Text Art

Over the past four months I’ve been working at Bluecoat Arts Centre with a group of volunteers on their Growing Creativity Project, which is helping people with learning difficulties and disabilities to reshape the Bluecoat Garden and create some unique artwork for the outdoors space.

The Bluecoat Arts Centre is situated in the heart of Liverpool in an 18th Century Unesco World Heritage and Grade One listed building.  The walled garden is a haven within the bustle of the city and I am fortunate to have been asked to take a lead on the growing creativity project.  The aims of the project are to help volunteers to stay active, to contribute, to learn, to connect and to take notice – The Five Ways to Wellbeing.

With this in mind we’ve been working on developing the garden into a more native place, with native plants replacing ones which were put in following redevelopment in 2008.

At the same time we’ve developed some artwork which incorporates designs from the volunteers with people’s memories of the garden – there are people who have been coming here for over 30 years, so the garden sparks a lot of emotion in the heart of Liverpudlians.  The artwork is now being created and will be installed towards the end of October when we hope to hold an open event for you to come and see it.  If you have a memory of the Bluecoat, there’s still time for it to become part of our artwork – just pop into the Bluecoat and ask reception for a Growing Creativity Postcard to fill in.

Drop it in the box on reception and wait for the magic to happen.  All will be revealed soon…….

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I have been very fortunate to work with Groundwork Cheshire on a commission at their Grozone project since October.  The commission is an extended participatory project – working with volunteers and visitors to the Community Garden to create an arts trail using materials from the garden around the theme of Humans within our Landscape.

At the first session we worked together on a creative ‘writing’ exercise (I did the writing and the volunteers did the creative!).  They produced a wonderful poem, which takes in all of the senses and the experience of being in the garden.

Working with each volunteer individually at different times, I helped them to incorporate their ideas of creativity into a coherent plan, using parts of the garden that were disused and also bringing horticulture and ecology into the plan.

What has developed is an evolving series of works including:

  • A Willow Cloud suspended between two trees
  • A Storytelling Circle with suspended wooden glocks (Almost finished!)
  • An Entrance Wall with a poetry puzzle (still in progress!)
  • A Silver Birch Spider fungus sculpture
  • A stacked wooden staircase (Still in progress)

Volunteers have worked really hard to develop ideas and to help shape the garden and the arts trail, as you will see from the photographs.

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As part of the arts trail commission for Groundwork we have been working with willow grown in the community garden at Grozone in Northwich.

Using nature’s own resources and working with the ethos of Groundwork, the garden and the volunteers we used willow cut freshly from the grounds and from the weeping willows along the nearby river along with stunning dogwood, to make a series of interlocking circles to create a large ‘cloud’ to be suspended as an archway through from one area of the garden to the other.  Within the circles we used string to ‘write’ a part of the poem that the volunteers created during our first session together.

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I am Virtually Invisible

by Emily Pitts on February 15, 2012

in Latest For Sale, Provocative, Text Art

First exhibited at the Buy Art Fair 2011 in Manchester, here is a new piece of work, constructed out of laser-cut perspex:

A series of hearts cascade down from one central heart shaped, perspex centre-piece with individul letters, spelling out the words “I am virtually invisible’, suspended from the hearts.  The mobile, which catches the light, casting tantalising reflections onto the background, gently drifts around on a single thread, in constant flux, but virtually invisible, particularly when suspended above eye level.

The work hangs best well above eye level – making itself virtually invisible, except when moving slightly and catching light at the edges.

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Art Art Art : Low-fi Leaflets

by Emily Pitts on February 15, 2012

in Text Art

In 2001, using dictionary definitions, found language and well known quotations, I created and distributed a series of leaflets in Stratford upon Avon, my birthplace and where I lived.  Each leaflet contains a distinct theme – consumption, prejudice, objectification and art itself.
The idea of low-fi creation of work for the public realm and outside of the gallery interests me – being able to take challenging ideas and questions to ordinary people.  The work was influenced by the Artist Jenny Holzer, whose diverse methods of making and exhibiting art formed the basis of my dissertation entitled ‘Wordy Women’, which I completed at the same time as this work was being developed.
Here are a few images and if you would like to see the full set of four leaflets, please contact me.

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Finale Night:  Thursday 8th December 5-7pm Place your bids by 6pm!

I have been invited to produce some work for the MMU 5.8 x 4.1 Exhibition to help raise funds for the year 3 Embroidery students.  This exhibition has a twist… with artists being asked to anonymously produce a piece of work the size of a postcard.

Bids start at £10 and bidding closes at 6pm this Thursday 8th December 2011.

