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Wednesday 25 October 2023

Nothing Gold Can Stay - Open Studio - A Reflection

Naomi Kendrick – Open Studio

1-5pm Saturday the 30th of September


On the eve of International Older People's Day, artist Naomi Kendrick is opening her studio to show her latest work 'Nothing Gold can Stay', A new series of drawings which evoke thoughts and discussion on life, mortality and how we approach the ageing process. Naomi will be Joined by Patty Doran, a social gerontologist from the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group at the University of Manchester. Patty’s research focuses on how communities can support our ageing population.



On a rainy Saturday, Patty and I welcomed people to ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ an open studio showing my recent drawings (see previous post). Having noticed the drawings becoming a catalyst for conversation about ageing and mortality, during their making, I wanted this work to be shown in a way that encouraged these conversations further. As part of her research Patty is interested in having these conversations too, particularly on the absence of preparation for and discussion about dying. This was the first event of our collaboration, a testing ground for future ways of exhibiting the drawings and generating discussion.


The people that visited us were generous, not only with their time, but in revealing their thoughts and feelings on these sensitive subjects….


Visitors came to me in the studio to see the drawings one or two at a time on arrival, they then went to a different room where Patty was waiting with tea, cake and conversation about her research.


Some people responded to the drawings with tears and reflections on their parents, or their own ageing. Others filled the same space with compliments and questions about the physicality of the drawings; the materials, tools, process, how I would preserve them… Two people told me straight that they didn’t want to ‘go there’.


“Beautiful” “thought provoking” “I like the red one best”.


There were many conversations about skin; changing texture, bruising, raised veins in hands, how skin “gives you away” projecting age regardless of how you feel on the inside in any given moment. And of course, the extremes we take to mask it.


Someone was captivated by the idea that the more I worked on the drawings, the more time and effort I put in, the more fragile they could become, increasing their chance of destruction. Someone else put it more directly. “I think this is an act of madness, but I think you know that. And I like it”.


Tea and cake were welcomed (and devoured) as a “counter to the subject matter”.


One person was frustrated with a lack of conversation amongst her peers about their own ageing and deaths (beyond ailments and medication updates). And how the actual words death and dying are never used “even in church”, instead we pass on, are lost or gone.


I was told I am too young to think about ageing (I’m 45) but that it is ok as the drawings grew from my feelings about my parents aging. Which I thought was interesting, are we not all aging? is it not something we should all think about, talk about?


One of the questions from a visitor that particularly stayed with both Patty and I was where are the right spaces to talk about these things?




This Open Studio Event was part of the New Mills Festival



Wednesday 24 May 2023

Nothing Gold Can Stay - A Work in Progress

Fragment, gold ink on Gunnera leaf


Nothing Gold Can Stay


Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So, Eden sank down to grief,

So, dawn goes down today.

Nothing gold can stay.


Robert Frost


There comes a time when you realise your parents will die one day. A horrible realisation first known as a child, perhaps at bedtime, soothed with talk of life being long and mum and dad still being young. As an adult is that realisation any less sharp, more comprehensible with the passing of time?

Stood in the garden late summer, visiting my parents. I noticed dad's gunnera leaves dying back, magnificent giant leaves, beginning to crumble. I turned to see dad and was struck by the connection between the changes in his gunnera's tough skin and the skin of his own arm, bruised and papery now, evidence of illnesses and of his own autumn.

Nothing gold can stay. When we think about mortality and the process of aging there is defiance, resistance, the urge to hold on and to preserve, to keep everyone with us somehow. Rather than focusing on the other, the place I can't even glimpse at, where letting go starts.

This triptych of drawings I am working on (ink and enamel paint drawn directly onto dad's gunnera leaves) are an exploration of these thoughts.


Gold ink, to denote the precious, to preserve and repair.

Bright red enamel paint, defiant bolts of life, vibrant still.

White and silver ink envelop what is already lost.


Work in progress, detail, gold ink on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, gold ink on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, red enamel paint on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, red enamel paint on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, red enamel paint on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, white and silver ink on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, white and silver ink on gunnera leaf.

Work in progress, detail, white and silver ink on gunnera leaf.

