Monday, 2 December 2013

Reversal of flow - an intervention in Stoke on Trent

How does the redevelopment of a place affect the flow of people within it?  What are the small changes that affect how we find our way around?  What do these changes look like?  These are the questions that arose following my exploration of Hanley town Centre, Stoke on Trent when asked to make a new intervention as part of the Small Change exhibition at airspace gallery.

'Change in real and imagined cities' is the focus of the exhibition, so as part of my research I walked the streets of Hanley and Stoke looking for a space that I would respond to.  I was looking for spaces where movement occurs, the traces of something that documents a change has taken place.  At the end of my first walk I came across a number of bus shelters with signs advising that the bus stop was closed.  This space, where you expect a bus to arrive that never will, intrigued me.  The building of a shiny new bus station has formed part of a programme of changes to the town centre which involves pedestrianisation of public spaces and the re-flowing of traffic through the town centre.  Stafford Street is one of the main thoroughfares in Hanley that has had it's one way flow of traffic reversed, resulting in four bus shelters now being on the wrong side of the street and therefore out of use.  It was this simple act of reversing the flow of traffic that I decided to make a piece of work about.

I think of public spaces as potential surfaces to make a drawing on, with the lines I draw or the marks I make describing some sort of movement within that space.  I hatched a plan to mark how the movement on this street had been altered using blue arrows that referenced both the standard 'one way' signs and the plans issued by the City Council to communicate the re-organisation of the road network.

I laid ten 6m long lines cut from blue felt fabric along the centre of Stafford Street in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, cutting between other road markings.  Starting at the south end of the road, which has been closed at one end for public realm improvements, I placed a blue triangle on the far end of the blue line, creating an arrow pointing uphill.  Repeating this action for each of the lines resulted in a passageway of arrows all pointing north.  Passers by asked questions of my photographers, a delivery driver drove his van ever so slowly alongside the arrows taking great care not to drive over them and one man asked me where the taxi rank had moved to.  I started to notice where the previous road markings for the bus stops had been burnt and chipped away leaving a coarse road surface.  After a short pause after reaching the top of the street I removed the arrowhead from one end of the line and placed it at the other end.  Repeating this action, the flow of the drawing changed to end up with all the arrows pointing downhill.  Another short pause, then repeat; turn all the arrows to face uphill, pause, turn all the arrows to face downhill.  Then remove the arrows from the street and leave.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Where do you want to be?

Stop, Collaborate and Listen: A dancer and a visual artist begin a journey in a library.

Simon Garfield's On the map provided a starting point for an exploratory day between dancer Sophie Tickle and I at Chester Lane Library in St Helens. Having never worked together before, the question 'Where do you want to be? provided a useful way to begin the collaboration. We started by talking a bit more about what each of us do, what tools of our trade each of us had brought with us and considering how to begin.

We started with a map of where we are now.

St Helens.
In a library.
Feeling a bit self conscious.
Not wanting to sit around talking all day.
Wanting to play.

Shelves of library books surrounded us, so to find out how each of us were interpreting the question, we searched the shelves for titles that sparked a connection. We both brought back books about journeys: I selected Thirty Nine Steps and Sophie selected The girl on the ferry boat and Let not the waves of the sea.

'Where do you want to be'
the importance of the journey to get there
a process
the trials of the journey

Which led us onto books that were barriers to getting to where we want to be: Crossing the line, Overcoming anxiety and Money money money featured here. Physical borders, mental barriers, financial obstacles. Some of these are self help books, linked into the idea of finding our own way through life, which linked into the next group of books: Letters from Skye, The woman who went to bed for a year, The inquisitor and Girl in the Mirror.

Sending a letter to yourself
Time to reflect
Asking questions

Where are we heading? That was represented by only one title: The wish list.

The things that spur us on through the journey.

Walking through the shelves caused us to start thinking in metaphors.
A journey through a library,
a place that can transport us to anywhere.
The aisles in the library as different paths in life.

We unfurled rolls of fabric that I had brought with me, imagining them as paths on our journey, or letters that we might write to ourselves. We wove them in and out of the books, passing them from one aisle to another thinking of them as the time along the journey when we reflect on where we have got to.

Playing in between the shelves we lay down on the floor thinking about the lows in life, and how the view looks different from down there, how we could glimpse each other's eyes through the gaps between the books, and climbed up onto chairs to see the view from on high. It all got a bit philosophical as we built barriers using the fabric and Sophie experimented with moving through those barriers, then pulling the fabric to create tension between the different paths that life could take, getting tangled in a web of our own advice and that of others, of life unravelling and paths becoming more difficult to walk along. While in the large print aisle we got our only question from a member of the public, who asked if Sophie was doing her exercises. We made a film of movements glimpsed between the books, and started to imagine how this could translate into a performance or an installation, or both.

