Manchester Jewish Museum and are thinking about how we fix the past, how we try to reconcile the traumas of those who came before us and how making can contribute to such reconciliation. Laura is currently working on an individual textiles and sound based installation with family letters and documents. Sarah is working on hand embroidered text and image pieces influenced by the museum’s stained glass windows and the repetition of structures within the synagogue. Sarah’s work reinterprets her grandfather’s experience and his woodcarvings which he made as a way to process what he had been through.
Millie’s work has grown from an ancestral discovery from 17th century Jamaica. She’s beginning to build an underwater fantasy world inspired by the history and Afro futurist influences. Millie’s ancestral research has revealed a conflicted Jamaican heritage which has led her to unearth stories through family objects, statues, relics and ornaments found in her family member’s homes by using them to initiate conversation. She is currently creating painting and video work using Cedric, a black baby doll from her mother’s childhood, as he sets off around the world in search of his own identity.
Leslie is based at Venture Arts and has recently had two solo shows in Manchester, one looking at black comic book heroes and black comic book illustrators and the second his own personal heroes which he created an installation at Paper Gallery, a model shop with illustrated packages of models of his heroes. He has had work bought by the Government Art Collection and is widely shown. Leslie is now working at joining these two worlds and working in white ink on black paper on a large scale, combining his mother at the Arndale Market with tv characters.
Leslie is also working with Omid Asadi, an Iranian artist based in Manchester, on a series of illustrated Perspex screens which can be lit and arranged in different ways to change stories, timeline and meaning. Omid is also individually continuing with painting work based on contrast, rooted in his practice looking at immigration.
Narratives is part of the Explorers Project. Explorers is a dynamic collaborative programme of art and action that opens up routes into artistic practice for neurominorities, dismantling attitudinal and systemic barriers to representation and rights in art and society. Explorers is led by Project Art Works, in conjunction with eight key partners: ActionSpace, Autograph, BALTIC, IntoArt, MK Gallery, Outside In, Photoworks and Venture Arts.
The Explorers Project is supported by Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.