National and Internationally renowned artists Alice Kettle, Rachel Kelly and Anne Wilson are amongst those who have work up for the exhibition – can you spot their work?

Website: fivepointeightbyfourpointone

On the website you can see all 169 works and place bids.  Or you can visit the Exhibition during the week or on Thursday to find out if you’re the winning bidder!

Address:

5.8 x 4.1 Exhibition – Holden Gallery Cafe

Grosvenor Building,  Cavendish Street.  Manchester M15 6BH

Opening Times: Monday – Friday 10am-4.30pm

Finale Night:  Thursday 8th December 5-7pm Place your bids by 6pm!

Hope to see you there

List of Contributors:

Abi Goodman Dot Jo Andrews Naniie Bim
Aferdita Kulla Elaine Willis Jo Budd Naori Priestly
Agron Blakçori Emily Pitts Joan Baxter Natalie Davies
Ajshe Blakçori Emma Louise Minshall Jodie Edwards Ness Donnelly
Alex Russell Faye Metcalf Jodie Heaton Nicola Bayley
Ali Neilly Fazli Blakçori Jordan Hargreaves Noor Kimit
Alice Cole Fiona Josie Hunter Norman Gibson
Alice Colson Fiona Curran Jules Lewis Peg Salaun-Smith
Alison Tribe Freddie Robins Kandy Diamond Penny Leaver Green
Alljan Moehamad Freyia Lillian Porteous Karen Nicol Richard Colson
Amy Tidmarsh Gill Hamill Kati Simpson Roanna Wells
Andy Smith Gill Sharp Katie Robin Stevenson
Angela Knipe Grace DuPrez Katie Lawes Roree Windus
Anglea Stead Hava Nevezi Katy Stoor Rosie James
Anne Jones Hayley Godrey Kazuhito Takadoi Ruth Evans
Anne Wilson Heather MacDonald Kiran Lee Sarah Burgess
Annie Harrison Heather Tribe Lani Irving Sarah Morpeth
Anthony Zinonos Helen Mather Laura Faithfull Sarah Walton
Arja Suddens Isabel Dibden Wright Laura Jane Atkinson Seleena Laverne Daye
Aya Kakeda J Kenworthy Lauren Steeper Silver Shauna
Ayasha Wood J Spedding Lora Avedian Sophie Corfan
B.L.C J Straw Lucy Burbeck Stephanie Estall Knight
Becca Fielding Jackie Lumjetë Havolli Stephen Raw
Benjamin Fletcher Jackie Lynn Setterington Stuart Rees
Besnik Kulla Jane Bonney Maggie Howell Sue Prestbury
Bridget Schilizzi Jane McKeating Mandi Tom Vousden
Burhan Blakçori Janet Haigh Mandy Tolley Vicky Mellor
Caren Garfen Jennie Morris Maria Walker Zarife Kulla
Carol Newman Jenny Mark Beecroft Zoe Utley
Caroline Kirton Jenny Mark Matcham
Chloe Hamill Jenny Bordoli Mary Clark
Claire Lane Jenny Stevenson Matthew Harris
Conall O’Brien Jenny Wightwick Melanie Miller
Courtney Maddison Jessica Killen Michael Brennand Wood
Dione Swift Jim Medway Michele Priswell

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Why use text in art?

by Emily Pitts on November 28, 2011

in Love & Lust, Other Things, Provocative, Text Art

I am frequently asked about why I use words in my artworks.

I love language – its construction, its foibles and the complex layers of meaning that can lie within a single phrase or sentence.  In 2000 I did an art foundation course and it was then that I started making work with text – using images with juxtaposed words – investigating the engendering of objects through single words – how meaning, and what people see, change according to words.   At the time it was also a way of creating a more democratic art – outside of the gallery, being able to have a voice within art, but unconstrained by rigid societal norms of the gallery space.  This still holds true to some degree – working with text liberates me, as an artist.  I feel that I can define my own parameters and develop my own conventions.

The way that I work with text and how I develop and create work, revolves around an idea, – perhaps a profound truth or question that is generated by an action or activity or place that I find myself in.  Sometimes the text comes first – the words swim around my head and I re-work them, think about what it is that the words mean and convey, or what they could convey depending on how they are presented.  In this instance, where I have the words, I will search through a whole arsenal of materials and visual representations, sometimes for weeks.  Sometimes I don’t know how to make what I have in my head, so it stews and I have to be patient and wait for the opportunity to present itself to me to finish the idea.

In contrast at other times I can see a material and a light pings on in my head and I think ‘I can say something with that, I can use it and develop some words to say what I mean’ – the two go together: the material and the words.  At other times again, I have a thought and to describe the thought visually I work hard to bring some words to it – more often than not I have to pare down and keep minimising – too many words saying nothing.  Again, the material and the words go together – they sit hand in hand and evolve.

