Springlines

Exhibition proposal for art and poetry collaboration

Two award-winning artists, poet and writer Clare Best and painter Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis, embarked on a major collaborative project to explore water sources in Sussex, a county where water has always been scarce. Supported by the South Down National Park, the project aims to help communities reconnect with cultural and historical aspects of water.

What did they need?

To extend their work to exhibitions, collaborations, workshops and talks, Clare Best and Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis needed to submit a proposal that would forge partnerships, convince sponsors and showcase the project’s many layers of sophistication.

The proposal needed to project their creativity, exposing process with unfinished art and early sketches for poetry, showing extracts from journals, notebooks, and photographs of important sites. It seeks to help people think about their relationship with water – in domestic, agricultural and industrial contexts – to protect and celebrate water as a precious nature resource. With the help of experts, it shows how water has shaped our landscapes across history, with springline settlements, dry downland grazing, with legacies of the Tudor iron industry, brewing, brick-making and milling.

What did I do?

I led the design of the proposal to double as an art piece. It clearly expresses the abstract and fragmentary nature of the project: a curation of six years collaborative work. It visually integrates short poetic pieces with water-inspired artwork, notes, historical information, all connected by a brilliant and convincing narrative.

  • Empathize: Understand the depth of the work and its richness in history, wildlife, culture and myth. Listen carefully to the project needs as an art piece that informs and inspires.
  • Define: Help structure fragmented pieces created and gathered over six years. Reflect on art pieces that may contextualize mixed media in a printed format. Consider the constraints to showcasing project detail that could be concealed or hampered by a limited format. For instance, poetic layout and scale of individual art pieces / artefacts.
  • Ideate: Consider how best to showcase the many layers of sophistication as a proposal for potential partners and sponsors. Innovate ideas with the collaborative team. Continue to actively listen to suggestions. Reflect on how to translate ideas and frame content.
  • Design: Use a sophisticated grid to aid creativity and enhance flexibility for content changes. Honour content throughout design process and return to ideation phase for individual features.
  • Build: Make files print ready and organise production, with a cost-effective print that honours artwork fidelity.
Key outputs

A considered proposal and accompanying brochure of the work, a fine curation of the collaboration and elegantly collaged. The success of the proposal secured exhibition at four galleries in the local area and London, as well as talks, workshops and a book publication

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