Creatives In Residence #02: Fiona Candy - Artist

01 May 2020 by Ed

In the second of our 'Creatives in Residence' kitchen table stories from Lancashire's creative community in lock-down, Preston based artist Fiona Candy, tells us how she has been progressing her creative practice and staying positive during this difficult time. Fiona has been a designer in the textile and fashion industry, a lecturer in art and design and is now a full time artist.

Creatives In Residence #02: Fiona Candy - Artist

“The global pandemic is bringing our attention to how much we are part of nature, and that we ignore this at our peril.”

Preston based artist Fiona Candy, tells us how she has been progressing her creative practice and staying positive during this difficult time.  Fiona has been a designer in the textile and fashion industry, a lecturer in art and design and is now a full time artist.

“I describe my practice as engaging with perception: sight and also touch, hearing, memory, sense of time, movement. When mind, body and world interact.  Through my work I’ve been able to learn about the growing understanding throughout the world that sustainability depends on an attitude of respect and responsibility towards the Earth.

Last year I ran a series of arts workshop activities. These were devised for people of all ages and levels of art experience, particularly those who feel a connection to nature and enjoy the outdoors, participating and learning alongside others. I call this: ‘Outdoor Art School’.  

The shock of the coronavirus lockdown hasn't involved a change of office or studio location for me, as I’ve been working from home for several years. But of course, it has changed so much else.

Social distancing has radically altered the logistics of organising group sessions, at least for the foreseeable future. Projects I’d already planned, have been cancelled or postponed.  To stay positive in adversity, I saw that the lockdown could provide Outdoor Art School with opportunities for R&D: to review, revise and re-invent. So I decided to use the current restrictions as my ‘creative brief’.

I am very lucky to live in walking distance of Preston’s beautiful Avenham and Miller Parks, and I’ve been going there on my own most days for a brief interlude, to get some fresh air and gentle exercise in the ephemeral qualities of the open space, alongside the river Ribble. 

The weather has been so amazing the last couple of weeks, blue skies, trees bursting into leaf, spring flowers and blossom all around, sunlight sparkling on the water, birds singing their hearts out. I saw people walking alone and together, or running, cycling, pushing buggies, and exercising their dogs. From a distance, the scene had the appearance of a utopian paradise, where people seemed almost gliding, carefree, looking around and soaking up the atmosphere, with myriad shades of green surrounding them.

As I move through the park, I try to empty my mind of distracting worries, and see what catches my attention. I use my phone’s camera as a tool, to compose and capture a frame: an interpretation. Then a theme develops, and I make a series of images as I go along.

“ Intuition gives outlook and insight; it revels in the garden of magical possibilities, as if they were real.” C.G. Jung. 

The knack is simply ‘to ask’ and be open to what presents itself. It's a technique I’ve developed for channeling intuition: to bring ideas into awareness via the unconscious. It’s very soothing and grounding, a way to feel connected to the surrounding landscape. I’ve found it can reveal answers to questions, or suggest new areas of expression.

In this particular lockdown exercise, I’ve been using the hybrid, human-nature environment of the park and the all be it brief sensory experience of being there, as materials to think with and learn from.

 A couple of weeks back, I mostly saw divisions, isolation, grills and locks, seeming to convey tensions between safety and freedom. (Some examples in the first line of the composite below.) 

On a more recent visit I picked up traces of past events, like last winter’s floods, and how these have merged into the landscape to become memories: still present, but slowly eroding. I remembered that the landscaping of the park created work for unemployed cotton workers during the Lancashire Cotton Famine. This deep sense of continuity and recovery was comforting; it helped me to re-calibrate my emotions and begin to accept the loss of normality.  (Second line of images)

At the weekend the mood of the park/my mood, had changed. This time I saw radiating plant structures, the connectivity of leaf veins, also tree shadows reaching out, visible yet intangible. Shadows can be good to think with as they reveal another side of life, just as real but so often ignored. Looking at the images once I was back inside, at home, I thought the shadows were directing me to explore tactility and indicated alternative ways to connect and be together.  I wondered about the ways that web design could be made more tactile and sustaining, reaching out to the senses via audio and texture. More of what the Danes call ‘hygge’.

The global pandemic is bringing our attention to how much we are part of nature and that we ignore it at our peril.  I anticipate that my lockdown insights will be influential in the development of Outdoor Art School’s future activities learning from nature together and apart, by encouraging ways to look at things differently.

You can see more about Fiona’s work here

aa2a.biz/network/user/fiona15  /  fionacandy.uk/blog

Instagram: @instinct_thrives   @outdoor_artschool
Email: instincthrives@gmail.com

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