Artist in Residence profile — Helen Clifford

© Helen Clifford

© Helen Clifford

1. Explain to us what kind of work you do and what you have been doing up to this point.

I have been concerned for some time with issues surrounding memory and the use of object to bring a physical link to a time or place; and also the creative visualisation of data and material. I attempt to place work within the context of my social and political concerns. This is reflected in a recent project situated in Venice, producing a set of handmade souvenirs of plaster seagulls, painted and distributed to street souvenir sellers, and left in locations across the city. The work was looking at the concept of pests, and celebrating the unwanted and rejected (in this case, the seagull),while playing with the idea an object identifying  a place. Important to this also was the creation of the piece, and the relationship created between maker and object.

2. Over the next few months you are going to be researching and spending time unravelling the eccentric history of Tintern Abbey to our audiences. Where did this initial interest in Tintern Abbey come from and where are you hoping to take your research during your residency?

Tintern Abbey ruins have been depiction and consumed in many diverse forms. I’d like to examine the whole site, its past, people and structure, looking at the history of creative memorabilia within the context of the Abbey.  I see souvenirs as touchstones for memory, (re)creating places, and sensations. I am curious about the relationship between object and memory, and that defines the project for me. The artefacts have the power not merely to act as symbols of our past experiences, but that of the visited site, evoking and animating memories which inform our present self.

3. What interested you about the opportunity to be an Artist in Residence at Tintern Abbey?
I was interested in the opportunity to develop a new area of my practice, having a dedicated studio space and time. Developing the themes that came out of the Venice souvenir project, and within that the material and techniques of crafting multiples.

4. Is it important for you to interact with Community First groups during a residency? In what way?

The community first group I will work with will be integral to this project. The group is based at the Trinity Centre, a charity serving refugees, asylum seekers and others in need in the local community. With no existing relationship between the Abbey and the group, there is an opportunity for the Abbey to be seen from new perspectives, questioning/critiquing. The group will have their own understanding of what a souvenir is, and the importance/significance of the objects associated with a memory.

5. What can we expect to see from you throughout your residency at Tintern Abbey?
I will establish and active making workshop space within the Abbey, making myself visible to the public and encouraging conversation around the project. I would be in the space regularly, building a visible body of work.
I will be visiting the Trinity Centre, initially establishing a dialogue through a series of conversations and workshops. Having built a working relationship working with the groups there, I will organise a visit to the Abbey, introducing the group.  I will be making work with them in the centre, and also in the studio space in the Abbey.
I will be documenting the process through audio recording, writing, drawing, which will be uploaded to a blog. The material that will document the process will also be created by the group, through them being given a camera to record their experience.