Swifts: A Virtual Residency focuses on developing art practice through a supportive communal structure. This intensive 3-day residency brings artists ‘together’ via online platforms for conversations, thinking and listening, while working independently within our individual studios. The residency’s core focus is on developing creative practice in a critical and supportive environment without any pressures of outcome. Committing to a small group of individuals the time will be spent within individuals own studios experimenting, testing, developing, thinking, contemplating, reading, doing/not doing intermingled with two checking in periods within the day and a small group social (virtual) lunch. Working with the spirit of a ‘Thinking Environment’ (Nancy Kline) during these checking in moments we will share, talk, and listen to enable individuals thinking and practice to grow. This is a record of our individual actions and developments through our time collectively ‘together’.

Participants include: Louisa Chambers, Victoria Lucas, Danica Maier, Olivia Penrose Punnett, Lucy Renton, Sue Withers


Working in our individual studios we meet three times in the day. Here are our individual reflections and thoughts from the day’s actions and events.

Louisa Chambers:
Stopping all distractions today by turning off all digital devices (including the radio) and focusing on painting. And it worked! Time has gone fast. I entered the painting ‘zone’.
Trying not to perfect brush marks and over work – always challenging to achieve. Rub off and reapply.
One conversation that came up from the beginning of the residency was about space and the different examples of. For me, I think ‘head-space’ is most appropriate and that I am in constant battle with. The mind being fragmented due to demands from work (teaching / university), life (being a parent) and AOB – not helped by addictive technology.
Next time I am in the studio I intend to turn off my devices. If you are trying to contact me, you know where I am! Thank you for your suggestion Vic Lucas.

Victoria Lucas:
Technology connects society in a way that makes it hard to let go. A mediated mindfulness walk provided an intimate connection this morning, as six explorations of respective local terrain were experienced at the same time via video link. The enjoyment of this collective action was heightened by the silence that followed, as phone and laptop were purposefully disconnected from the internet for the majority of the working day. This residency has gently reminded me of the benefits that these moments of complete solitude bring, particularly when interspersed with meaningful dialogue, listening and reflecting with others. Slowing down the processes undertaken over the past three days has opened up new methods of thinking through materials.

Danica Maier:
As Joanna Colenbrander comments in her Author’s Note and Acknowledgement section of Fryn’s Biography. ‘It has since taken me almost as long to diminish as it took to collect, echoing, a familiar dictum of Fryn’s to would-be writers that the art is not in what you put in but in what you take out.

Portrait origin: mid 16th century: from French, past participle (used as a noun) of Old French portraire ‘portray’.

My time during the residency has focused on drawings and writing – both connected to the same body of work. They intersect but are divergent – both a portrait but of who?

Whose story am I telling Fryn’s or mine or …

Lucy Renton:
Testing, testing….

The silent walk today with all of us on video WhatsApp was a great start to the day and a new sensation of online interaction and community.

After 2 days of studio work that focussed on repetitive production, today I was ready to start manipulating some of these elements, and also sort through some disassembled elements from previous installations and unfinished works, seeing them afresh after months of being packed away. It was slower and more thoughtful day for me, punctuated by a lunchtime discussion with Livvy and Danica around Provenance and Process, with each of us recounting the ‘ghosts’ in the past lives of a ring we own. By the end of the day I had made several some physical ‘sketches’ which have enabled me to plan the next steps for various works.

For me, the experience of this residency has been incredibly positive and supportive, with a great structure developed by Danica and Louisa to encourage active listening, digging down into our individual processes and practice. It feels different from, but certainly not less than, a physical residency and something I’d love to repeat in future.

Livvy Penrose Pennett:
I go into the fog and trust something will be there.
Robert Altman

Today I found something, not an epiphany or a hallelujah, but something good in a more grounded way.

The mornings residency began with a collective mindful walk which I brought back with me. In the field I looked for the corner, then went to discover it. What was there was hedge, wire fencing, grass cutting or hey, a brick or two, a tire and, another threshold out to the next field. The process of walking toward, getting there, discovering and being there was so gratifying after having been looking at my collected images of the same thing through time. In the studio I played with the multiple realities and hybridity’s co existing in different mediums, layering and reflecting them back again.

Trust, faith, and collective art practice have all been important these last few days but also a more feminist relationship to authorship, I think. I’m looking forward to thinking about this more.

Sue Withers:
Thinking about all the things I’ve been avoiding thinking about, and realising how necessary it is to just play with materials for a few days. A strategy to avoid over-thinking, a time for discovery.

