ADVENTurous is an open submission exhibition exploring the christmas narrative, which we're staging in 3 UK venues during advent this year : at Engedi in Colwyn Bay, Leftbank in Leeds and the Union Chapel in Islington, London.

The work exhibited at Union Chapel will also be part of the one-day ‘ADVENTurous' conference, hosted by Greenbelt Festival and partners.

On this blog we'll be posting regular updates about how plans for the Leftbank Leeds show are progressing, with information about the contributing artists, and possibly some previews of the work being created for the exhibition...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday update...

Sadly, dead camera batteries = no photos.
But a solid day's work in Left Bank saw us installing four new pieces, and relocating a couple of others.
Plus there was a fair bit of tidying up to do :-)

It's getting close now... and in the meantime we're off to London tomorrow to set up the London end of things!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday update...

After a slightly truncated day's work in the venue, eighteen pieces are now in place and the show is really taking shape.

Highlight of the day was the arrival of Elizabeth Loren's sculptural piece 'You Weren't to Know... But Where Are You Now', which is really brilliant...

We hope to post some photos tomorrow... :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday update...

Six more pieces hung today, and a couple more part-installed ready to be finished off tomorrow... :-)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Introducing Sally Jane Thompson

LB: Hello Sally and thank you so much for contributing to ADVENTurous this year. I have a feeling your contribution will be great fun - Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work -  I know you are a big fan of comics..

ST: I'm a freelance illustrator and comic creator, based in Derbyshire. Having moved around a lot, I'm very lucky to have ended up in such a gorgeous county full of so much tangible history everywhere, which itself is a big inspiration (my most recent minicomic, Now and Then, is set in Derbyshire and about our relation to history as a lived experience). As well as a lot of amazing comic artists, animators, illustrators, writers, etc, that kind of inspiration, in my everyday environment, is very important to me, and I think part of what makes each artist's work their own.

LB; I have to confess my ignorance here… I have been briefed that some of your art is in the manga style - and I know that manga is a Japanese form of comic strip but
I don’t know any more than that or whether what you do is specifically and exclusively manga or a mix of that and more generic comic strip art?

ST: Well, I wouldn't refer to myself as a manga artist. I'm one of many comic creators working today who was a teenager when manga was becoming more widely available in English, and was deeply influenced by the range of storytelling. I think for a lot of us that was when it clicked that comics could be about anything.

While the word 'manga' has developed a lot of connotations in English usage, and a lot of people see it as one particular style (to the extent that many artists influenced by it in their formative comic-making years now try to distance themselves from the label!), it's simply another word for comics - as is bande dessinĂ©e, or graphic novel. I would argue that there is no 'generic comic strip art'...there are certainly cases where art follows a house style, or artists have perhaps been a bit narrow in what they take their inspiration from, but generally, an overview of the comics being produced today will show a dazzling variety of style and expression. And the manga I started reading as a teenager is part of that – that exchange of ideas, where creators nowadays can take influence from lots of different approaches to drawing and storytelling.

LB:  What drew you to the style?

ST:One area where manga has been a big influence on comics internationally is in its pacing. They're often very decompressed – their pacing isn't action-action-action, but often very rhythmic, and their page layouts vary so you get sparse pages that slow you down (as a reader) to let you soak in a more emotional or thoughtful moment. Some titles are also very unafraid of slowness, focusing on moments of experience – in essence more akin to poetry than prose in terms of idea, and narrative (or lack of one) - and these sorts of stories are a huge influence on me.

LB: That’s so interesting – I just hadn’t realized the genre was so multi-layered  – or quite how clever it was in manipulating the reader’s pace an engagement.  You have clearly loved reading comics for a long time. What do you enjoy about making them?

ST:  In terms of making, comics are the best fit for me because I get to do a huge variety of creative tasks – comics are writing, character design, drawing, layout/compositional design, colour work, graphic design, or some combination of those elements if working with others!  I love the open, expressive mode of storytelling that's possible, the interplay of textual and visual elements, the control the reader has in the way they read, as well as plain old love for beautiful artwork.

