As mentioned in the previous post, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Collemacchia and tried to refrain from researching too much before I arrived. One thing that I did find out about, prior to embarking on the residency, was the presence of votive shrines in the area.

I’ve been interested in votives for a while although I’ve never had the opportunity to research them thoroughly and my attraction to them has been based mainly on aesthetics. I’ve briefly researched images of ceramic or metal votives, crafted to represent specific body parts, and Mexican ex-votos and retablo. A number of things drew me to these items; their folk-art quality, the boxes or frames that the votive shrines are housed in, the scale of smaller shrines, the use of bright colours, patterns and symbols and the breakdown of the body or ideas into isolated objects (e.g. a single eye or hand). I’m not a religious person and because of this, I didn’t really think of the votives in terms of spirituality. I found it a struggle to connect with the idea of directing time, energy and belief towards these objects from a spiritual standpoint and chose to appreciate their qualities as objects and works of art.

When I found out there were votive shrines in Collemacchia, Filignano, and Venafro, I asked Tracy (one half of the Museum of Loss and Renewal and host of the residency) where the sites were but she only specified one which was situated on a path in the middle of a wooded area; difficult to find without direction. The rest of the 17 that I managed to find were displayed in villages and towns; mainly outside homes or churches. There were statues, usually housed in alcoves or small cabinets, and majolica tiles showcasing more flair and colour. The tiles were made in Naples by craftsmen and apparently, some of the text contains spelling mistakes where the text has been copied verbatim, from the request or commission, without making corrections.

I photographed all of the votive shrines I found and I’m researching further into the majolica tiles and the images adorning those. The statues that were housed in niches and cabinet structures have been a source of inspiration for a series of small lino cuts. I began working on these prints while in Collemacchia and have continued adding images to the collection since I’ve returned to the UK. As well as capturing the statues and votives I have also incorporated other niches that I found cut into walls in the villages. They contained weeds, pieces of old pipe, rags and other mundane items but I’m interested in the way their appearance and the framing of objects within the recesses mimics the aesthetic qualities of the structures housing the religious icons.

I’ve included some of the photos and images of my sketches and initial prints. This is an ongoing project and eventually, I’m aiming to build up a body of work around this subject, though there’s a lot of research to do.

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In July I travelled to Collemacchia, a tiny village situated in the National Park of Abruzzo in the Molise region of Italy, to take part in an artist residency with The Museum of Loss and Renewal.

I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a residency before, the closest I’ve been previously was a couple of day trips to Nelson and Colne in Lancashire in 2016, so this was a fantastic new experience for me.

I entered into the situation with various to-do lists related to how I would structure my time and a vague plan to try cyanotype printing, due to the bright sunlight. I carried out very minimal research about the area and its history opting instead to enter the space quite blindly.

I had a naive idea that upon arriving in Italy, myself and my practice would transform into something else, more confident, experimental, intuitive. Even when I applied for and was offered the residency, I had outlined a proposal that involved interaction from the residents of the village, despite being unable to speak Italian and being quite a naturally introverted person.

This proposal gnawed slightly at the back of my mind in the run-up to and throughout the first few days of the residency and I felt an underlying sense of guilt that I had not prepared or even attempted to reach out to any of the residents. Thankfully I moved past this guilt (for the most part) and came to a point where I accepted what I made, observed, documented and noticed, as unique to myself and my outlook as an artist. The two weeks were important in offering consecutive days to make, think, read, draw and have demonstrated that this may be an important part of my process of making work although how I continue developing the work and expanding my research will also determine how useful the time was as a model for the future.

I’m aiming to slowly document my experiences in Collemacchia alongside the continuing explorations into themes and research topics that came out of the residency period. As I head into the second year of my MA I’ll be continuing to expand this body of work and this blog will accompany the progress.