Smile! Exhibition – Nenagh Arts Centre

Smile! Exhibition

Smile! Exhibition Artist Statement 

Leisa Gray

When I was asked to make pictures for an exhibition that could be displayed outside Nenagh Arts Centre we had been living with Covid-19 and the restrictions it brought for 16 months. I thought carefully about how to invite people to join in, I wanted to encourage thought and hands-on activity without asking too much. I wanted it to be fun and joyful, not too heavy. I wanted to make an activity for people of all ages that let everyone respond in their own unique way.

I asked a question of the people who volunteered to take part: what makes you smile? 

I ran workshops and gave out packs of materials that included brightly coloured wool felt fabric and cotton threads. I hoped people would express their ideas and individuality using vibrant shapes and stitches.

I like to work with wool and bright colours, the textures are soft and easy to cut and manipulate. I started thinking about “Fuzzy Felt”, which is a children’s toy that I played with as a child in the 70s in England. Fuzzy Felt involves making pictures on a background using coloured shapes of felt; there were farm animals, circus acrobats, dancers, trees and buildings and worlds could be made from it. 

I encouraged the people who made pictures with me to be inspired by Fuzzy Felt and to use bold simple shapes. I like the fact that the felt has a three dimensional quality to it, it gives depth to the pictures.

My picture features a swimmer floating in open water, a lake. I regularly swim in Lough Derg and have a big smile on my face when I am swimming. I love the feeling of being immersed in the water and surrounded by nature. 

I would like to thank every single person who took part and the community group leaders who introduced me to these enthusiastic and skilled picture makers. It has been a joy for me to see these pictures and to meet and share stories and smiles with the people who made them. 

This project is funded by Creative Ireland Open Call & Tipperary County Council

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Nenagh Arts Centre,
Banba Square,
Co. Tipperary
E45 NX26
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