We are doing a project at the Jean Bishop Integrated Health Centre with Artist Rachel Welford. We asked Rachel Welford, to discuss her role and concept for this project.
The uplifting effects of nature and its positive influence on our health and wellbeing is well established. And with a brief to make artworks appropriate to a healthcare setting I decided to take nature as the overarching theme for the series of artworks I’m creating for the Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre. More specifically, the four elements form the anchoring focus for the project. Air, Water, Fire and Earth are taken to represent our primal connection with nature.
I also wanted to make links between each of the four elements and the local area from a historical or sociological perspective. So I researched the local area and its natural and industrial history.
Flight is the related natural focus within the air element, so I am developing artwork using the birds of the Humber Estuary as the inspiration. Silk banners will be suspended within the double height atrium, and will gently move as they interact with air currents. Each banner will relate to a specific species of bird. Feathers will the inspiration for works on paper too.
Air is linked to local industry in the form of wind turbines. I find the shapes of the blades fascinating, and so will be making glass artworks with a geometric focus based inspired by the turbines.
The shape of water-ways is the natural theme here – the curves of the rivers, the wavy lines created by rivulets trickling through the mudflats as the tide recedes. The docks are my chosen industrial link to water. I find the geometry of industry incredibly inspiring, and using drawings and photographs, I’ll be making glass tiles based on these themes.
Flora – grown from the earth – is the starting point for my work on the earth theme. I’ll be making prints from actual plants, which will be framed as artworks and also used as imagery within a series of glass panels. Before it was built on, the site of the Care Centre was marsh land, and so wetland plants and grasses, and plants found in the docks area will be the focus for these artworks.
The Care Centre also is home to a Fire Station, so it is particularly relevant to include fire as a theme. Fire was a difficult one however, I do find flames beautiful, but care has to be taken to avoid referencing fire’s destructive capabilities in a setting where it is important to keep things emotionally uplifting. After much deliberation I decided not to portray fire, but to use fire in the creation of the artworks. So, glass pyrography is the medium here – drawing with molten glass from a furnace! It’s going to be fun! Glass is gathered on a metal rod (normally used for glassblowing) and then allowed to dribble onto paper. The glass is left just long enough to make scorch marks, then moved before the paper sets on fire! Once it has solidified, the curvy glass tendrils used to make the scorch marks will be collected and exhibited too.
I’m intending all the artworks I create to be beautiful and give a sense of joy, and to be effective from a distance yet reward closer inspection with intricacy and attention to detail.
Artwork representing each element will be placed in a different area within the centre, giving harmony and coherence whilst also aiding wayfaring.
Prior to developing the designs, I led a couple of practical workshops in the Care Centre, giving staff and patients the chance to learn about the project and the type of materials and techniques that will be used in the artwork. Some lovely tiles were made using glass, wire and glass powders. And the experimental session printing from real plants produced some great images too. These will be displayed in the Care Centre along with my own artworks.
Production is now commencing! So there’ll be more blog posts soon, showing how it’s coming along.
Photos by Jerome Whittingham and Rachel Welford.