Some of my favourites (among many!) are Yokohama Shopping Trip by Ashinano Hitoshi, Grey Horses by Hope Larson, Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson, Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda, and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli.

(Can I add that if I've inspired anyone to go check some comics out, Leeds has both OK Comics ( and Travelling Man ) who I'm very sure would give you some fantastic recommendations if you go and tell them what sort of books and movies you most enjoy!)

LB: You have a fantastic website and are clearly busy! What kind of commissions do you get?

ST: It's quite a variety (which is nice!). Some recent examples were a short comic for staff training materials for a health organisation, an illustrated children's activity trail for a museum, a short story for a monthly anthology comic title, and a couple of magazine illustrations. I'm just starting a job doing some illustrations for an all-ages book, which I'm looking forward to. Hopefully, the next year will bring more book-length projects that I can get my teeth into.

LB:  What does Advent mean to you?

S: I grew up in an informal church, so Advent traditions aren't something I'm very familiar with, I'm just learning about them really.  I do really like the concept of a series or progression, like going through this season – the series of things to contemplate and, particularly, taking time to do so, I think can have an effect that's greater than the sum of its parts. A bit more slowness and contemplation is I think something really worth trying for over Christmas.

LB: Can you tell us anything about how you have interpreted the theme of Advent for the exhibition?

ST: I've chosen the 'Star' theme for my one-page short comic, which is about the idea of 'following a star' versus the demands of daily life, drawn in a playful way.

Monday update...

Due in no small part to the sterling efforts of Ian B, the new exhibition lights are all installed and working. Nine pieces are now hanging in place, and we hope to have another five or six up by the end of the day tomorrow. It's looking good!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparation update...

It's Sunday night - just a week to go before the preview evening - I've been in left bank today and the first four pieces are now hung!

We're back in the venue tomorrow, to hang more work...:-)

Will post photos soon...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Just in...

preparations for the exhibition are cranking up a gear or two - tomorrow [saturday] a group of heroic volunteers will be in the venue sweeping, dusting, filling, sanding, painting and generally prepping the place ready for the hanging of work next week...

meanwhile, today several more pieces of art arrived here - steven morant dropped by with his painting and a couple of framed drawings, whilst the postman delivered mike and jeff's magi strip.

all very exciting!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

a word about our sponsors... (1)

we are very grateful to the city council who gave left bank a small grant to help towards the funding of the leeds ADVENTurous exhibition.

you can read a bit more about arts projects that the council supports, and how they allocate their funds on the leeds inspired website...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Introducing... Sara Heard

LB: Welcome to ADVENTurous  - I know you have a special connection with Left Bank …

SH: My first connection with Left Bank was through the Revive church community before I moved to London in 2005.  At that time, the building had been empty for about 10 years had a leaky roof, no water or power and basically become a squat for pigeons. Over the next few years many of my friends back home set to work at clearing the building (and the pigeons) and pulling funding together to get a roof on the place again.

My real love of the building was confirmed when I was invited to a wedding there in 2007.  Fortunately it didn't rain that day as there were still holes in the roof and we were told to wrap up warm as there was no power or heating.  It was a truly lovely service and I somehow knew I would have more involvement in the Left Bank future but in what way I wasn't sure.

I love the fact that from the outside Left Bank  looks rather like a massive red brick shed (sorry LB lovers) but then when you walk in it has these almost majestic qualities - like the way the light and shadows are cast through the timeless simplicity of the large, leaded window above the entrance.

So, despite living over 200 miles away  - when it came to getting married in 2009 and me being a Leeds lass meant that Left Bank was natural choice for us.  We wanted a venue that could offer the flexibility of a Christian focused service along with a space where we could have a great big party with a live band. For us it was a way to breath even more creative life into the building and for others to see the potential of the space.

So a team of family and friends all descended on Left Bank with what can only be termed as a look of despair as we set to clean it up.  Not one of them could see how we were going to make a wedding happen in just s few days time - but they did have faith in my creative vision so under careful and sometime stressful instructions the team set to work.