We drew some diagrams, made some notes and thought about an audience. How would they experience this? As an installation to navigate through themselves, with barriers to duck under and stairs to ascend changing their viewpoint and causing them to move differently. Videos of eyes watching them from between the books. A viewing platform where they could take in the whole thing (the audience playing the part of hindsight). Shelves populated with books selected by the audience, the books obscuring the view from one path to another. Thelibrary as a performance space where dancers could tell the story of these multiple selves that we take on our journey. A movement score that uses verbs from our initial playful explorations:


And then, we realised that our initial collaboration, starting from nothing, had become an exciting potential project combining dance and visual art. So we're meeting again next month to play some more, only in a different library this time. Can't have the lady in the large print aisle thinking that there's a monthly exercise class there.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Four directions in two different places.

If you're in Scarborough or Stoke this weekend, you'll be able to see my work 'Watermark, an intervention in four directions'. It continues to be shown as part of Small Change at Airspace Gallery in Stoke on Trent and will also feature in a set of screenings by Axisweb as part of this weekend's Art Party Conference at the Spa in Scarborough. For more information on the Art Party Conference, click here.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Small Change, Airspace Gallery. Until 7 December 2013

AirSpace Gallery - 8th Nov - 7th Dec, 2013

CURATED by Sevie Tsampalla
ARTISTS - Jane Lawson, Noor Nuyten, Lauren O'Grady,
Claire Weetman
COLLECTIVES - Buddleia / public works, Network Nomadic Architecture, Plus-tôt Te laat, Quartier Midi, Spectacle

"small change focuses on change and placemaking in the city, seen both as a physical and imagined entity. The project comprises a group exhibition featuring existing and new work by four artists, a public intervention and a talk. Alongside artists, collectives from the UK and beyond contribute to the exhibition with audiovisual material that documents their engagement with the public realm. 

The exhibition is a response to the book Small Change by architect Nabeel Hamdi and its main idea that small-scale actions have the power to bring about positive change in urban communities. Acknowledging creative practice and collectivism as agents of change, the exhibition invites artists and collectives whose practice addresses issues of place and social change. The artists will realise new work, alongside showing existing sculptures, drawings and video’s. Audiovisual material from collectively-run projects that aim to making meaningful contributions to their environments, will open up the gallery space to various localities and concerns. "

I am exhibiting a number of works in this show, Watermark, an intervention in four directions is being shown on four monitors installed at floor level.  Using the paving stones of a pedestrianised square in Istanbul as a canvas, Watermark follows prominent lines of passage across the space, linking ferry, bus and taxi terminals at the edge of the Bosphorus with the Beşiktaş area of the city.

Chatham Road (Eventually everyone had moved) traces where displaced residents of a single street had relocated and has also been selected for this show along with a first public outing for my Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here collages, which can be found gently glowing in the darkened space to the rear of the gallery.

I'm creating a new intervention as part of this exhibition titled 'reversal of flow' which will take place in the city centre of Stoke on Trent during the exhibition and is inspired by recent re-organisation of bus routes and one way streets in the town centre.  Watch this space for documentation of the work once it has taken place.

There's a host of other great works in this show, including Jane Lawson's proposals for alternative economic systems, Lauren O'Grady's 'Other Possible Locations' sculptures and the beautifully poised works of Noor Nuyten.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thoughts and Pictures, The Vice Chancellor's Lodge, Liverpool

An exhibition in association with Arena Studios and Gallery, Thoughts and Pictures brings you a taste of the impressive work which is emerging from Liverpool’s grass roots arts scene.

Featuring: Josie Jenkins, Richard Robinson, Phil McKay, Susan Stevens, Carol Ramsay, Mike Snowdon, Lucy Wilson, Nathan Pendlebury, Helen Pendlebury, Anthony Pendlebury, Mo Peacock, Claire Weetman, Julie Dodd, Anna Ketskemety, Richard Robinson and Gareth Kemp.

This Autumn, Sir Howard and Lady Newby are delighted to host Thoughts and Pictures, an exhibition which brings together a mixture of selected artists showcasing artistic talent from across Liverpool. The featured artists are linked through the craftsmanship they use to represent their vision, presenting art, craft and illustration which displays real skill and process in its execution, whether the work is figurative or abstract.

