Artist of the Week: Colette Lilley

Words by Sinead Nunes, Editor

Our Artist of the Week has many feathers to her bow: a practicing artist, Colette also co-directs a city centre studio space and has recently scored a residency at the fantastic Arena Studios and Gallery – with an open studio event 7 May.

You are interested in the creative process of the artist – tell us more about this and how this is manifest in your work?

I am interested in how things work and are put together. I first became interested through frustration; I wanted to understand how to improve my practise, not just the practical but also the process.

I came to realise how the creative process needs balance between the freedom to explore and structure with logic and order. I had a lot of freedom but my work did not seem to progress or be able to express what I wanted it to. Through the work I did on my MA I found the balance, giving my creative side direction.

You’ve been co-directing the 104 Duke Street studio space since 2013. Where did the inspiration behind this come from?


The inspiration for setting up the studio came out of necessity, with the sad closure of Wolstenholme Creative Space. Honestly, at first, running our own studio was the last thing we wanted to do, we wanted to be artists concentrating on our own work and did not want the responsibility. But when we came across the space, it was too much of a good opportunity to turn down. It has been a massive challenge and learning curve, but worthwhile for skills we‘ve learnt and how much our art and we as artists have grown.

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What kind of projects can we expect from the artists based there this year? 

We are lucky to have such talented artists in our studio; they range from commercial to fine.  There are quite a few things in the pipeline for our artists from solo shows to some interesting collaborations, the next event for the Studio artists is an open studio for this years Light Night.

How did you get involved with Arena / become part of their residency programme?

I got involved with Arena and the residency programme through one of Arena’s directors and artist Josie Jenkins. Even though we are both from Hull and did our foundations at the same collage, I first met Josie back in 2010 at a crit group I set up with a fellow artist from my then studio Red Wire. The crit group still runs every so often and now Josie and Arena are involved in running the group, this is where the residency idea came from.

What is ‘observational drawing’ and what can we expect to see when we visit Arena once you have completed your residency?

People can expect to see my thoughts drawn all over the walls. It kind of represents what is going on in my head. Automatic writing which shows my verbal thoughts and observational/meditations drawings, which are my visual thoughts that are the gaps between my mind chatting away.

What was it like working on a project for Tate Modern?

It was an exciting and unique experience to be involved in such a big live drawing event. There were over 100 artists selected to draw for one day on the streets of London, drawing memorised buildings from a small village in Poland. It was inspiring to see so many artists at work, seeing different technique and approach’s, as well as the effect and interest of the public.

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How is exhibiting as part of a festival different to your usual practice? Is there more space to experiment?

I found been involved with festivals, like with Threshold, where you are given a brief or where something a bit different may be required, lets you play with your work and can give you a fresh perspective.

I found it practically useful, as working with Threshold’s theme Contrasting Geometries, made my work take a different turn. I’ve always described my mediation drawings as organic, taking on a life of their own but now exploring ideas of boundaries and constraints, which has made my process more balanced.

You talk about ‘meditation’ in relation to drawing – are you a spiritual person and does this influence your practice?

I never intended to be spiritual or my practise to be influenced by it but instead I’d say that it developed out of my work.

It all came out of trying to get my mind to calm down, which I found happened when I draw or do something creativity, which I wanted to understand more about and how it works, which is what lead me to the field of meditation.

Where are your favourite places to go see art in Liverpool?

I feel lucky to live in Liverpool with it having such great galleries like the Tate, the Walker and the Bluecoat. However, my favourite place to see art is at independent exhibitions, open studios – seeing the work of local artists. Each year I really look forward to Light Night and seeing just how many creative people there are in Liverpool and how it is all brought together, big and small, for one night.

What do you anticipate Liverpool’s art scene to look like in the future (thinking about Wolstenholme Creative Space, and other independent venues disappearing)?

When Wolstenholme Creative Space closed down, I felt like a major part of Liverpool’s art scene went with it, but saying this I feel it is slowly coming back. The artists are and have adapted. Getting creative, they are being resourceful and using empty buildings, factories and garages to put on exhibitions, festivals and set up studios. I think Liverpool’s art scene will always be there even if it has go away for a bit, regroup and then come back stronger.

Find out more at / / Follow @colettelilley

On Thursday 7 May, Arena are hosting an open studio event where the work from Colette’s residency will be on display to the public from 7 – 9pm.