I came across Robert Frost's poem 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' a month or so into working on these drawings and it has stayed with me, as I continue to draw.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Fault Lines

'A fault line in a system or process is an area of it that seems weak and likely to cause problems or failure'

'A break or fracture in the ground that occurs when the earth's tectonic plates move or shift, and are areas where earthquakes are likely to occur.' 

 We all have our fault lines.

The paper surfaces of these drawings are crumpled, creased and delicate. The ink lines I make trace and reveal these points of fragility, the parts that disrupt the smooth skin of the paper. While making these drawings I have felt at times like I am healing the creases, taking care of them with a steady hand and stabilising ink. My intention is not to erase these fault lines but to highlight them, telling their story. 



Untitled 2022, white ink, white thread, dowl and glue on black tissue paper. This drawing pushes the balance between fragility and strength to its limits, with the drawn marks descending into a disintegrating surface, caught and held, by delicate thread. Exhibited in 'Re-Call' at Air Gallery Manchester 2022.






Untitled 2022 gold ink and pastel on rice paper. Exhibited in 'Sixty Drawings + Ten at The Whitaker Museum in Rossendale 2022.





Thursday 11 May 2023

'Ukraine' 2022

'Ukraine', ink on tissue paper, 120 x 250cm aprox, 2022

I began ‘Ukraine’ at the start of the invasion and completed it in June 2022, sadly of course the war continues. With each mark made as the horrific news stories rolled in, I was struck by the sense of darkness looming, gathering pace... and with it an increasing awareness of our fragility, as individuals and as communities.

This drawing was created for the exhibition 'Re-Call' which took place at Air Gallery in Manchester in 2022 and it was shown again at 'Drawing (Paper) Show' The Bridewell Studios and Gallery, Liverpool in 2023.






Drawing in Progress

Monday 20 February 2023

One drawing, over one year (2020 - 2021)


I've recently been looking back at photographs on my phone from the pandemic, specifically the first year 2020 - 2021. A story unfolds, first in the general absence of photos and then a rhythm begins, of spring flowers and bees that gave fleeting moments of comfort in the park, interspersed with the results of activities designed to try and entertain my son; painted t-shirts, dens, the odd bit of schoolwork. Things made and posted to me from remote workshops weave amongst this. From time-to-time photographs documenting the progress of a single drawing appear, a drawing gradually being added to in stolen hours, over a year. The fragility and dogged persistence of this drawing sums up much about this time for me.

This drawing went on to be exhibited at the Air Open Exhibition at Air Gallery, Manchester in 2021 where it won the visitors choice award. It was then shown in the group drawing exhibition 'Drawn In' at The Turnpike Gallery Leigh in 2022.

Untitled B&W, ink on tissue paper, 2020-2021


Exhibition Label  - Air Open

I am interested in exploring drawing in relation to different mental states. The fragile of the paper I use, And the delicate ink lines applied over many hours, are important because I see our minds as a kind of internal landscape, that constantly holds a tension between strength and vulnerability. As I apply the marks to my drawings, I am working towards a sense of something descending, rising, or closing in, I often feel that the surface could drown in the marks, or tear at any moment, but it never does. In the delicacy of applying those marks, there is also a sense of healing.

I started this drawing in April 2020 and continued working on it until its completion a year later.


Photo Air Gallery

Photo Turnpike Gallery

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Message in a Bottle - Workshopping in a Pandemic

Frances Judge, Making Conversation, Manchester Art Gallery

This is a reflection on my work as a freelance artist delivering workshops this year for the adult Learning, Early Years and Health and Wellbeing Programs in Manchester Art Gallery's Learning team  and for people with mental health needs at TLC Art Project The Learning team and TLC are doing incredible work, initiating and running multiple projects under the most difficult circumstances.

At the start of the year my role as a freelance artist looked completely different. In essence my job was to gather people together in gallery and community settings and Sure Start centres. These spaces were a place of exchange; exhibitions, artworks, materials, debate, stories and discovery. They were tactile, messy, busy and vibrant spaces, each one a shared experience of art and a route to togetherness that we will never take for granted again.

These physical spaces disapeared over night in March, the gallery's exhibitions and artworks retreated into it's website, mounds of materials, untouched, behind cuboard doors. And of course, the people were gone, there was such silence.