A small percentage from the sales of work in this exhibition will be donated to Arena Studios and Gallery to support its continuing programme of events and exhibitions. For more information about Arena Studios and Gallery please visit .

Works by Mike Snowden, Julie Dodd, Susan Stevens
Works by Mo Peacock and Josie Jenkins
Works by Nathan Pendlebury

The Exhibition will be held at The University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge, strictly by invitation only and not available for viewing at any other time. If you would like an invitation to one of the open events, please email

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Keep the Pavement Dry

Friday 18 October saw the opening of the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, with the venues of The Gallery at Bank Quay House, The Pyramid and Warrington Museum & Art Gallery being linked by a trail of drawings cleaned into the pavement surface.


The artworks are the culmination of a commission I've been working on called 'Keep the Pavement Dry' and began life during a number of photography walks around Warrington in Early September.  Groups of enthusiastic photographers joined me on research walks around the town with the brief to 'be curious'.  Walking around the town with fresh eyes, looking up, crouching down, peering through or climbing over, photographs were taken of often overlooked parts of architecture.  The photographs, shared via an online blog, provide a snapshot of Warrington and are an interesting exercise in how different people are drawn to a range of details in their environment.

During the walks I became interested in two key elements of the townscape.  The first element is what inspired the title of the work, 'Keep the Pavement Dry'.  Queens Gardens, in the centre of the Cultural Quarter, houses a white painted, cast iron piece of street furniture.  The tall, narrow, ornate canopy stands in the centre of the gardens raised on steps.  On one side is a profile of Queen Victoria, whilst on the other three sides is the inscription 'KEEP THE PAVEMENT DRY'.  Curiosity was aroused and I looked into why this instruction, endorsed by a stern looking Victoria, should be on this item of street furniture.  A short internet search discovered that this is a common inscription on public drinking fountains, it seeming that mischievous Victorians would be only too happy to splash water around the place without this reminder.  The bowl of the Queens Gardens drinking fountain was removed at some point (someone told me how, as an enthusiastic child, he tripped while going up the steps surrounding the fountain and split his forehead on the edge of the bowl).  Knowing that my process of creating a trail of drawings around Warrington was going to involve spraying water onto the pavement, this seemed too great a coincidence to ignore.


The second element of the townscape that piqued my curiosity was also Victorian in origin - cast iron railings.  Warrington is renowned for it's ornate 'Golden Gates' in front of the Town Hall, but it was the overlooked railings that were of greater interest to me.  Railings moderate our movement around a city, separating private and public spaces, marking out the boundaries of property or preventing us from falling into basements.  During the second world war many iron railings were removed with the intention of helping the war effort, resulting in fewer barriers to movement, a democratisation of public space.  The railings adjacent to the Golden Gates were victims of this cull, the cropped curls still visible on the low wall that edges around Bank Park.  This absence draws attention to the railings that still exist, their decorative points extending upwards, preventing us from falling down into basements or from balconies.


I worked the decorative designs from these elements of Victorian street furniture into drawings, first on paper and then using the computer.  Linear elements were combined with flowing organic designs to create a set of stencils that could point people in a certain direction around the town, moderating and influencing their movement in a similar way to railings and providing maybe a more gentle guide than the stern instruction to not splash water all over the place.

The drawings were cut into thick plastic using a laser cutter, creating stencils that could be placed on the pavements around Warrington.  Further walks around town located pavements which were suitable for the process of jet washing the drawings in place.  The requirement for a flat, smooth, suitably dirty paving stone meant that large areas of the town had to be disregarded due to tarmac footpaths being present.  Locations were chosen considering how people move through the town with junctions and corners being the key locations for the drawings.  The work considers what routes are taken from the town centre into the cultural quarter.  Can this intervention effect movement towards the festival venues? 

My practice involves drawing, often with graphite and an eraser, so the process of using a jet washer to erase dirt from the pavement is not such a big leap away from a more traditional artistic approach.  Assisted by Warrington's Town Centre Wardens who provided equipment, manpower, a knowledge of where to get a water supply and a can-do approach, installation of the work began.  The stencils were placed onto the pavement, considering which direction people should be led in, then water was jetted through the stencil, removing the dirt from the pavement in that particular area.  When removed, the stencil reveals the clean, erased, pavement contrasting with the dirtier, original surface.  The A1 stencils were placed around 150 times around the town, creating a drawing approximately 120m long if all laid end to end, making this a physically demanding drawing process due to it's sheer scale.