Fortunately, my dad was able to help us install some temporary lighting and heating which as least created some hope for the set up team and of course stopped them from perishing in the process. We dressed it with hundreds of recycled fabric flowers, which had all been made by family, friends and myself.  We commissioned a friend to make a backdrop art piece for our bar area and hired in all manner of bits and bobs to make it all happen. Not least the amazing lighting and of course turbo charged heaters.

It was a really cooperative event and lots of our guests took pride in the bits they had contributed to make happen, we even had LB incorporated into our invites.  Not least because we wanted guests to have an image of the place as we asked that if they were planning to offer gifts they might consider giving donations instead to replace the leaded widow above the main entrance, which has now been completed.

LB:  And now you have returned!  Could you tell us something about what you’ve been doing since your wedding?

SH: I gave up work a couple of years ago to do Visual Arts Foundation course which I finally finished March 2012 - having had a baby in between!  My specialist areas were textiles and ceramics. So I'm aiming to draw on some of my textile experience to pull my ADENTurous piece together.  It will be a body of work collated to create a large wall mounted mixed media piece.  Essentially, it’s a wall calendar, a contemporary  Advent calendar if you like. But instead of the normal nativity and snow men scenes I'm looking at the symbols and narrative of the Advent period using contemporary icons, pattern and form hopefully creating something which is less literal in my imagery yet still taking my inspiration from Biblical and Christian text.

I have used a range of traditional and modern sewing and printing techniques to give contrast and definition to the finished piece along with recycling materials where I could. 

LB: I know you are mum to a toddler! Has it been a lot of work to create your submission for Adventurous? It must have been very labour intensive given the fact that you have used a range of different techniques to create each date of the Advent period?

SH: Our little boy is almost two and is very active so I can’t say it’s been easy to work consistently or at the level I would have liked to on this piece. While I am only making one final piece its actually made up of lots of smaller individual pieces.

I moved house recently and I have gained a space to use as a studio above where I live so when time allows this has made things slightly easier  - especially in relation to the safety aspects of pins and needles lying around! I have also had some amazing support from my in laws, in particular my mother in law who loves crafting, so she has done some of the labour intensive embroidery.

Left Bank:  What made you interpret the theme using mixed media – different sewing techniques, printing and so on? (I had a look at your sketches and think
it’s going to be beautiful).  I like that you are using some traditional handicraft techniques (sewing for example) to make a contemporary artwork…

SH: If I am honest I was a bit worried about how I could contribute in a 2D way as generally I work more sculpturally.  Then while watching a film called ‘Le Herisson  (The Hedgehog) I found my inspiration.  One of the characters was using some quite linear imagery as she counted down the days to meet her fate. This got me thinking about calendars and I kind of felt there was an association to be made as the whole Advent period is about the count down to the coming of Christ.  So I thought that a wall calendar with a contemporary twist might just work as a concept and of course gave me a tangible way of working two dimensionally.

Given that I’m not a painter, I thought the only way to execute this piece was to use mediums I am more familiar with, in the main this being textiles.  However,  I wanted to present my work with texture and layers so it felt appropriate to use a range of traditional and modern techniques.

Looking at the process of presenting the work I have made a giant textured wall calendar  - which was both suitable for the space [Left Bank] and allows visitors to the exhibition to get a view from a distance and close up where some the finer details can be explored.  Rather like a large painting I guess.  

The problems I’ve faced are linked to the amount of time it takes (some panels have taken between 6-10 hours) make each piece out due to techniques used e.g. embroidery.  The fact that I’ve had 42 individual images to complete has been a massive challenge and one I have toyed with reducing by sticking to the 25 day Advent period.  But my conscience kept telling me that all [wall] calendars have the tail end of the previous month and start of the next on them so I should indeed keep it that way.  This is why I have kept the narrative of those panels simple except for maybe 6th January.

I have used a range of embroidery, hand and machine stitches, along with fabric pens, paints and embossing powders.  I have also used more modern processes which involve printing with heat transfer materials such as inks (used over photocopied images of my own drawings/photocopied and typed text and sealed on to fabric at high temperature between Teflon sheets) I have also used transfer paper which can be printed on directly from my home printer then ironed on to the fabric – of course with this you have to remember that any text needs to be in reverse.  See if you can spot any that isn’t!!!!