'Penny the Cat', Jonathan, TLC Art Project

Social isolation is not new, though I work with large numbers of people with very different lives across multiple projects, it is an issue that crops up repeatedly. The reasons for this isolation are many and complex, for example; becoming a parent for the first time when your family live in a different country, being agoraphobic, or waiting years for your new guide dog and having to rely on friends to guide you outside of your home.

Covid brought isolation for everyone, in a way we could never have imagined. How could I reach people now, without the space, artworks, materials, gesture, touch?

Postcard Project, Tony, Making Conversation, Manchester Art Gallery

One route was technology, making films, zoom and social media. Like most people, I have dabbled in these this year, however this has not always been the right route. Many of the adults I work with don't use technology for economic reasons, disability or personal preference. And everything the babies and early years children needed was physical; drawing tools, paint, reflective surfaces, textured fabric...We learned early on from our Sure Start partners that some families lacked even the basics such as paper and scissors.

My working method changed to delivering workshops by post, email and over the phone. To supply materials, we formed a production line, filling the gallery's atrium and sending them out in boxes to hundreds of families I may never see, a message in a bottle.

Materials for babies born in lockdown, Manchester Art Gallery in collaboration with Sure Start

My approach to workshops has always been that they should be participant led, a two-way conversation. Ideally each workshop is a space I make which gently nudges people towards their own ideas, making and discovering. I plan a workshop and over the years perhaps come to know how people may respond, but really most of the work happens in the moment, it is about noticing, gesturing and encouraging the people in front of me. This year, without people, I found myself working blind.

I shifted to working by memory, having to place faith in my previous experience. Materials chosen for babies and young children that I know other children responded well to in workshops past, films suggesting how to explore materials or mindfully make marks were 'performed' by imagining people beyond the camera. Positive feedback has come back out of the ether I am delighted to say, but I would have loved to have been there the moment each of those boxes of materials were opened, or when the first marks were made...

Music drawing, Jonathan, TLC Art Project

One place where I have felt able to work with people in a way smilar to the call and response of a 'normal' workshop, is through phone calls. Phone calls were initially simply a necessity, I needed to audio describe artworks and workshop plans to blind and visually impaired people who live alone, or phone people who do not use, or have access to, technology. However, I have come to favour the phone calls as a remote workshop method. A phone call allows for an immediate two -way conversation, less self conscious than zoom, a perfect combination of intimacy and non-visual anonymity.

These conversations can, and do, meander in interesting ways. We begin with artworks I have described or printed out and sent through the post, or an artwork the person I'm speaking with has made and described to me. Inevitably questions, stories, memories, the things and people we miss, all tumble out in response to those initial artworks, taking us further and further away from the start of the conversation where my question "How are you?" is rarely met with a positive response. Art takes us somewhere, sometimes it brings us face to face with our feelings and fears about the pandemic and at others it takes us somewhere funny, tender, beautiful. And I say we, because I am not a machine, these points of contact have been beneficial to me too.

Anonymous, TLC Art project

There are of course disadvantages to working one to one over the phone too, removing the framework of a physical setting and other people, means that lines can become easily crossed, and it can be emotionally draining. Something I always have to keep an eye on. However, for me, the benefits far outweigh this. I am able to reach people who are not only bound to their houses temporarily beacuse of Covid restrictions but long term, because of disability and mental health issues. I am able to tailor workshops to an individual's specific needs and intersts, to go on a significant journey with them in a way you can't when working simultaneously with a group of people. Gaining such detailed understanding of different people's relationships with and responses to art, feels like both a luxury and a place of learning for me.

Every call has to end and more often than not it ends with "when will we be back at the gallery", "When will Grovsner Street be open again?", "I really miss everyone, how long do you think it will be"?

Each workshop is a community, one person on the end of the phone can do a lot but can never replace that.

Almost a year and so many people have been reached by our work in the learning team at Manchester Art Gallery and the TLC Art Project, technology, post, phone calls and boxes of materials. The strangest, hardest and most revealing of times to be doing this, I wonder what we will take from it when we have had the time to take it all in, reflect, and see what we have achieved?