This time spent with other artists has been a time to cherish. Many conversations revealing shared interests or concerns, and provoking new possibilities. As the world outside begins to intrude, I struggle to articulate how much I needed this time.
Prolonging the playfulness for a while longer, a basketball hoop bedecked with a once luxuriant feather boa. The pleated foil ‘collar’ is more promising with the chrome hoop, although perhaps leans too far towards a budget 1970’s sci-fi aesthetic, than the glamour of the Met Gala.
Seeking elements of the natural world, I planted some cuttings, one in a balloon, one through the hole in a stool. Fingers crossed, hoping for growth.


Day 2: Tuesday
All working in our individual studios we meet three times in the day. Here are our individual reflections and thoughts from the day’s actions and events.

Louisa Chambers:
A different ‘feeling’ rainy day that is having an impact on the light in the studio in comparison to yesterday. I have started reading a monograph on painter Thomas Nozkowski written by John Yau. Curious to read about his influences and decisions made with colour and shape in earlier ‘art-making’ and how this informed later paintings.
One of the images in the book featuring a small work on paper with scalloped edges- the patterns derive from tiles that he encountered on a visit to the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. I too was taken aback by these black and white patterned tiles at what is my favourite archaeological site in Rome.
Discussions in small breakout lunch group were centred around edges in various guises (cities, fields, the Enclosure Act, and edges in paintings – more my thoughts over the day) plus holes found in clothes (deliberately made or just worn out) and appreciation (or lack of) through the generations.

Victoria Lucas:
Non-human cultures are learned through haptic encounters… female knowledge crosses bodily boundaries, soaking through the skin like a soothing balm. As the first plants to colonise the land, moss communities have supported the evolution of species across the biosphere. This unified female entity is all knowing, a true matriarchal power. She has been at the centre of my writing, and a narrative is forming… led by the delicate exploration of image, text and materiality. The female artist is seduced by her powerful non-human presence, and her body undergoes a transformation, as the moss imparts her genetic knowledge and is embodied. The resulting avatar speaks of suspended animation, control, resilience and reincarnation. She speaks of growth from acidic soil, of sensuality and of turning to stone. These abstract narratives weave facts, histories, perspectives, myths, events and cultures together to form new meaning in place.

Danica Maier:
Over a few years now I have been on a journey with Fryn Tennyson Jesse. Exploring her life and my past, remembering and imagining both, separate yet together. At times I am inhabiting her memories and imaging mine. Playfully exploring and reproducing her memories; to inhabit them, to understand them, to know them. Playing with her stories until they become like mine own. Playing with her stories until they intertwine with my own story. Braided together, her and I – like ribbon and ash. There are works I’ve explored, played with, tested that are complete – finished and gone – only part of my memories. Do they need to be within the final exhibition? It makes me ponder – where is the work? What is the ‘work’? Does it have to be completed – can it be held in the process? Is an audience of one enough? Is an audience of none enough? Is an audience of me enough? Am I a one or a none?

Lucy Renton:
Day 2 and some colour coming in. After discussions yesterday with Sue and Louisa about how we choose colour palettes, I made a deliberate decision to work today with colours I normally dislike working with, that don’t appeal to me, or I feel are not in harmony with one another, to try and set up some dissonances. This was a much slower process than the priming yesterday as many of the acrylics I was using had a degree of transparency and it’s taking quite a few coats to achieve the flatness and intensity of colour I am after. I’m prepared to abandon all these and start again if it doesn’t work, but I want to create a sense of surprise and challenge for myself in putting some of these together in test arrangements tomorrow. Then I can see if I am happy the level of finish on these surfaces so far, or whether I need to go back to the heavy oil-based gloss paints, or some other combination of materials.

Livvy Penrose Pennett:
Waiting for gum arabic to arrive and meld with the ink in my photocopy I made a monoprint. But, a single image can’t hold everything. One single thing, so flat and representational cannot hold all of the fields I’m thinking of. Installation can at least interject in the milieu.

When you depict something rural, you seem to come into contact with the whole of landscape painting history. Constable. And that inquiry about why things look the way they look, the effects of production, who’s it for, who can access it, who can enjoy it , the politics contained in these spaces, that seems to be pushed under this chocolate box thing that we all recognise and never was real. So how can you access what’s really there, and what it actually is?

Sue Withers:
Thinking about things that are worn out, frayed, tired or deflated, the mesmerising iridescence of bubbles and the shiny, sometimes trashy, glamour of foil.

Reclaiming the studio from the accumulated clutter, I found gorgeous, glittery marbles, many deflated balloons, a bag of hardened giant marshmallows, a box of dried tangerine peels, each carefully removed to remain whole – curling and petal-like. Rediscovered a selection of desiccated fruit and vegetables including one apple, two blackened bananas and a divided red cabbage. Having used fresh oranges and butternut squash in earlier work, I wanted to explore something rotten or decomposing, so now need to consider all three states.
Tested a pleated kitchen foil ‘collar’ on a basketball hoop, but rather than spectacular and aspirational, it seems too domestic. It maybe is more successful with the chrome hoop on order, but plan to try some other materials tomorrow.
More constructive playing with bobble hats, balloons, and Birkenstocks in socks. Finally, a pair of tired, deflated and dirty balloons and sparkling marbles in a soap dish.


