Arts Council funding never comes without really rigorous consideration around engagement. To the artist this is often a double-edged sword. On the one side there is a concern that it will exclude valuable projects that push new boundaries but perhaps cannot take the general public with them on that journey or, at its worst that it will create projects with public engagement tacked on as a flimsy afterthought. On the overriding positive side though it demands that artists examine their practice in infinite detail, giving deep consideration to the communication of their work to others and how that exchange can be a truly valuable one for all involved. And when it works, it works.
As the Cicatrix project evolved, dialogue and interaction with others was always going to be a critical element. Having worked with Morning Star before (a charity which supports and rehabilitates the homeless and those struggling with addiction), I was very keen that they should benefit from whatever program we put together. As I had already built up relationships with the charity group it was decided that Prudence Maltby and I should share the Cicatrix exhibition with a small group of residents at Morning Star and then run a series of workshops with them developing their response to that in whatever media seemed appropriate.
The work of the exhibition is centred around scars resulting from conflict, both physical environmental and psychological, a concept, no doubt, well known to those who have suffered addictions and homelessness, (in fact to all of us). What evolved over the following weeks was a truly emotional, transformative and creative journey for all of us involved for which both Prudence and I feel hugely humbled and grateful to have been a part of.
The work is currently on display at the Young Gallery and demonstrates the very personal response by each person there. The work is exhibited in a glass vitrine at the entrance to the Young Gallery until 6 February .
From the drawings that speak of childhood scars and the process of healing, to the intricate work with feathers, a lifetime fascination, to the skills learned in father’s shoemaking workshop revisited. Each work speaks of the maker’s life, a very integral and valuable contribution to the Cicatrix project.
Susan Francis, visual artist