For this reason I have had to think very carefully about how to deliver the finished piece – lets just hope that my plans work out as I’ve never sent anything this big in the post before – but  apparently you can even mail a rhino so it should be possible!

Left Bank:  How does it feel to be exhibiting at Left Bank having been married there?  You must feel very much part of the space!

SH: It’s an honour but it has been an immense challenge at the same time.  I have never exhibited since I was a student.  I think my family and friends are looking forward to seeing the building again just as much as they are to seeing my finished work.

Left Bank Are you working on anything else at the moment?

SH: I’m working on an application to do an artist’s residency in London next year and other than that  that I need to really start refocusing on development of my business – (website still in development).

Sew Fun is all about making fun things from textiles – whichI have just been selling at festivals where I run creative family friendly workshops.  However, I want to take this forward to develop workshops for children and parents to work creatively together with a view to developing communication, language and creativity.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Introducing... Steven Morant

Steven Morant is a Leeds based artist interested in academic, figurative art. This is his take on ADVENTurous  - and it is one, which brings the theme very close to home…

I applied to participate in the exhibition in the hope of achieving something positive and beneficial.  Participation has encouraged me to try to make adjustments in my own life in preparation for Christmas.

I selected the theme, “Donkey” (one of a number offered by the curators.) 

The story of the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem appears only in the Gospel of Saint Luke.  There is no mention of a donkey.  The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is the equivalent of that from Leeds to the East Coast. The journey would have taken several days and, for a pregnant woman, transport by donkey might have been very useful.  Would it have been better to take the direct route or to travel down the Jordan Valley?  If a lot of people were repatriating at the time, perhaps they would have travelled in a group, for safety.

I hope that my submission will include sketches of donkeys and a painting of a donkey at Hope Pastures, Horse and Donkey Trust, Weetwood Lane, Leeds 16. I also hope to include a drawing of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, influenced by the carved reliefs which were done by Ancient Roman sculptors at about the time the journey took place.
I am interested in the acquisition and revival of the sort of skills  which were attained by artists before the invention of photography.  The work is not adventurous in the sense of being “avant-garde”, but the attempt to produce work of the standard to which I aspire, in compliance with the exhibition deadlines, has been an educational experience and a personal adventure.

You can find out more about academic, figurative art and see images from the Cast Collection Project  - an exhibition held at the Edinburgh School of Art that Steven contributed to earlier this year. The exhibition explored  ‘contrasting responses to the fate of plaster cast collections in art schools’.  Find out more about this intriguing exhibition here

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Introducing... Susie Liddle

"Elsewhere" was included in the Engedi Easter project

LB: We're really looking forward to having your screen prints in the show! Could you tell us a little more about you and your work?

Susie: Unfortunately because of other commitments and deadlines, plus a month of open studios in September, I have run out of time to do all the separations for screen printing. There are 6 small pictures in all (it's a comic strip) and each one has between 5 and 8 separations which works out somewhere around 40 separate screen images. It is as much work to do screens for one set of prints as it is to do a print run of an edition of 50. To make matters worse I can only have access to an exposure unit & vacuum print bed for a couple of hours on Monday & Tuesday evenings as it’s a shared facility in a college. So I was left with two choices.... either to reduce the number of images to 1or 2 or submit the original drawings and not screen prints as I planned.. As reducing the number of images would really spoil the narrative I decided to submit the original drawings and keep the story line complete...

LB: So it sounds like it was quite important to you to stay true to the story of Advent, especially with the use of a comic strip style. What does Advent mean to you?



