Jonathan McCree, one of Arts Lab’s artists, has been sharing with us his ongoing work exploring relationships between painting, dance, audience and collaborative practice. Jonathan gave an evening talk at the Lab in September 2017, presenting the results of a collaboration with the dance organisation New Movement Collective. A brief presentation of film and images from his 2016 piece DoBeDoBeDO was followed by an animated discussion with audience members on collaborative arts practice.
In February 2018, Jonathan ran a two day workshop for Arts Lab called Do Be Do Be Do, The Touching Eye. “Weaving together drawing, movement and film making, our aim was to explore how artists and spectators make and experience art with their bodies, blurring distinctions between movement, dance and drawing.”
“It was a pleasure to work with such an engaged group of people at the February workshop,” said Jonathan. “We were able to raise some challenging questions about how movement and drawing might relate, and had a lot of fun exploring them together in the nurturing environment that is Arts Lab. Thank you to Sara and her team. I hope it isn’t long before many more people start to make the most of the opportunities you’re offering.”
In November 2017, Arts Lab worked in collaboration with Dance in Devon during their annual Dance in Time celebration at Dartington. Sara Downham-Lotto, together with the help of Arts Lab intern Anna Donaldson, ran a series of three workshops during the day for intergenerational groups. Exploring dance through painting, the idea was to give everyone the opportunity to express themselves firstly through paint on paper responding to music and then through dance, responding to the visual stimuli that was their painting.
Both activities were executed collaboratively in a spaciuos studio organised in a way that gave the option for participants to work either on the floor or at tables connected end-to-end. Working on a large scale, they were encouraged to respond intuitively to music, expressing themselves freely in paint and pastels on swathes of paper. Free for all were baskets of mutlicoloured pastels, pots of prepared coloured inks, acrylic paints and household paint brushes. Most of the participants explained how they’d never experienced painting in this way before, but were nonetheless excited to have a go. As dancers, they were asked to consider, body movement, gesture and nuance of mark making whilst creating this giant collaborative mural. Everyone really got into it, becoming increasingly bold and expressive as the session unfurled. Once the murals were filled with energetic movement and colour, the paint and brush pots were put to one side and participants were encouraged to respond to the works on paper through their own improvised dance movements. Magic happened! Uninhibitedly, folk kicked off their shoes and immediately filled the hall with extended body movements, all the while referring back to the gestures in paint and pastel on paper. Everyone seemed to really enjoy this process – the opportunity to express freely with art froms that complimented each other so well. (Thank you to Anna for taking the photographs).
In October 2017, the world’s first ever festival of body acceptance took place in Totnes, Devon. “Bodykind is about honouring life in its various forms, rather than comparing oneself or anyone else to an external concept of beauty.” The festival weekend looked at ways of feeling more comfortable in the skin we’re in with inspiring speakers, workshops, art, photography, theatre, dance, film and music.
Looking at size, shape, age, colour, gender, sexuality and disability, Bodykind Festival’s core principles are: promoting inclusivity; illuminating and challenging non-acceptance; celebrating diversity; meeting fear and shame with sensitivity and kindness.
On the final day of the festival, Arts Lab hosted a workshop in the heart of the town. Open to all, we provided the opportunity for visitors to express through paint how they felt about their bodies after the experiences of the weekend.