Today…Rojo Art are a group of artists who collaborate with each other and with local people in many different ways: as artists; educators; researchers. Since 2002 we have been creating imaginative spaces and processes where we can make art with other people while following our own art inquiry. Often this art explores our connections to each other and the place we live. We recognise that this act of making allows a different quality of conversation and experience to take place.
We were invited to make art with the entire school of 220 students for a whole day this week. This is part of a week dedicated to art in the school so we were wanted to allow each child a day of making. Logistically it would be impossible to spend much time with each class so we decided to set up three activities that we would introduce in the classrooms and invite the children in small groups to draw on the background and gain an overview of the larger artwork taking shape on the wall.
The theme of an ‘enchanted forest’ was one of the school’s suggestions and we created a narrative for this by asking the children to imagine a forest growing out of thrown away plastic. We asked about the material starting a discussion about what plastic is and where does it go when we’ve finished with it. They worked with collected plastic milk containers cutting intricate patterns to create foliage. Next they studied characteristics of native birds seen around the school grounds and made preparatory sketches. In the last session we asked the children to imagine how these birds might adapt to their new surroundings and to create a bird for the installation a wide array of printed cardboard and junk mail that they had brought from home.
It was difficult to communicate collage techniques to this amount of children: some favoured small torn pieces of paper to create a texture while others could envisage images and patterns used in a new context. One of the youngest children recognised a large swirling camouflage print as a perfect beak for a ‘jungle bird’. The children that worked with the small pieces became frustrated with the slow progress and were happy to be encouraged to work with larger shapes or to focus on areas such as eyes or beak to let the image read as a bird. It’d be interesting to try this activity again in the small art club group.
The artwork was installed the same day against a backdrop of small drawn images of things that might be floating or flying in the forest air.
Something is growing out of Bury Sketchers and the Big Draw project which we can’t really define yet. It has the shape of an experimental space: people come and offer drawing activities that challenge the idea of drawing, others come and play vinyl and the majority turn up to draw. We reflect and change a few things after each event but we’re trying to not to plan too much and to see what emerges
Next event is on June 1st with a body and movement theme.
September 1st was the deadline for my practice-based project to complete my MA at Goldsmiths.
If anyone would like to wade their way through it, I’ve attached the written report which focuses on the work that Liz and I were involved in at a local residential home for people with mid to late stage dementia. It was interesting to revisit and reflect on this project while being immersed in our continuing inquiry at Saxon House.
Our current work with Age UK Suffolk culminated in an exhibition at the Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Sadly the day club at Saxon House closed its doors for good in December and we were unable to install the artwork the group had made in the day centre or set up opportunities for on-going art activity.
Liz and I spent most of January reviewing our time in the day club, creating a working document that we will inform our continuing collaborative enquiry into art and ageing.
We are grateful to Smiths Row Gallery, Suffolk Artlink and Barbara Dougan (Grove Projects) who have helped us critically review this work from a range of perspectives.
Please take a look at the attached document if you’d like to find out more about the work. We’d prefer it not to be shared or reproduced as its a working, unfinished, document for our personal use and not an academic or referenced report.
This term our art is taking us down a geological path, maybe visiting some soil science along the way. The children unwrapped and examined a collection of rocks picking out surface textures and patterns. On a long sheet of brown paper we used chalks and charcoal to explore how these materials could be used to explore the rock surface. In some cases the chalk was applied to the rock and the rock to the paper. The rocks were also used as tools to grind the chalk into powder. This might be an interesting way of thinking about rock particles in the soil.
We moved looked at other ways we could make surface textures, preparing papers to move the artwork in a new direction next week. We used oil crayon resist with ink wash on crumpled, pleated and punched surfaces. The children learnt about the amount of resist needed and how dilute the ink should be to expose their layer of texture.
We talked about how we could make 3D rocks from our paper. Origami was mentioned: it sounds challenging and we didn’t have an expert in the room. I’ll have to do some research.
Enchanted Heath at West Stow Anglo Saxon Village launched the newly installed Beowulf Trail and Rojo Art offered interpretation and art activities for the day and evening events. During the day we invited people to explore natural materials from the Brecks to make imaginary landscapes inspired by the local environment. Our participants, mainly under 5, got stuck into the clay and used local flints, cones, sand, chalk, snail shells, bark and bones amongst other things to work with. Thank you to Breaking New Ground for these photographs as we didn’t have a camera with us.
In the evening we transformed the education centre into a lantern making workshop and worked with 300 people to make lanterns that would alert the inhabitants of the woods to their presence as they set out on the night time trail. We worked with collected milk containers which were cut to allow the light to shine through and embellished with willow sticks and ivy.
Our morning was spent paper making: a process too wet to get the camera out to record. For a relaxing afternoon I unrolled paper around the copse and suggested to people they paint whatever they see around them; maybe the objects that fall on their paper or the shadows cast by the tree canopy. paint brushes were available but there were more interesting painting tools to be found.
Painting the cast shadows
Painting the wind blowing through the woods using natural tools
A morning introducing printing as a way of recording and exploring the natural world of the copse. Sun prints showed fascinating silhouettes and roller printing exposed the intricate patterns and edges of leaves and feathers. To capture the textures of immovable objects such as tree trunks we took a lump of clay (recycled from Florian’s casting workshop) for a walk pressing this into surfaces to make an impression and then using it as printing block.
This same clay was reused in the afternoon session, modelled into woodland creatures with the materials of the woodland floor forming spines, feathers, fur and scales.