“The King of the Cats” is a stunning and varied touring art exhibition of engaging contemporary art deeply rooted in the local landscape; funded by the Arts Council of England.
We are a group of artists living and working in Lancashire. We work quite independently in our various practices – be it painting, ceramics, sculpture, creating installations or storytelling – and come together to promote our work as artists in schools.
We decided to have a look at the stories that have arisen from this landscape in which we live, and to make this the basis for a touring exhibition. We named the project after the title of one of the stories: The King of the Cats. The idea was to let these stories lead us on an adventure; to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and to create something new. Simultaneously we can reach out to schools and the wider community to help museum and gallery venues inspire new audiences.
Four visual artists and a storyteller respond to Lancashire folktales through the mediums of sculpture, painting, ceramics, film, sound and installation.
Originally from the Netherlands, Marjan sees herself more as an English than a Dutch artist; “As I went to art college here, I was influenced by the English art scene and have a sense of where I fit in. My rural upbringing however – on a farm in the North of Holland – I do think of as formative. Through the subject of animals I try to explore the human predicament, in a way similar to dreams and stories.
Marjan is passionate about sculpture. “Playing with materials, whether it be clay, cardboard or metal, never fails to fascinate. Every sculpture is an adventure in which every material plays its part and needs to be allowed its voice.”
Marjan has her work in places as far and wide as Hong Kong, The Caribbean, New Zealand and America. Much of it is in public spaces, created to commission in response to the environment. She regularly exhibits in London and the Netherlands.
For the King of the Cats Marjan decided to work on a small scale, developing peep-boxes which allowed for some simple interaction. “ I wanted to create intimate experiences, challenging people to bring the sculptures to life by movement or a play with light.”
Medium – Sculptures in atmospheric peep box settings.
The anatomical exactness that comes from accurate observation imbues Marjan Wouda’s sculptures of animals with disconcerting physical veracity, yet their skin, hair, feathers, hooves, claws, paws and projecting bones show how the clay was impressed with a range of disparate materials and shaped before casting. Much, though not all, of her work is concerned with exploring the nature and burden of the role of mother. Her stoic she-goat passively accepts the alien presence of the laughing/barking dog and the calm drake that carries the terrified cat will, one feels, get them both safely to their destination. She explores the inherent tensions between the two sets of animals by the dynamic of the composition, and revels in the different qualities of fur and feathers. Ultimately however, the most powerful aspect of her art is its ability to engage each viewer on a personal imaginative and emotional journey through sympathetic identification with the creature depicted. If all this gets too serious, then her maddening dogs, whether playing dead, dancing, or doing a ‘hand stand’ surely liberate the mischievous child in us all. Such potential for identification shows us an artist who is no mere animalier but one for whom the subject of animals allows for the exploration of the human predicament. Extract of review on The Mare’s Tale by Mary Sara
Medium – Characterful imaginings in clay.
Sculptural and functional ceramics using nature both as inspiration and material for her work. Julie works with both porcelain and brick clay to produce two diverse ranges of work which you can explore through the different galleries here.
Her work is a mixture of slab building and slip casting techniques. Hand building using porcelain and stoneware to create sculptures for the garden and the home like her whimsical birdhouses with ‘my shed’ and ‘in the dog house’ designs to the more robust animal sculptures in stoneware. Since being diagnosed with an autoimmune arthritis Julie has changed the way she creates her vases and vessel using a slip casting methods developing and creating her own plaster moulds turned on the lathe so each design is her own using Parian a type of porcelain which fires to a china white with a silky smooth surface to the touch. The decoration on the vases and vessels are now hand drawn to make each piece a ‘one off’.
Julie has been using brick as a creative medium for a number of years now working to commission for architects and interior designers for clients such as Marks and Spencers and Wetherspoons in recent years. She also works with schools and community groups to make sculptural seating and site specific works and also way side markers for trails. Her first the Brick Kiln on the Wayside Arts Trail was short listed for the Brick Development Association Brick Awards 2006 in the Best Landscape category as was her brick seating at Witton Park High School in 2007 in the same category.
Medium – Theatrical Installations.
My work has always been inspired by the love of History and I would describe myself as a multidisiplinary contemporary artist who uses a wide range of media to comunicate my art. I have been working in printmaking, a two dimensional medium which I love. Although I do use traditional methods of printmaking I use multi-layers of images from different plates to produce one off finished pieces. This process of layering is seen throughout my work, I suppose it stems from deep rooted life experiences and the fact that no two are alike. There is both simplicity and complexity in my work, in imagery, materials, processes and the aesthetic; all co-exist in my search for a solution.
I love working with paper as a medium of expression. Paper has been used for communication since its development. Its simplicity, accessibility and malleability are qualities which suit the way I work. I often use paper to construct ideas in a three dimensional way as others would use drawing as a starting point. I would make small installations or macquets using A4 printing paper, cutting and sticking until I had the desired effect. Deconstucting this I would re-construct the pieces using quality artists’ paper.
For the King of the Cats Exhibition I have pushed the boundaries of my practice in many ways. Working in a very ordered methodical way, planning and preparation are paramount to my practice, process led, working and re working so that outcomes are controlled and are aesthetically pleasing.
Medium – Paintings, drawings and painted objects.
An established artist, Christopher has exhibited throughout the UK – including successful Art Fairs in London and Glasgow – as well as America. He paints birds and modern still-lives in their true form. There is a wonderful stillness and calm to Christopher’s work and the colours help to produce a sense of well being. Nature and wildlife are big inspirations to Chris. An established artist, he has exhibited throughout the UK – including successful Art Fairs in London and Glasgow – as well as America.
Medium – Stories, film and sound.
Jacqueline Harris moved to Scotland in the summer of 2012. She has worked as a professional storyteller since 2000. She tells folktales, myth, original material, historical stories and personal stories, with a particular love of wonder tales, quirky tales, ghost stories, and stories embedded in local landscapes. She is fascinated by the interplay between our lives and the stories we tell.
Jacqueline works happily with all ages from 5 to 105. She performs stories, creates stories and facilitates workshops and courses for museums, galleries, schools, festivals, theatres, arts centres, parks, stately homes, hotels, colleges, universities, bookshops, and out in the community.
She also trains professionals in education, environmental groups, museums and galleries helping them to develop ways to use story and drama in their work.
Collaboration offers wonderful opportunities for exploring new ways of working with stories and Jacqueline has worked with painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and film makers. She is currently working on a touring exhibition with a group of visual artists that will focus on contemporary responses to Lancashire folktales and will include audio material, live performance, sculpture, painting, ceramics and animation.
Before becoming a full time storyteller, Jacqueline was Head of Drama in High Schools for 17 years. She still loves to engage children and adults in exploring stories and storytelling through drama based workshops and courses that encourage their own storytellers to come out to play. At the centre of all her teaching is the belief that stories are at the heart of what it is to be human, and that we are all creative storytellers whether in our personal lives, our work or on a stage or platform. Stories are everywhere.
She also writes stories. Publications include a collection of reworked folktales, ‘Let the Giants Live’: a finale to a large storytelling project across North Cumbria, a historical ghost story to accompany a sculpture trail in Darwen and an illustrated story for 3-5 year olds: ‘Stan’s Accidental Adventure’, commissioned by the Museum of Lancashire. She has also written articles on local folklore for magazines.