Tuesday, 26 April 2016

OPEN CRIT // Lorna Mollart & Steve Hockett

Wednesday 27th April

Islington Mill 1st floor common room/ gallery 

6pm - 9pm

Islington Mill Art Academy member artist Lorna Mollart will be presenting a range of new audio and sculpture works and Islington Mill studio tenant, Steve Hockett, an artist, designer and doer of things, will be screening a recent video work.

Potluck Dinner in 1st floor Common Room from 6pm followed by crit in the gallery  – please bring a dish to share (enough for 1 person, can be home-cooked or shop- bought, home cooked is nicer!) and BYOB.

Let us know if you are planning on attending by clicking on the Facebook event.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Mapping your practice

Roadblocks - surprisingly universal!

Some of us at the Art Academy are going through a period of reflection and after finding ourselves having some free time to dedicate to our practice, we held a planning session to try to come up with some goals for the next year...


We looked at where we'd like to be in a years time, and chatted about different areas of our practice.

Short cake break then we all wrote down the things that we felt were stopping us. 

Then we played post-it-note-bingo and each added relevant notes to the last one which was stuck up. Turned out that despite being at different points in our practice and lives, they were surprisingly similar!











Here's some feedback from other members about how the session helped them...


Get Everything - Sara Nesteruk

Had a brilliant meeting at the Art Academy today, working on planning, goal setting - focus, some very interesting ideas,* incredible inspiration, and a clear vision, focus and -
well, loads of stuff for the film, the proposal, the approach - particularly looking at the first year, the year ahead (now) where I am now, what I want to do over the next 3, 6, 12 months, and beyond.

Loads of brilliant ideas - all to be digested, with cake, over the next few days and weeks. A great (visionary) starting point, or slogan, project, motto, or approach - for year one. - Below.

I'll post more ideas as they form, settle, digest and process.

A massive thanks to Morry - for all the wonderful vision, focus, inspiration and ideas, to Lisa, for organising, and to everyone there for a great event, loads of ideas and inspiration. (2)

* Questions - Some insightful, clear, and quite profound (and very simple, but important, questions)
(2). - Cake.


Next time we'll break down some of our goals into action plans, and start looking at ways we can experiment and expand our practice.

Here's the document we worked from if any of you fancy having a go yourselves!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Notes from Crit - Sara Nesteruk

Sara Nesteruk presented a proposal for her PHD project...

Recipes for Baking Bread.

Project Proposal - presentation of proposal in progress, themes, ideas - approaches, production. Documentation, physicality and form of the final object.

Documentation, presentation -
performance, and the performative aspects to the work - how and - where (?) -
how, it will, and can be received.

Will the reciever, or audience, know about the production - methods, process, and ideas, and how?
 A document that requires gentle care and handling - gentable.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Our next open crit and potluck dinner - Wednesday 30th March

Join us for another open crit and potluck dinner on Wednesday 30th March where IMAA members Jenny Walden and Maurice Carlin will be presenting.

Diagram by himHallows, visualising a distribution structure for Maurice Carlins 'Performance Publishing' artwork.
Potluck from 6pm in the first floor common room space at Islington Mill. Please bring a dish to share, can be home-cooked or shop bought (home cooked is nicer!) Plus BYOB. This will be followed by presentations in the gallery space from Maurice Carlin who will present recent work and Jenny Walden who will give a short talk on 'the hidden curriculum' within fine art education;

"Concern for a 'hidden curriculum' has arisen because in some ways fine art specifically may be less understood or less easily accommodated by the prevailing 'norms' of a university as a whole. 'Fine Art' is less easily slotted into discourses about 'employability' or 'instrumental' university education and the student as 'consumer'.

My paper looks at these issues very much from the point of view of art education happening 'somewhere else', other than the university.  Many college and university students participate in alternative spaces for art education, along side artists who may not have trodden the path of the fine art 'degree' in addition to their degree studies. IMAA being one example." Jenny Walden

Take a look at some of our past posts to see what the crits are all about - it;s a great way to meet others and get involved with the Art Academy.