Swifts: A Virtual Residency
Day 1: Monday

Today we started this short 3-day virtual residency. All working in our individual studios we meet three times in the day. Here are our individual reflections and thoughts from the day’s actions and events.

Louisa Chambers:
Today I have been working on three paintings concurrently and slowly finding my rhythm, enjoying the natural light in the studio from the warm summery sunshine. I have been thinking about colour decisions that I make during the process of painting and why I make these decisions. Why do I prefer some colours over others? Shapes are starting to break down within the depicted forms in the paintings. I am seeing them more as separate geometric fragments; however, each of the shards are connected through their colour tonal values. This is apparent in one of the paintings depicting a form that is reminiscent to a hat. These thoughts on colour were initiated through the earlier lunch time break-out sessions with Lucy Renton and Sue Withers.

Victoria Lucas:
A calligraphy pen is used to scrawl down abstract narratives, as black ink is applied to a roll of cheap, cream paper. The awkwardness of writing in this way focuses the mind, the process of articulation slowed enough to allow the words to form. Where the words arrive from I do not know; they spill from my subconscious on to the page by way of the black liquid suspended on the nib of my pen. Many years have passed since I last wrote with ink. The increased efficiency of tools such as the ballpoint or keyboard have enabled me to keep up with a quickened existence. But the demand for quick thinking shortens the attention span, and the feeling of inky fingers as I admire the words interspersed by dark smudges and drips reveals the benefits of prolonging modes of thinking.

Danica Maier:
Today was a good grounding for where I want to be – focused on making artwork, both in writing and drawing. I spent a good part of the morning grounding myself back into thoughts and reflection I’ve had previously around the for ongoing project in which I’m focusing on Fryn Tennyson Jesse. It was good to revisit thoughts and refresh ideas. To questions previous decisions and assumptions. To get started – even though I’m sure this starting point is mostly crap – it has started. The process is always hard at frist, then rubbish is created then I get some interesting stuff before moving on to perhaps the good or almost good stuff. It is a process that needs to be gone through although each time is it hard to start. I do trust the process even though each time it is still hard to get started. I have now, started. Tomorrow I hope will flow easier.

Lucy Renton:
Space Exploration. The day started with a meeting of the artists and a minute of quiet and appreciation of the moment and the spaces we were in. This residency seems to be all about space for me at the start; going back into my studio space after months of lockdown, a short space away from my academic job that has been crazy busy in the last few months, a space for my head to readjust, my eyes to refocus on something other than a screen, a space to talk, discuss, reflect and explore some ideas that have been locked down like me since March.

I’ve started with a production line of primed canvas shapes that I’m intending to paint and manipulate in a development of a previous work ‘Blown’. I want to make a stock of elements I can build into a larger work, and this repetitive templating, cutting and priming allows me head space to consider ways in which this might go, and a comforting reintroduction to my studio. At the end of day one, the floor is covered with nearly 100 white pieces drying overnight, waiting for their transformative coats of colour.

Livvy Penrose Pennett:
In my studio, day one of the Swifts Virtual residency, I have been arranging photos, digital and medium format with fields from rave’s, fields from childhood, and fields from University exploring, all together. Projecting slides over the top and adding glass, I reflected on how this familiar set up is what I’ve come to know my studio as, I remember when it was new.
Each field seems to be an open book until you reach the edge with your eye. Here it can disappear into green darkness, fog, mist and obscurity. These edges are hotspots of biodiversity, harbouring all kinds of wildlife and flora. These edges of green that hold on to the dew the longest are relatively recent arrivals, from the 18th century enclosure acts which parcelled up lands and stopped access. I’m not sure how this makes me feel about something I thought was so eternal. But this is my focus over the next few days along with reading reflecting and coming back to my studio space after what feels like a long time this time.

Sue Withers:
Thinking about bubbles, bobbles, balls and balloons, searching for the unanticipated, the ridiculous or extraordinary amongst the familiar and commonplace.
I’m enjoying the tension between the inflated, the deflated and the gravitational pull of sand filled balloons, but need to play more with scale to find something unexpected. The udder-like sand filled forms seem too polite, and need to be more pendulous, more extreme.
I had been planning to work with some furry hats, but instead came across a collection of bobble hats. The combination of the woolly bobbles protruding from both the top and underside of the seat, the hats ‘worn’ by balloons seem more satisfyingly incongruous, so some progress, perhaps.
Later, I finally taught myself to blow a bubble-gum bubble, first in the conventional way, then using a balloon pump. Time well spent!