As part of a ‘Revision’ programme by PEER to reimagine how the gallery works, Engage Here delivered 5 workshops for local children in Hoxton.
Week 1 began with a blank gallery space, which was an exciting opportunity to let the children transform it. Following an introduction to mark-making, the group were asked to stand up and make instinctive drawings to simple prompts. I asked them to not hold back and really pay attention to how their whole body moves when they draw. We then took a closer look at the marks and discussed the techniques everyone had used, it was a fun opportunity for the group to share their favourites. Following that we started to think about sound, firstly in terms of the sounds they were making, when their pens or pencils touched the paper, but then how their drawings could react to sound. Building on the group's heightened awareness, I asked them to draw in reaction to audio from nature, such as rainfall, trees in the wind, thunder and animal sounds. I was so pleased how their sensory awareness really showed in the drawings.
In Week 2 we looked to push the group's drawing techniques further by introducing new media such as acetate, tape and vinyl. The materials have different limitations to pencils and pens, and were not so familiar to the children, which in turn activated a new working dynamic. The rolls of acetate acted as a collaborative canvas, that could move around the room to embrace new input. This shared methodology of creating something, resulted in loss of inhibitions and energetic rhythm to the children's approach. While the tape and vinyl also proved successful, in different ways the group was able to acknowledge the materials pre-defined forms, a reinterpret it.
Week 3 was an opportunity to move from 2D to 3D. Without jumping to an inherently three-dimensional material like clay, this form building process was initially explored through paper folding. The children discovered how folded flat shapes become mini sculptures with some adjustments in structure. The unfamiliarity of the process lent itself to the intuitive approaches promoted in previous weeks, which was important for latter stage of the workshop, decoration, which I was keen for the participants not to overthink. The decoration was mainly achieved through collage, using many of the materials from week 2, to embellish the sculptures with a level of personality and character.
Week 4 saw the introduction of lots of new materials, some recycled such as string and bottle tops, whilst others were natural such as clay. Most of the group embraced the physicality of the clay, enjoying the different levels of effort required to shape it. For instance the tough resistance needed when rolling it, in contrast to the ease of cutting it. Some of the group decided to develop their use of paper by continuing to explore how it could be exploited three-dimensionally.
The final week was chance to explore and develop lots of techniques and methodologies from the previous workshops. The big new introduction was that of paint, something familiar to many of them, but it was a delightful to see them use it in such inventive ways. Many of the children worked large scale with rollers or even parts of their bodies. Some then introduced folding techniques and string to create drawing machines that could generate monoprints. From a collaborative point of view, it was great to watch individuals working together, either co-creating in tandem, or providing each other with instructions as a method of stimulating unexpected output. This workshop was also a chance to engage more with the parents, who highlighted how valuable it was to have a free creative space in the Hoxton. Many of whom enjoy using the local library but don't have the opportunity to create to this extent without the worry of mess. They were delighted to see the children explore their creativity and keen to encourage it in whatever they can back at home.