Some thoughts from presenting artists on the IMAA Open Crit

For our Open Crits, we have been experimenting with how we document the discussion, through inviting those who have presented work to write something about their experience of the crit, if and how they found it useful, and what they intend to do as a result..

Claire Hignett

I have taken some time out from my usual routine with the intention to progress my art work. Following a residency in the warehouse at the Mill late last year my work is in a state of change and I am not sure whether this is a development in my usual practice, just in a different landscape or whether it is a fundamental change! I have been using the crits at the mill to try to voice what my work is about and to test how others respond. I find the crit process really difficult, but it is worthwhile.

I showed a printed blanket with multiple images of a doll from my childhood, curious to see what the response would be.  The overall response was that it was unnerving, creepy, angry and political. Apart from the political aspect - which I was a little surprised by - this was the response I expected, although I would like to find a way to take the creepy/scary aspect away as I don’t think that is what I am trying to say.  Somehow, the work I started in the warehouse, which was to sort through my childhood toys, which make me feel safe and loved turned into a response to the refugee crisis and this muddle was clearly evident in the questions people asked and comments made. This wasn’t made as an exhibition piece, and is just the first stage of making since the residency and the crit has identified many elements I want to explore.

Aliyah Hussain
This was the first time I've taken part in an art academy crit and although I was nervous about it. I found it really useful. I'm preparing for an interview so it was a nice way to get some feedback on my ideas and use it as practice. I do normally work with other people and have studio crits as I'm working but I haven't participated in something this formal since university. I found it to be a very useful way to present work, as it was interesting to hear the responses to the physical work and also my reasonings and research as well as hearing different people's interpretations of the work. 
As I tend to work with quite abstract forms, I normally allow the work to remain open and ambiguous when I present it for exhibitions, usually relying on the titles of the work to suggest the meaning. I enjoyed explaining in more detail and being challenged on decisions I'd made whilst making the work. I have already started the next phase of this work, using some of the questions asked of me as a springboard for experimentation. It's still the early phase of this project and I feel like it's got a way to go until I reach a clearer conclusion, so participating in this crit has given me a more ideas that I can work with.
Our next open crit is Wednesday 30th March - more info here.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Coming up: Islington Mill Art Academy Open Crit 24th Feb

On Wednesday 24th Feb we have the first Islington Mill Art Academy Open Crit of the year. Potluck Dinner in 1st floor Common Room from 6pm followed by crits in the gallery with Claire Hignett and Aliyah Hussain.
Please bring a dish to share (enough for one person, can be home-cooked or shop- bought, home cooked is nicer!) and BYOB. 

Claire Hignett is a current member of IMAA. She will be presenting new work, which is a development of work made during the recent IMAA 6 month residency at Regent Trading Estate. http://www.clairehignett.co.uk/

Aliyah Hussain is a current studio tenant at Islington Mill, and member of performance collective The Volkov Commanders. Her work frequently observes topics such as spirituality and space, creating bold, exciting and humorous works through fabric and photography. http://www.aliyahhussain.co.uk/

                   Image: Claire Hignett 'Secret and Sacred' 2015                  

Image: Aliyah Hussain

Friday, 18 December 2015

IMAA mentioned in The Guardian

Islington Mill Art Academy have been mentioned in an article on liberating arts education featured in the Guardian's Cultural professionals network. Here's a link


Alternative Art education does seem to be becoming a very relevant subject again judging by the number of enquiries we keep getting!

Monday, 23 November 2015

End of residency open studios event

Join us on Thursday 3rd December from 6-9pm for a celebration of our summer residency.  Come and chat to us about the residency, see what we've been up to over the last 5 months, see what plans we have for the art academy following this and find out how you can get involved. If you can't make it but want to know more, have a look at our blog.   Drinks/ snacks will be provided and please wear something warm as it gets a bit chilly in there! See the map to the left for how to find us.   We hope to see you there, Islington Mill Art Academy
Poster design by Andrew Beswick, a member of the Art Academy.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Joint Islington Mill and IMAA Crit 10th November 2015

This was the first joint crit between artists at the mill and members of the Art Academy. It was well attended by members of both groups and guests.   The intention was to present in the gallery space, to enable the artists to formally present their work, rather than pass items around a table, or present from a laptop which has tended to happen in more informal settings.