The drawings have begun to interrupt people's movement within Warrington, with people having been sighted hopping over them, walking around them and showing their curiosity with a double take as they walk past them.  The designs will gradually fade as footfall, air pollution, weather and street cleaning activity redistributes the dirt, resulting in the pavement naturally returning to an unembellished surface once the festival ends.

The best way to see the work, is to just wander around Warrington, especially Queens Gardens and the Cultural Quarter with a curious eye, whilst hopping between the broad range of exhibitions and events at venues and in the Town Centre.  Below you'll find a map which shows how the drawings are located around Warrington, with each pinpoint clickable to reveal a photograph of the artwork.

View Keep the Pavement Dry in a larger map

With thanks to:
Culture Warrington, The Gallery at Bank Quay House, Warrington's Town Centre Wardens, Creative Remedies Photography Group, Eco Street Adverts, all the photographers who contributed.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Big Draw at the Brindley

Today I've been working with families at The Brindley arts centre in Runcorn to celebrate the Big Draw. We've been using the rubber stamp technique to create drawings in the same vein as my recent 'migrate' works which feature arrows.
Laser cut starling shapes were stamped onto the page in black ink, building up a flocking cloud of birds inspired by roosting starlings. As children placed the stamps they were able to create interesting effects; fluttering wings with a slight twist of the stamp, a bird emerging from behind a cloud where the ink applies unevenly, or loop-the-loop flight paths from repeatedly stamping.
The finished drawing will be hung at the Brindley later this month.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

'Hopscotched' at art:language:location in Cambridge

Thursday 17th October sees the opening of art:language:location in Cambridge.  A city-wide exhibition of art, text and place featuring over 40 artists from Cambridge, the UK and abroad that aims to punctuate the city with arresting encounters with art.  I've created a jet-washed pavement piece, 'Hopscotched', at the Sidgwick Campus, University of Cambridge.

'Hopscotched' is inspired by the signage that populates our urban spaces, guiding us, affecting our movements around the city.  We are told to 'push', 'pull', 'return', 'access' or 'stop' as though the city choreographs us in a dance.  I have selected verbs and symbols from signage around Cambridge, then jet-washed them into the pavement of the University's Sidgwick Campus.  There, you're invited to be led through the public spaces in a playful way as though you've stepped into a board game, or found a new way of playing hopscotch.  Here's a video showing the installation of the work earlier this week:

Friday, 27 September 2013

Recent workshops at Secondary Schools

I've been doing a number of practice-led workshops in Secondary schools lately, including Knutsford Academy in Cheshire and Cowley International College, St Helens.  I thought I'd share a few pictures here.

Both schools wanted me to work with KS4 & KS5, although the sessions are equally suitable for younger age groups.  I started both sessions with a show and tell of my work, having brought original artworks, documentation, specialist materials and contextual reference books for them to handle and explore.  Students are able to ask questions about the work - it's production, the ideas behind it, and about the practicalities of working as an artist.

My practice is responsive to what I observe around me, so with Knutsford Academy we spent a while roaming the school, making observational drawings of small patterns and details that we would use in works later.  Following that, I've demonstrated a number of techniques, including using graphite powder, stencils, waxes, erasing, polishing and more.  Students created a study sheet exploring the materials, most of which are readily available in school, with more specialist items being provided by me.

The students of Knutsford Academy spent a whole day with me, so were able to really get their teeth into their work, with the afternoon providing time for them to explore creating an animated drawing using the techniques from the morning.

The graphite samples were mounted onto small panels and used to create an installation on the classroom wall, with other sample drawings being available to go into portfolios towards assessment.

In Cowley International College we looked at both my graphite works and my recent body of work featuring arrows and signage.  This day was structured differently as I met 5 different classes for 1 hour each.  The students were again able to handle original artworks, and spent some time looking at the works, determining how and why the artworks had been made before sharing their findings with the rest of the class.

A short practical activity rounded off the session, with students able to experiment with graphite powder and stencils or to 'draw' using my collection of custom made rubber stamps.  The teachers will now develop work within the Art and Design curriculum including contextual references to my practice and taking forward some of the techniques demonstrated.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Animating at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery

Saturday saw me working with 'Young Harris' the group of young people who meet at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery on a regular basis.  We did some experiments with animation using drawings.  We're planning to create a larger 'drawn' animation on the Harris Flights, which will be a temporary staircase entrance to the museum, at the end of the month, so watch this space.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Two Installations: "a remarkable architecture of stairs" and "Would you tell me, please..."

