Creative Chat ‘n Blog – Michelle Brace
Digital Artist Michelle Brace's personal reflection on the changes, challenges and successes of work during lockdown. As part of a podcast series of 8 regional artists discussing the challenges that they have faced during Lockdown and what they have learnt as a result.
Imagination – Connection – Voice
This past year has challenged me to refresh my practice and align with new priorities. The world got into a slower gear but I felt a renewed sense of urgency for my work to be relevant and in some way useful and meaningful. For it to connect.
In ‘the age of isolation’ a priority human need surely has to be connection. We’ve all needed to reach out to others for mutual support. As a solo artist I’ve found working and connecting with communities of like minds online to be a lifeline. Virtual meet-ups, courses and skills sessions have been so valuable in helping me to meet new people, keep up to speed, deepen existing skills and, believe it or not…. get excited about the future!!
A lockdown commission opportunity with Marketplace prompted me to realise an idea which I’d had on my mental shelf for years gathering metaphorical dust. Mantelpiece was about creating a community of voices, displaying treasured objects together – on a digital Mantelpiece – and sharing the stories they told. Mantelpiece – now in a new phase of research & development – was adapted for Marketplace to be a neat little creative conversation starter for online group work. The hope is also that the process of sharing such unique and personal stories helped to promote greater empathy, insight & understanding between the people involved.
I think that living through a pandemic has sharpened everyone’s awareness of the fragility of life. The change in pace we experienced gave us a rare chance to much more fully appreciate its beauty and constantly changing states. In the piece of work I made for The Library Presents at the end of 2020, Let the Leaves Change, I was trying to visually communicate something about the magic of late autumn / winter. With my camera and my homemade light box I got deeply into looking at the incredible and intricate detail, colours and textures appearing in the leaves and in the natural world around me. I thought about the inevitability – Covid or no Covid – of change.. of nature moving with ease and without resistance, from one season to the next.
This continuously evolving visual mix, produced by Collusion, was created to be back-projected at night into a town centre shop window in Wisbech and the library window in March. It included a layer of leaf drawings and designs made in collaboration with local communities. I really loved the raw quality achieved by mixing hand drawn and coloured leaves with layered filmed clips and I could see the potential for working more in this way….
My most recent piece of work Where Are We Now? was the product of an experimental 8-week programme, ‘Mindful Making’, designed to support adults experiencing mental health difficulties. We used a range of creative activities to explore the idea that if you immerse yourself in the creative moment you can temporarily suspend your worries & fears. Our aim was to create a relaxed, pressure-free environment and offer an open, fun and playful approach to making art. This project got very close to the heart of Unlocked Creative – encouraging people to be courageous and make instinctive decisions about what comes next. If we can let go of pre-conditioned ideas and get into the process of making something we can feel totally liberated & renewed. This is a healing, empowering and adventurous place to be that opens up all kinds of possibilities….!
Written by artist, Michelle Brace.
Director, Unlocked Creative CIC | VJ & Digital Artist