Artists presenting were Steve Hockett based at Islington Mill and Claire Hignett from the Islington Mill Art Academy

Steve Hockett:

Coming after a year of not really making much work but about to begin a 2 month residency, the crit served both as a good way to take stock of where I'm at with my practice but also to open up a whole load of new things to think about as well as some more practical solutions to how I'm approaching my work.

There was a lot of stuff to digest but I think there are five key things that have really stuck:

What is my Practice?

To get the existential bit out of the way first - I think the group found it unclear what I was trying to get at with my work, if it was purely formative or laden with meaning. I think being able to understand and explain this is something which I really need to work on. It was also interesting hearing it described as drawing, which I was trying to move away from but I think I just had a very narrow definition of.

Aesthetic & Process

There has been a tendency to have a finished work and a certain aesthetic to achieve in mind which has perhaps been a bit of a limitation, restricting experimentation and process. I'd like to move towards being more process led and less focused on a final outcome.


We discussed the presentation of my work being somewhere between well finished and raw but neither one or the other. I think this is partly due to lack of consideration with the decisions I made with hanging / framing etc. but also with cost being a factor. One practical solution we discussed was to explore working on something small which could be finished to a high level. 


Working in a shared studio space, not dedicated solely to making art in has made it difficult to view and share my work. Some ideas came up to get around this such as using the gallery space at the mill, or finding other areas where I can create / hang / document and reflect.


As an exercise in confidence it was great to be able to speak to a group about my work in depth and be open to critical feedback. After not really showing any work for a year or so it's easy to lose context and end up in a bit of a bubble. The idea of just putting things out there and being open to failure was really important. You need to fail more and fail better.

Claire Hignett: 

I’ve been on the IMAA warehouse residency since July and have deliberately chosen not to work in my usual way with my usual textile tools, routines and processes, to see whether my tools and processes dictate (and limit) what sort of artist I am. I definitely have an ideas based practice, but with a strong making and process element, so I wanted to explore the purely conceptual, to see whether the description fits me.

I found the crit extremely difficult because I presented in a completely different way and presented work that is part of my journey rather than completed. The crit however was really useful.

Work presented:
I presented 3 pieces based on childhood toys that I was unexpectedly reunited with 20+ years ago, that have been waiting for me to do something with. The first was 3 bottles containing wash water from my childhood dressing up clothes, which just happened to be in pastel colours. The second was a doll, which had been put in a plastic bag to keep it clean while in the loft and a photo of the doll’s face in the plastic bag with the plastic bag danger of suffocation label clearly visible. I presented the doll and the bottles on two plinths made from cardboard boxes quickly wrapped in white paper.

Comments and my response to them after time to reflect:

The plinths: these were not intended to be part of the work, however their very presence and that I had chosen to use them made them part of the work. Although frustrated that the conversation had tuned to the plinths, this was a very important learning point. Did they represent aspiration, was there a point to elevating work on ramshackle DIY plinths to create an interesting tension?

The bottles of washed water: In the first instance I did not explain what these were as I wanted to test what an audience made of them. However I misjudged the title by temporarily calling them “My childhood”. Reactions were to compare them to the work of Pamela Rosenkranz, who bottles Barbie flesh tones and to discuss my “attraction to pastel cleanliness”. I found this really interesting as the colours were random. It was quite a steep learning curve to discuss my work referencing other artists and realising how the random can be seen as a choice and create new references.
The doll and photo: The doll has been stored in the same bag since it went into the loft around 40 years ago so the bag is very dusty but the doll is clean. I was in two minds whether I should even put her on display as I feel I have made no intervention in the making (I am a maker!). Comments ranged from “Creepy”, to having an Alison Wonderland like quality. References were made to Walter Benjamin around overproduction, consumerism and being protected by “the dust of history”.
This is interesting as I am currently reading Walter Benjamin and my textiles are about our desire to cling on to and define ourself by posessions and to attach our memories (histories) to them. The comments about consumerism are also quite apposite, as I am personally interested in this issue and also, having been born in the 1960's I am one of the first generation of British children to have toys made from modern plastics and to have been actively marketed to through television. I can still remember the adverts for some of my toys.

