Garage Residency Artists

Beckie Upton

26th Jan – 4th Feb 2022


During my week-long residency at the garage I was able to work in a much bigger space than usual and make use of the lighting, beams and big white walls. It gave me the time, space, and silence(!), I needed, which is not always possible at my home studio which, inevitably, has become packed with a muddle of old and new work and ideas, as well as the risk of interruptions from the two people who call me Mummy! So, it was great to have a large clean empty space to breath, some distance from my past work and the opportunity to create something from scratch.

My original plan was to film myself creating a large abstract work, based on a piece of writing I made. The piece is called “Brief for an Abstract” and was written in protest after I received the not so helpful (and unsolicited) advice “Oh, don’t do abstracts”. It reminded me of all the other times people give unhelpful advice and comments, in that moment of frustration, I wrote a brief for myself to do the exact opposite.

Over the past couple of years I’ve loved making abstract, expressive, colourful pieces of work. It can be really easy to begin to believe you should give that up because something tells you that your own enjoyment in the making, has little value in the ‘art world’. So I decided I must make it, and so I created a film piece documenting the process (which will later be edited and the writing read as a voice over).

An added layer to the piece, around finding ways to do what you love even when there are barriers in place, were the limitations I set around it. I only had a selection of domestic items, children’s toys and craft objects to use as my tools; Calpol dispenser, headlice comb, wooden spoon, spatula, dolly. As well as only 5 pots of premixed colour to play with. The marks I made were intuitive, bold, wrong, frustrating, with the tools and with my hands, all while wearing a pair of pink rubber gloves. I hope there is a real sense of humour, the ridiculous, and perseverance, in this work.

The resulting painting has been a real surprise as I was making the work predominantly for video, so the piece itself would have otherwise been inconsequential. However, what I created was unexpected, an imagined landscape with a figure emerging. Titled “Mother of Mountains”. The other surprise was an experiment, hanging a painted sheet to dry on a washing line, and the layering of cut up canvas shapes, as well as the beauty found in the discarded baby wipes I used during my performance – all future fodder for new work!

During the residency I invited fellow Artist, Maria Jose Carvallo, to spend the day in the space together. We made work, reflected on motherhood, pandemic times and artmaking. We talked about books and films we had discovered including “The Lost Daughter”, “Art of The Anthropocene” and more. We both went away with new ideas following our conversations and analysis of each other’s work. Artist, Rachel Handley, came to view the finished work, and we recorded an interview discussion about the project. It really has made a difference to have been generously provided this space for the week and I can’t thank Helen enough for providing this opportunity.