Garage Residency Artists

Helen Acklam, Lou Baker, Alice Freeman, Alice Smith

1st – 20th June 2021


Helen Acklam

Although the Garage has been going for 18 months, this was my first time in the space.  I wanted to work with artists who were making work around similar themes  – of the body, abject, loss, identity – but with different practices.

Having other artists actively engaging with my work , and the conversations around all of that, was so valuable– I experienced and saw it differently.  I think the journey of the work, during the three weeks,  tells the story.

At the start of the residency I brought some paintings into the space of a shape I’d been thinking and making around since the start of the pandemic.  Painted on silks and satins, with the length and breadth of my body, these hung sac-like in the space.  They were soft, slippery, quiet.

During the residency I saw the work being stretched, knotted, rolled, beaten, caressed, nursed, rocked, folded, worn, breathed into, hidden under, played with.  I felt excited, expanded, joyful, energised, trusting, open, closed, vulnerable, ashamed, fearful, sad, hurt, grateful, inspired, recognised, expanded.

The work I made during the residency was scarred, burnt, bleached, stretched to breaking point.

I arrived with questions –

How would we would ‘mix it up’, work together?

What would happen when another artist, with another practice and their own life experiences, engaged with my work?

Could I offer it up and let go?

What would I need to put in place?

What if I don’t want to/can’t  do anything?

And had lots more during and afterwards –

Watching someone else respond – and not respond – to the work.  How was I affected?

What was being unlocked?

What’s new?

How are we (creatives) connecting in the space – together or apart?  What difference does that make?

What worked? What does that mean? What didn’t work?

What/how am I judging?

What do I want more of?

How do I feel at the end of this?

So valuable.. big thanks to Alice Smith, Alice Freeman, Lou Baker, Emma Gregory, Wayne Hill

Lou Baker

Lou Baker makes public things that are normally private. She is both a maker and a facilitator. Her work provokes a range of conflicting responses- attraction, repulsion, horror and hilarity.

I absolutely loved having the opportunity to work with a painter, another sculptor and a dancer. It was also wonderful to have some time alone to develop work in such an amazing, uncluttered, well-lit space.

I found the interactions and conversations with the others very inspiring and thought provoking. Working side by side with them produced a deep and different kind of conversation.

My time alone in the space really surprised me. Following conversations with Helen about her unstretched silk and satin paintings, I was struck again by the potential of cloth as a medium in art, how its soft, impermanent nature evokes the human form and its mortality, revealing alternative meanings in its folds and surfaces (Barnett 1999: 186), seeming to ‘take on a bodily resonance rather than to offer up symbols as such’ (Nixon 2005: 174).

I consequently spent my time alone in the space manipulating various different pieces of cloth with a staple gun. Each piece of cloth measured 2 square metres, the approximate surface area of the skin of an adult; each staple was like a stitch. For one sequence I also used a stitched canvas sculpture. Here are links to a couple of the resulting stop motion animations, which I see as performative drawings:

2 square metres
My Frankenstein’s monster

I was delighted to have the opportunity to trial new ways of working and I’m hoping to explore further many ideas that have come out of the residency. Many thanks Helen, Alice and Alice for your company, conversation and inspiration. I hope we can work together again soon!

Barnett, Pennina, 1999, ‘Folds, fragments and surfaces: towards a poetics of cloth’ in Hemmings, Jessica (ed.), 2012, The Textile Reader, Berg: London, New York pp 182 -190
Nixon, Mignon, 2005, Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a story of Modern Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press


Alice Freeman

Alice Freeman is a Bristol based artist working in etching and sculpture.

Her work draws from forms and textures found in biology and nature, enlarging the microscopic and emphasizing the every-day.

This residency was a chance to explore new collaborations and experiments between Helen Acklam (multi-disciplinary), Lou Baker (sculptor) and Alice Smith (performance artist) and myself.  The Garage was a neutral space for offering ideas and developing work together.

We began wanting to inject movement into the work by incorporating more playful elements with the usually stationary pieces. The aim was to create a performance with the works either in situ or freed completely. Unfortunately Alice Smith had to isolate for the final showing. Her performance was seen on a screen in the space, surrounded by some of the works used and developed during the residency.

I entered this residency wanting to try and move my work in a new direction but unsure of where I wanted to take it. What became apparent in all our work was the need for playfulness alongside a sense of strong femininity.  The final showing I felt emphasised the strength yet also the fragility of the work, as well as the artists. It has helped me see the path my work has been taking without my knowledge and has encouraged me to stop trying to take the work too seriously.

This residency was very freeing and the project is going to be continued and taken further in the near future.

Alice Smith – dancer, choreographer

As a dancer and choreographer, I was incredibly interested when approached to participate in a residency with three visual artists. I was excited to find out how four artists with different practices, aesthetics and processes could collaborate and what we would produce. Within my choreographic practice I work with improvisation, and I am interested in making work that is playful.

We established early on in the process that this time would be a research period to test and experiment with ideas that could be developed in the future. I saw this as an opportunity to build new relationships with artists that I could continue to have long term collocative partnerships with. We gave ourselves permission to not have to produce anything. Our approach was to follow the process and see where it took us. We didn’t know whether we would make a performance, instillation, film, exhibition, all of the above or nothing!

We talked about body, movement, time and space: how can we use the object as body and body as object. Placing sculptural work in space and making it choreographic. We finished our residency by offering an open studio/sharing of our ideas. Presenting sculptural pieces and paintings as hanging, slouching, draping and moving ‘bodies’ within the space. We also shared a film and soundscape using sounds recorded from the movement of the sculptures in the garage.

Unfortunately, due to self-isolation I had to work on the residency remotely on the final week and was not able to move live in the space during our sharing. However, we would like to develop some of these ideas further in different spaces.