S: That's a big question to answer as Advent has meant many things to me in my life…I guess that as a little girl it was about Santa and worrying if I had been good enough to get my presents. There were always identical red zip front slippers for me, my brother and sister and one year the most longed for gift ever.....a set of poster paints! Like all children I learned the story of Christmas, took part in the school Nativity play and Christmas carol service and hoped desperately that I wouldn't be chosen to play the donkey. I never got to be Mary but I did get to play an angel. The years passed and I became a mum myself and Advent became a hectic whirl of planning, shopping and sitting in the audience watching my own children at their concerts and plays. Such beautiful pageants that they brought tears to my eyes. Lately I have watched with the deepest love as my grandaughters have performed the same age old rituals. Throughout these periods of my life the link has always been family. Time for gathering together as a family and for remembering the loved ones no longer with us. Because of the great joy I get from my own family, my thoughts at this time of the year turn more and more to those who lack the comfort of a family around them. I know that I have never been truly hungry; have never had to spend a night sleeping rough; have never felt that nobody cared for me. On every street in every town and city there are so many people young and old for whom these things are a daily reality. Whilst they lack the basic needs of shelter, warmth, company and food, all around them folk are indulging in a whirlwind of spend, spend, spend. I shall plan carefully over Advent and ensure that I can support charities such as Crisis to help as many needy people as possible.

LB: It's lovely to hear all the memories and warm feelings that Advent brings to you (especially your passion for art at a young age!), as well as remembering those who aren't able to feel such things at that time of year. How did creating your piece for Adventurous reflect these feelings?

Susie: My 'Adventurous' piece has definitely been inspired by my feelings at this time of year. All my work comes from somewhere deep inside me where the store of life experiences, hopes and dreams reside. I think this is common to all artists.
I thought about the Christmas story....of a young couple on the road, she's pregnant, they are struggling to find shelter and then decided to translate this into today's world. I chose to use a comic strip style to present the story for several reasons. Firstly, pictures on church walls and windows were historically used as a way to tell Bible stories to the illiterate masses. Secondly, we now live in a world of technology where instant communication and information is the order of the day. People want information fed to them in quick snapshots. Speed rules and so I reflected this in the way I tell my story. And finally, I took the title of the project 'Adventurous' and decided to step out of my comfort zone and take an adventurous approach to this piece of work in creating a comic strip.

LB: It's really interesting to hear how your work is evolving with society yet still reflects the past! I'm interested to know whether you see art that depicts religious stories as purely functional or whether they reflect something of the artist's spiritual feelings/journey?

Susie: I said earlier that artists would decorate church walls and windows as a way of telling Bible stories to the masses. Sort of book illustration without the book.. However, one only has to look at the work of the great artists of the Renaissance to see that there is much more to their religious art than functional storytelling. To take just one example, Michelangelo doesn't just settle for illustrating the story with his Pieta. The depth of emotion he evokes as the Virgin Mary holds her dead son transcends functionality and becomes art at its purest and finest. Why does he show Mary as a young woman rather than the middle aged one she would have been? Portraying Mary as a young mother heightens the emotional sense of a mother losing her child. Michelangelo doesn’t just want us to view his Pieta, he actually wants us to feel how she feels.

LB: It'll be so interesting to see what feelings the ADVENTurous artists evoke in our audience. Finally, you said that the comic strip style was out of your comfort zone. What’s your usual style?

Susie: I am a printmaker with a leaning towards mixed media installation. I often use vintage photographs, alter them and print them using cyanotype. I will then add other layers like paper-cuts, screen-prints and text to build up the completed work. Sometimes I work on textiles and incorporate them into larger installations. I will use whatever medium and material works best for what I am doing. For Adventurous I knew what I wanted to say and screen print was ideal. The comic strip was a big step away from my usual style of using vintage photographic imagery.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Introducing... Abbie Hulson

Left Bank: Welcome to ADVENTurous! Could you tell us about yourself and your art!

AH: I lived in Holywell, Flintshire before moving to Rhyl when I was seven. I gained a BTEC in Art and Design at Llandrillo College (2003 – 4). I attended Yale College, Wrexham between 2004 – 2007 before moving to Sunderland (2008 – 2011) where I gained a BA in Animation and Design at the University of Sunderland.

I now live in Buckley, Flintshire, working as a ceramic artist and freelancing on the side, focusing on animal portraiture. I have a keen interest in still life studying the composition of animals and nature. I experiment with various media such as photography, stick and ink, pencil, biro, wax, watercolour, gouache, acrylics and oils.

Left Bank: I am really interested in your interpretation of the Advent theme  - which I think will promote some debate at the exhibition! Could you tell us how you approached the ADVENTurous brief and what lead you to interpret it the way you have?