There is a definite bombardment of our visual landscape with text; words instructing us to ‘do this’ and ‘do that’, telling us who we are and what we should be doing – very much instructional.  I think that’s why I prefer pared-down phrases and short sentences – really simple to look at, but belying a complexity under the surface – the saying is that a picture paints a thousand words, but sometimes, a sentence can pose a thousand questions – it just depends what the words are and what they’re make of – they’re a three dimensional thing to me.  Even works like the ‘flat’ laser-cut perspex installations, which I made for the Chorlton Arts Festival earlier this year, have a three dimensional quality that was really important when I was developing the idea and making them – those edges are intrinsic – the colour produced at the edges of the perspex are integral to the reading of the text and the layers of meaning within the installation.

I suppose that the text is so familiar to us that, for me, it’s too good a tool not to use to challenge and re-frame whatever it is that you want to discuss as an artist.

In terms of materials, I like to investigate and make materials look different to how I have seen them before – that’s a challenge in itself – to me and to people looking at it.  I am very regularly asked specifically how I make things and I think in that there is a deeper discussion about pushing boundaries personally.  I run art classes and as we talk about materials and the students see work in the studio it dawns that experimentation is the way to explore, develop and become more enlightened – I think that about life beyond art.

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A few months ago I was contacted to complete an artwork commission to celebrate the wedding anniversary of a couple.  The piece focused on the time and place that the couple met and gave me the opportunity to create a unique marker of not only their wedding anniversary but also their way of meeting.

The anniversary was their second, which is traditionally marked by Cotton.  Taking this material and using the place they met as a guide, I undertook research about the place, the event and the weather, which culminated in the piece you can see below.  The piece is a summation of the weather, the place and the explosion of excitement that ensued from the meeting.  I used significant colours from the wedding to symbolise the importance of this meeting to their anniversary.

Here’s what Phil, the commissioner of the artwork, had to say:

“I contacted Emily ahead of my anniversary in order to get her to create something made from cotton. With very little direction Emily created a wonderful picture on canvass that really summed up the day my wife and I met! To say I was showered in brownie points was an understatement. Excellent work!”

If you would like an individual artwork for someone special, please feel free to contact me for an informal chat: Contact Page.


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EVOKE//INVOKE//PROVOKE

For the duration of the Chorlton Arts Festival a selection of my work incorporating text will be on exhibition at the Nip and Tipple in Chorlton, Manchester.

The works span from 1999 to present, offering a precursor for other work being developed for the Buy Art Fair in October at Spinningfields in Manchester City Centre and for private commissions.

The work exemplifies my interest in language, communication and materials, exploring issues and themes that include identity, culture, relationships, gender and mental health.  The use of text is minimal, bringing into question meaning and legibility, whilst the scope of the breadth of the works challenges the notion of the artist maintaining a single identifiable form throughout their work.  One work includes cutting of the canvas, whilst another uses hair, an ephemeral and tactile material.  These investigate both their individual themes and the wider theme of boundaries between a ‘painting’ and ‘sculpture’. At what point is the line between the two crossed and why do we feel a need to put art into such narrowly defined boxes?

If you’re interested in Art and text or just like the idea of perusing the work with a beer or coffee in hand, make your way to the Nip and Tipple, Upper Chorlton Rd from 19th to 30th May.

You may also be interested in the discussion on 23rd May entitled Wordy Women – 7.30pm at Chorlton Library.

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For the Chorlton Arts Festival I will be undertaking a discussion with fellow artist Jackie Wylie and Illustrator Caroline Coates on the subject of Women, Art and Text.  We will present a brief history of the use of text in art and go on to discuss the use of text in our own works and that of other prominent women artists from across the globe.

Monday 23rd May 2011:   7.30pm

Chorlton Library and afterwards at Nip and Tipple on Upper Chorlton Rd

Here’s the listing from the Chorlton  Arts Festival website:

“Emily Pitts, Manchester Artist, will host a presentation, outlining a brief history of the use of text in art, with particular reference to women and text, followed by an open discussion with the audience. Emily will be joined by a panel of artists to explore both current and historical practice and the way in which women have taken up the mantel of renowned conceptual artists to develop this medium as a platform for social and political comment. They will present and make reference to their own works and those of artists past and present, including Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger and Lawrence Weiner. The presentation and talk will last approximately 90 minutes and will be followed by a gathering at local bar The Nip and Tipple.”

To find out more about the Chorlton Arts Festival go to the Festival website, where there’s information about the 200+ performances, events and exhibitions.

Call 07870 360213 for more information

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