This article first appeared in Sligo Now magazine July 2018 edition
Imagine to Imagine was an art camp for artists, students and art enthusiasts that was held in The Model, Sligo. To gain an understanding of this unique workshop, which took place in June, Rebecca Kennedy spoke to facilitating Artist, Lillian Scholtes, and a few of the workshop’s participants. Imagine to Imagine was held as an extension of Future Perfect, an exhibition that saw sixteen contemporary German artists exhibit their work. The show contained a kaleidoscope of mediums, including films, photographs, sculptures, objects, paintings, and collages, so it was a rich well of material on which to base a workshop. Among the artists featured in the exhibition, were prestigious German art-group DAS INSTITUT, Cyprien Gaillard and former artist-in-residence Yorgos Sapountzis.
When entering the room in which the workshop was held, it was easy to see that when The Model advertised Imagine to Imagine as a multi-media workshop, they meant it. Glitter dusts the floor, sheets of lavender and mauve fabrics are draped from the roof beams, and what looks to be a large make-shift boat is assembled in the corner. Scholtes, the facilitator of the group wanders from participant to participant, offering advice and assistance. ‘I do not criticize,’ said Scholtes, who seemed repelled by the very idea of it, ‘I am not here to criticize anyone, I am just a presence in the room that may help if needed.’ And help she does, at one point in the morning, Scholtes could be seen helping one participant wrap another, mummy-style, in metallic gold sheet paper. Scholtes is a seasoned artist who works predominantly with sculpture, but she never misses a chance to facilitate a workshop, as she sees education as an integral facet of her practice. ‘I understand my practice as being educational as well as artistic. My work is set everyday between education and practice, the lines are blurred.’
Imagine to Imagine is what could be called a ‘response’ workshop, meaning that the participants began the workshop by spending some time in Future Perfect, to get inspired before the workshop began. The depth and breathe of work exhibited was certainly reflected in the range of work produced in the workshop, be it 2D, 3D, video or performance, it was represented.
Imagine to Imagine was free-form, so participants could make anything they desired, without the restriction of an objective. Scholtes, who tours along with the exhibition, has held this workshop around the globe and knows what to expect. In order to encourage those who take part in the Imagine to Imagine to break free from their comfort zone, Scholtes advises her workshop to make first, and think later. ‘If you approach with form and not meaning,’ said Scholtes, ‘it’s an invitation to talk. The material just allows you to make whatever is in your head a physical thing, so you can share it. Sometimes a participant might have an idea of what they want to make before they make it, whatever they want, I do not criticize.’
Expression is the key theme in free-form workshops like Imagine to Imagine, which have become increasingly popular since the recent revival of age-old practices like mindfulness, meditation and art therapy. The benefits of an art practice in terms of mental health has long documented history but there are many other benefits for participants, like Maggie Hedge, who had this to say on the workshop, ‘It took me out of my comfort zone in the Ox Mountains, and it presented us with different materials, which is great because I usually just do the gardening. It’s me time!’
Imagine to Imagine also offered its participants the opportunity to build on their own knowledge and improve their skills by picking-up tips from an experienced artist, which was certainly a draw for some of the classes participants, many of whom had been practising some form of art for years. An example of this was Scholtes demonstration of how exhibited art can be read in context with one another. While a piece may conjure a certain frame of thought on it’s own, that frame of thought may be challenged when read in the entirety of the exhibition. ‘We looked at how things are connected,’ said Scholtes, ‘like the work of DAS INSTITUT. Their is work made from many different mediums and they are each made at different times but together, they tell a complex story.’
Others, particularly the teenage members of the workshop were drawn to social element of the workshop. Sometimes, living along the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way can have it’s disadvantages, one being that it can be difficult to find those who have similar interests to your own, particularly if those interests are niche. Workshops like Imagine to Imagine give participants the chance to meet like-minded people who can expose you to new tricks of the trade like: framing ideas, art by artists you’ve never heard of, galleries and museums to explore, and even new music to listen to. There are many fringe benefits in the workshop community. Workshops can also function to rejuvenate any underlying artistic ambitions and motivate those who already practice. After immersing yourself in a busy workshop, many will find a desire to work at that concentrated rate. Many artists report an urgency to dive back into their artwork with a rabid work ethic after a workshop.
This proved true for Shannon Rae, the educational assistant at The Model, who was tasked with assisting Scholtes. Rae found the work of many of the participants inspiring, particularly Maggie Hedges’ work, ‘Shipwreck,’ an installation she created while meditating on the refugee crisis. ‘It’s really captivating because it’s explores so many materials in fleshing out the idea. I think that taking everyone out of their comfort zone proved to be very energizing.’
Imagine to Imagine came to an end after five days, with an offer for the participants to make a short presentation about their work so they could further discuss the ideas that had inspired them. The art camp was a great success, with many participants remarking that they hoped the workshop would be held again soon. We can only imagine that it was the formula of Scholtes workshop that won her class over, perhaps we all need a little bit of freedom and some well organized chaos in our lives.