AH: I was attracted to the text about faith, economy and ecology in a sense of where we are, where we’re going and how we get there, I feel that life today all revolves around making money, and it's the drive of making money that makes us deaf and dumb to the things in life that truly matter.  So all in all we don't actually know where we are, where we’re going or how we’re getting there! 

After a few days brainstorming and looking through the titles that we were given, 3 of them caught my eye. I came up with the idea of drawing 3 caricatures of well-known political figures (hoping I get the features right so people recognise who they are!) and to title them each using a play on words 'Prophet. Inn. Silence'.  I hope to convey my idea on faith, economy and ecology through these titles and caricatures by giving them a ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ theme, using British currency to cover the appropriate facial parts. 

Everybody has their own views, I'm not trying to impose my views of capitalism on to others it's simply my view on humanity today, how money is our drive and not our faith or morals. I hope my pieces achieve debate, and I welcome other people’s opinions and I'm intrigued to see if many people agree with my message.

Left Bank: Do you think it is sad that the theme of Advent can be synonymous with a festive period of excess greed and consumerism?

AH: It doesn’t make me sad, because although my views about greed and consumerism are strong views, I’m not trying to tell people how to live their lives or that they are living their lives wrong I’m just expressing my views on what makes us human, I’m guilty every time I eat a chocolate bar or buy some new shoes. 

Left Bank: Your caricature of Thatcher is absolutely recogniseable.
I was at University when she arrived  - I remember the poll tax riots and have family who marched with the miners. That was a long time ago  -  but I wonder if she still epitomizes capitalism in a way no other politician has quite matched since? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

AH:  Thank you! I’ve been worried about getting them right!  I’ve only followed politics very lightly, and kind of stereotype all politicians as greedy, power hungry, deluded tax dodging suits… which is poor on my behalf for stereotyping people.  I will say that Maggie always stood out for me I think mainly because there have been so many parodies using Maggie’s image, spitting image sticks in my mind, I was only young when it was on TV, but it’s burnt into my brain! Then I went to live in Sunderland for three years and learnt how hated she actually is! 

Left Bank: Why do you say in your statement that you have made your pictures small because you want the caricatures ‘overlooked’?

AH:  I think I’d like my pieces to become overlooked because I would like to convey or kind of prove human’s natural skill in failing to take the time to stop and look at something that cannot benefit them directly. Though I think that is more of a self-indulgence for me, proving myself right about human arrogance, rather than trying to convert other peoples thoughts or actions.

Left Bank:  It will be interesting to see people do react! Do you think artists have a role to change the way people think? 

AH:  I think we control what we class as art and we choose what message we want to let in, therefore I think it can only be the person who wants to change the way they think, that can change the way they think, whether they choose art or any other medium to do this, its up to them.

Left Bank: Do you plan to use your art to provoke debate in the future or was it that the ADVENTurous theme made you look more closely at who we are, where we are going…and how are going to get there?

AH:  I think we should live life rather than debate it! The ADVENTurous theme most certainly brought me to question who we are, where we are going and how are we going to get there, which lead me to come up with the message behind my triptych which is, that the trivial things in life make us deaf and dumb to what’s truly important, we don’t know who we are, where we are going or how we are going to get there.

Left Bank: I am very curious as to who you have chosen for the other two caricatures?  Can you say anymore about them at this stage?

AH: that’s no problem! I wanted to choose political figures that are the most recognizable, have the most obtrusive features and who have been the most deluded! My other two caricatures are Tony Blair with £5 notes stuffed in his ears and Gordon Brown who will have £5 notes stuffed in his mouth, all together the three political figures will complete my ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ topic.

Left Bank:  What else are you working on at the moment?

AH:  I have work half finished everywhere!  I have work that’s still going from over 4 years ago!  I paint and sketch animals, mainly dogs.  Most of the work I paint is for personal gain with the odd commission chucked in.  I work full time as a ceramic factory artist.  I’m also a traditional animator and have a few ideas lined up when I get time to start on them, which I will hopefully enter into animation festivals next year.


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