Frances Bowman: Final Comments

Image above: Roy 2013, Frances Bowman

After the initial induction, training and thinking phase Frances decided to “draw portraits of people as a clearly defined activity that would get me to Parson Cross and get me making things and meeting people there.”

Frances’s enquiry question was ‘What does “working together” mean in relation to art practice, and what does this mean about the value of art for those involved?’ As hse says “I found it hard to formulate a question so this was arrived at through conversation with Steve and Rachael about portrait drawing and my interests and intentions for it. I was confused later when I looked back at the question later and found it didn't make sense, even though it seemed right at the time. On reflection I think that it was not that I couldn't understand the question but rather that I was feeling a resistance towards certain implications of it. Namely issues to do with ways of recruiting and working with people. I often judge socially engaged art as too superficial, and too quick, too uncritical. I thought I didn't have time to sincerely explore this question within the timeframe of one year in a new context and felt scared I might make something that would provide a semblance of social engagement at the expense of participants’ actual experience. I wish I could have realised that this was the problem more clearly at the time. Eventually I changed my research question to - “What identities will me and my sitter create for ourselves, and what connections will we make with each other through the shared time spent drawing/being drawn?”

This meant that Frances was not dealing with the question of how to recruit people to draw. However there were still many discussions about how she might advertise for and attract participants, and whether she should ask for something in return from participants to form an exchange.  “I had a hunch that I was trying to work with something else and didn't want that to get lost in issues of how to recruit and of exchanging artworks with participants which I feel has happened to me before.”

Frances did 5 portrait sittings which were ultimately exhibited at the SOAR Winter Warmer Event on 7th December. Sitters were invited to attend. “Through reflecting on my enquiry question in relation to doing the drawings, rather than being able to answer the question, it seemed to develop into a series of new questions or ideas.”

“I thought I was interested in different understandings of what art is, and the way individuals can arrive at new understandings of what art is. I realised that I am not actually very interested in ideas of art, but in using art activity to arrive at healing, growth experiences. Once I realised that I was interested in healing relationships the interest in the portraits was diminished because I realised that this was what I was really trying to get towards. I was very happy that through undertaking the project I met someone who is working with storytelling and healing for IBS sufferers and that we may work together in the coming year on a series of workshops.”

When asked about how this ARB opportunity has impacted on her pracitce Frances responded "The programme has forced me to reflect on and write about my practice and given me examples to learn from of how other people have done this. This has been a very valuable aspect of the programme. It has given me the push and support I needed to take my practice to a more formal level. It has improved my ability to talk and write about ideas and work. The programme has also given me a valuable opportunity to step outside of my routine life and reflect realistically on where I am going, what kind of work I want to be doing and even where and how I want to live in the future. This has been very challenging but incredibly useful."  

Frances will be undertaking a Preparing to Teach in the Life-long Learning Sector (PTLLS) course from January 2014 and has recently set up SNAP (Sound and Art Projects) CIC with two music teachers to run educational projects.  We wish her luck.