To conclude: The comment was made that it was difficult to access the work without me talking about it, and yet in writing this I realise that all the comments made about the work either relate to my intellectual interests, the way I think and view the world, and/or the themes in my existing textiles. I may not be able to articulate my practice clearly at the moment as it is undergoing a process of transformation in how I make the art, but the crit has helped me realise I am a lot closer than I thought.

Friday, 4 September 2015

FILM SCREENING - Fully Awake: Black Mountain College (1933-1957)

FILM SCREENING - Fully Awake: Black Mountain College (1933-1957)

The Islington Mill Art Academy are hosting a series of documentary film screenings at Regents Trading Estate as part of their 3 month residency there, the first being Fully Awake, a film about the radical art school Black Mountain College.

Hidden in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Black Mountain College (1933–1957) was an influential experiment in education that inspired and shaped twentieth century American art. Created as an experiment of “education in a democracy,” the central idea was that the creative arts and practical responsibilities are equal in importance to the development of the intellect. The emphasis was that learning and living are intimately connected.

FULLY AWAKE (2007) is the only feature-length documentary film exploring the college’s progressive pedagogy and radical approach to arts education. Highly democratic and faculty-owned, the school promoted educational of the whole person: head, heart, and hand. Practical responsibilities and the creative arts were viewed as equally important components to intellectual development. During WWII, Black Mountain College was a haven for refugee European artists such as Josef and Anni Albers who arrived from the Bauhaus in Germany. In the socially conservative 1940s and 50s, the college also became a refuge for the American avant–garde, (Franz Kline, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Robert Creeley, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and M.C. Richards). FULLY AWAKE explores how the confluence of this diverse community came together to create a unique educational model.

Monday, 24 August 2015

It's started...Jam! Been collecting berries from an abundant spot in the warehouse yard since the start of my summer residency with the Art Academy to turn into Trading Estate Jam.
Soundtrack: Jean-Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Assasin des Mouches. About a child who kills flies, this track is where the child traps the king fly in a giant pot of jam.

Lisa Risbec


Sunday, 16 August 2015

‘Studio Group’ is a regular Art Academy activity, exploring new possibilities for how, when and where artwork is made, and questioning the traditional role of the artists studio in this process. Temporary group ‘studio’ sessions are sited in unorthodox settings, often in public space, and are followed by a discussion and sharing of the work that each person has made during the time.

Pomona is the edgeland between Manchester, Salford and Trafford. Once "a pleasure gardens with a palace, this land is now occupied by many different species of flora and fauna, and is one of the few open wild green spaces in the city centre." (description taken from www.mypomona.co.uk)

Owned by Peel Holdings, this space is soon to be developed on which is being contested widely by various groups, due to the existence of rare species and the lack of green space within the city centre. There is still time for alternative proposals to be put forward, ones which include affordable housing as well as development of the green space.

My Pomona - http://www.mypomona.co.uk/home/ was set up to collect artistic responses to the place and the Art Academy will be taking a trip down there to add our responses.

This is going to be a fun session where we wander, explore and make, sharing ideas and tasks to help us to develop our practice.

Meet at Islington Mill at 1pm to walk down with us, or meet there and find us (we'll be there at about 1.30). The site can be accessed from Cornbrook Metrolink station (just walk down the stairs and head left - you can enter through a gap in the railings)

Bring any materials you usually work with, or just bring yourselves! Come prepared for the Manchester weather!

© Image copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.