Thank you to the following for initiating and running these projects, for the work, for the support and for what we have been able to give, in spite of it all! Katy McCall Early Years Manager, Kate Day/Nicola Colclough Adult Learning Managers and Louise Thompson Health and Wellbeing Manager at Manchester Art Gallery and Alison Kershaw and Rae Story at the TLC Art project.

Annonymous, Making Conversation, Manchester Art Gallery

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Drawing Beyond Itself Exhibition - Q&A

Drawing made under hypnosis, charcoal on paper 2m x 1m aprox 

I recently exhibited some work as part of the physical and virtual group exhibition.'Drawing Beyond Itself' at Air Gallery in Manchester 'Drawing has always been used as a tool to slow down and observe the world around us: its material form leaving a record of this experience. But what is the nature of drawing today?
This exhibition intends to challenge pre-conceptions of what drawing is and reflect the diverse range and expanded nature of contemporary drawing in the UK.' Air Gallery

Air Gallery Drawing Beyond Itself

North West Drawing Collective

As part of the exhibition I was asked a few questions about my drawing practice by Jay Ottewell, it was great to respond to these in a year where there have been so many distractions from my practice, so much happening that you start to question the point of thinking about drawing. A few questions in and I realised in a way this is exactly the thing to think about, to hold on to what's important to you, whilst enduring the whirlwind that surrounds us.

In your blog “20,000 thoughts” I found it fascinating in which you said “A friend once told me that we have an estimated 20'000 thoughts a day. A search online and you will discover there is much debate around the exact number, it ranges from 12'000 to 80'000.” and this idea of rhythm and subtle act within your work is apparent. Almost like a reflection of the mind in some way. Do you feel your work tries to capture these thoughts? And do you feel there is a mindfulness to drawing? 

I am trying to make visual the inner world we all inhabit, I am fascinated by that, it is an intangible place but for me it has shape, it shifts and holds its own rhythms. It is those rhythms, and sensations that are at the centre of my work, rather than trying to capture a sequence of individual thoughts.

I am also very interested in the psychological state our mind enters while drawing, and how the process of drawing itself can influence this. For my recent work I have been using very fine ink lines onto fragile paper, this has meant that these drawings take longer, my previous work with sound, and hypnosis were usually made at speed, for example with music drawings the mark lasted as long as a note. While making the drawings I am often reminded of other types of work, such as embroidery, tapestry, quilting, where time, lots of time, are woven in to them and with that, of course, thoughts, memories, daydreams. Often when I draw, no matter what time of day, I will find fragments of a dream from the previous night, appearing in my thoughts

Yes, I think there is definitely a mindfulness to the act of drawing, it is an activity which can place you in a state of flow which is essentially being totally absorbed in the act and the moment. I think your mind wanders when you draw, but the drawing also brings you back from that wandering, to a mark, to what you are trying to achieve. 

'Red Thread', pen, pencil, ink and thread on rice paper

You've also described your “current work consists of thousands of tiny, time consuming, delicate ink lines, drawn on to fragile tissue or rice paper or discarded packaging paper, some have taken years to complete.” Why is using ink on rice/tissue paper as a support important to the work? 

I am more and more interested in the sculptural potential of paper, the stuff of it, how it can be shaped, moved in space and manipulated by touch either by my own hand or through the drawing applied to it. The surface and the marks make up the drawing, rather than the surface just being a support. The fragility of the paper is important because for me that inner landscape, our mental state, holds this constant tension between strength and vulnerability, something I’ve been exploring a lot in my recent drawings. The word ‘Brink’ often comes to mind, and a couple of my drawings are titled this. In my work there is often a battle between something vulnerable or fragile and a weight, a sense of something descending, rising or closing in. In work where there is no obvious mass invading, there remains a tension between the fragility of the surface paper and the multiple wet marks applied to it, the surface could drown in marks, or tear at any moment. But in the delicacy of those marks there is also a sense of healing, almost a celebration of that fragility. In this way the drawings relate to the Japanese art of Kintsugi. 

Can you expand on your relationship between these sculptural, creased forms and that of nature? i.e. you describe familiar patterns to the crumples and folds, like arteries, winter branches, veins in rock that take on this interpretation. 