Previous works by Claire Weetman have studied the movement of people within micro environments: How do individuals navigate a single street or public square, what are the places of transition in public spaces and how can people’s movement be documented within those spaces? During 2012 Weetman spent seven weeks in two of the most populated cities in the world; Istanbul and Shanghai. Explorations of these two megalopolises raised questions about population and public space, considering a macro scale of population movement, growth, and urbanisation: How do public spaces shape population movement on micro and macro scales? How is population shift evidenced in changing public spaces?

These questions have shaped two installations, developed over days and nights spent exploring Shanghai, unable to read Chinese characters, following signage, becoming disoriented, exploring a new area, retracing routes. People-watching in busy urban parks. Ballroom dancing between badminton players and plane trees to Chinese tango melodies. Emerging from underground stations on escalators, getting lost ascending and descending one shopping-mall-filled skyscraper after another. Always on the move, always somewhere new, always exploring.

The methods used to collect material for Weetman’s new work reflect her active exploration inspired by the constant rhythm of the city. Photographs and video clips documenting her passage in the city were filmed quickly and discreetly, barely breaking step as she navigated the city.

Installation view: a remarkable architecture of stairs"
Shanghai’s population increased exponentially from 1979 to 2010. Surprisingly, for such rapid growth, per-capita living space has increased at pace with population. This ability to give more people more room within the same geographical area may seem an unlikely statistic, but it makes sense considering the development of the city landscape, from flat marshland to a vision of monumental skyscrapers in the space of 20 years.

Day to day, the physical experience of the city’s change from low rise to high rise life is the stairway. Linear stairs and escalators punctuate the bustle of the metro station, the pace of walkways on the street, and the calm of a 10-storey shopping mall. Henri Lefebvre refers to this in his text on “Rhythmanalysis” which discusses how “stairs rhythm the walk through the city, while at the same time serving as transition between different rhythms... their blatant monumentality imposes on the body and consciousness the requirement of passing from one rhythm to another rhythm, as yet unknown, to be discovered.”

Weetman was guided through the expansive city by a wide array of arrows, an internationally recognisable symbol, on ceilings, walls, and floors. As the skyscrapers are evidence of a changing public space due to population shifts, the increased use of arrows symbolise the increasing population. Without these arrows to direct the mass transit of people through Shanghai’s metro system it feels as though the heavily populated city might grind to a halt.

Installation view: "Would you tell me, please.."  Interactive digital projection.
Weetman collected photographs of arrows from across the city. In the act of collecting them, the arrows are transformed from a signifier to follow through the city into a marker that traces places the artist has been. Weetman presents this dual interpretation of the arrows in her digital interactive work ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ She asks her audience who is guiding who? Am I exploring this place of my own free will? Do I follow the arrows? Are the arrows following me? Or, are my actions being pushed in a certain direction by external forces?

Claire Weetman is an artist who, since 2009, has worked internationally on exchanges, residencies and exhibitions in cities including Linz, Schiedam, Istanbul and Shanghai. She studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University (2003), and in 2011 co-founded the artist-led studios and artist network Platform Art St Helens.

A selection of original photograms are available to purchase from the Bluecoat. This work has been made possible with a Re:View professional development bursary from a-n.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Claire Weetman presents two new installations at the Bluecoat

'A remarkable architecture of stairs'


'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

at the Bluecoat
Friday 26 July - Sunday 15 September
Open daily 10am - 6pm. Free.

I'm presenting two new installations in the Vide at the Bluecoat: a multi-screen video installation and an interactive animated floor projection that recalls my experiences of disorientation in Shanghai in 2012.
A series of unique photograms will be on sale at Tickets & Information throughout the duration of the installation.
Artist Talk
Saturday 17 August 2pm - meet in the Vide

The Bluecoat. School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BX

Portfolio NW
Featuring artists Rebecca Chesney, Tadhg Devlin, Dave Evans, 0point3recurring (David Henckel, Dan Wilkinson & Leon Hardman), Hannah Wooll, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, this exhibition runs concurrently with Claire's installations.

Monday, 24 June 2013

art:language:location - Planning meeting

I've been selected to participate in the location specific exhibition 'art:language:location' in Cambridge this October, and as part of the planning process towards the event the organisers held a meeting of many of the artists involved on the weekend of the 22nd June.  It was my first visit to Cambridge, so I've managed to pack in getting to know some of the artists along with site visits and a whistle-stop walk around the historic centre.

My proposal is to create an intervention on a pavement that will interrupt and influence people's movement as they move through space, so here's a few research images that will start to come together to form the work in October.  Between now and then, there's some drawings to be made to test ideas out and some logistical hurdles to sort out. 

For more information on art:language:location visit