I think there is an obvious visual connection between nature and ourselves, when you look at medical images, glance down at the formation of veins in your wrists and compare these to a winter tree or a river from above But beyond this, the rhythms, adaptations, fragility and resilience in nature, the movements within it are other but also familiar. Perhaps that is why we are turning to it so much right now, there is comfort in seeing this stuff around us continue, despite it all.

There seems to be this rhythm and bodily movement within your work, is it more about the process and the act of drawing in your work that's important, the outcome or even both? 

All of it, drawing for me is all of these things coming together that make the drawing. From very physical performance work with music, to the quiet, still, medatitive process of my current work. I use the process, my body, sound, hypnosis, and other mental states in the same way as I also choose to use charcoal or ink, tissue paper or a giant roll of cartridge.

Your piece “Drawing Under Hypnosis (free from constraints)',Charcoal on paper” featured in the VR exhibit of Drawing Beyond Itself. How did the interest in hypnosis become part of your practice? 

I had been drawing in response to music, working in collaboration with musicans David Birchall and Dan Bridgwood Hill dbh and knew how powerful sound was in altering my state of mind, shifting it from one unexpected moment to the next (the musicians I worked with were always improvising) I knew of artists such as Henri Michaux who had experimented with mescaline to place them in a particular state and made drawings whilst ‘there’. I wanted to try hypnosis to see how this could work as another space to draw within, and so I began a collaboration with Psychologist Devin Terhune at Goldsmiths University.

Imagery, metaphor, poetry and visual forms shape most artistic and creative practices. Its how we navigate and make our own understanding of the world, and reflect it to others through sight. This sight, pushes our imagination to see new things. In your performances, is there a sensory input to the work? How does the music and the act of drawing change how we perceive drawing?  

Yes there is definitely a sensory imput to the work. Though images dominate our lives, we percieve the world as a whole, with all of our senses, I have always felt that the making and experiencing of art could reflect this more. Drawing has always been a constant but I have also made sculpture, installations, participatory work and performance. The materials used and being hands on for this work is important to me. I want the audience to know this too, to be able to handle the work, carry out the processes themselves, hera it, feel it...

When drawing my physical contact with the paper and the materials is an important part of it. I like the least removed way of making a mark, which is why dust (charcoal and pastels) appear often in my work, applied with the edge of my little finger, a fist, or in the performances, most of my body.

Drawing in response to music charcoal on paper 1.5m x 1.5m aprox

Can you tell us more about your two year Arts Council England funded Research and Development Project 'Drawing as Experience'. As you collaborated in response to someone elses writing. Can you tell us more about this project and how do you think drawing can collaborate other contexts and mediums?

For Drawing as Experience I was trying to take my explorations of drawing as far as I could, capturing and evaluating that. I collaborated with musicians, other artists, a psychologist and workshop participants as part of this exploration. I really enjoy collaborating, I’ve always been slightly envious of the little community that is a band, visual art can be a solitary thing sometimes. I also run workshops and for me art is a jumping off point, a place of sharing and discovering through others, as much as it is a personal act of expression.

Nicola Schofield and I came together firstly through motherhood, I had written a blog post, which she had seen, describing the challenges of adjusting to life as a new parent and financially and mentally justifying making art work. Nicola, as a writer, felt the same, that there was so much we had not been told. We met and both said we wanted to talk about this honestly through our work, we were a bit afraid of doing that, but also knew it was the right thing. We ended up, along with musician Jennifer Hardy, working together to create drawings, music and writing alongside each other and also by responding to one another’s work. This all came together as a play, exhibition and soundscape at The Royal Exchange

I like the idea of ‘responding to’ rather than attempting to translate or illustrate another artform, its then a form of conversation rather than a repetition.

Finally, what are your artistic influences, things that inspire you and help create your work? 

Psychology, Nature, Henri Michaux, Maria Lassnig, Phylida Barlow, Frank Auerbach, Cave art, Anselm Kiefer, Peter Lanyon, Robert Morris, Anthropology, Waqas Khan, Georgia O’Keefe, Joseph Beuys, Janet Cardiff, Simon Woolham, Lygia Clarke, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, William Kentridge, Georgiana Houghton and many more Ive probably forgotten!

Untitled pencil and pastel on paper