Ali Barker: Artist in Residence at The Everyman & Playhouse Theatres

dot-art have been collaborating with Everyman and Playhouse for now 5 residences in their beautiful theatres. We bring together theatre and visual art by embedding practising local artists within the theatre’s spaces, animating public areas and creating a body of work for exhibition.

Working on site at the theatres for a minimum of half a day per week for 6 months, the Artist in Residence, Ali Barker is introduced to all the people, spaces and activity within the theatre, with access to rehearsals and production areas behind the scenes. The residency results in finished art works to be exhibited in the public areas of the Everyman. 

The exhibition opens Wednesday 13th March and runs until 23rd March. After this, we will be back to our Art in The Ev programme of local creatives producing weekly, fortnightly and monthly exhibitions.

Lucy Byrne our Director says:

By giving these artists the time, space and resources they need to create new work in such a stimulating, varied and animated environment, we are allowing them to develop their practice in creative new ways, producing work in direct response to the theatre and its inhabitants.”

So, let’s talk to Ali and see what she learnt and experimented with over the past 6 months.

How did you feel when you found out you were the next Artist in Residence at The Everyman?

Initially shocked, but also delighted and excited to have been given this opportunity and to be able to dedicate my time to it for a sustained period.

Can you tell us a bit about your current artistic practice?

My work expresses music and sound in colour. I work with a fixed palette to represent the colours I perceive through my experiences of the phenomenon of sound-colour synaesthesia – when listening to music, I perceive notes of the musical scale as specific colours.

These personal experiences are the inspiration and motivation for my artistic practice. I draw upon them, as well as my musical background (I play the violin and viola), to create my abstract paintings. Starting from written music, my perceptions whilst listening to specific pieces, or working from sound recordings I have analysed, my translational processes develop excerpts into colourful paintings, ranging from gestural works to geometric patterns.

I am also inspired by architecture and skylines including complex cityscapes; however, I choose to omit much of their detail and represent these as simplified forms. This is an area of my practice I have been expanding to include interior and exterior architecture of specific places, and to combine this with my experiences of being in those spaces.

What was your original proposal idea for your residency? Has anything changed?

I originally proposed to research, develop and complete a body of work exploring the contrasting internal and external architecture and public spaces of both the Everyman and Playhouse theatres, and combine that with my unique experiences of being in those spaces. I have spent a lot of time on site at both theatres, exploring and photographing architectural details, spaces and views of publicly accessible areas within the buildings and the distinctive external theatre buildings, and observing how the spaces are used by staff and visitors.

The only change has been an addition to the original proposal. I became as interested in what happens behind the scenes of the theatres to put on the performances, and some of the spaces not seen by the public visiting the buildings – I hope to include some of these in my final paintings.

What has been a highlight of the residency so far?

The behind-the-scenes access has really inspired me. There is so much that happens in the creation and running of the theatres that many members of the public may not consider when they come to see a performance – without everything that goes on in the background, the theatre staff, equipment and spaces, there wouldn’t be any shows to go to! A particular highlight for me was being given a tour of The Playhouse by a very knowledgeable member of the technical team, including many technical areas and parts of the building not seen as an audience member. There is a lot of history in both theatres, which I have also investigated as background research during my residency.

You have an exhibition at the end of the residency to showcase the work you produced. What type of work can we expect to see?

I am creating a series of paintings on canvas, which are colourful, abstracted images of the buildings’ interiors and exteriors, but (hopefully) recognisable as the Everyman and Playhouse.

Has this opportunity further developed your practice?

As a standalone project from my work expressing music, this residency has further developed my artistic practice involving the use of sound and my experiences of being in spaces. It has also brought into my thought process the consideration of how people use those spaces. I have had many more ideas during this residency than I can develop into finished paintings within the 6 months of the residency – there may be more to come out of this!

Have you completed any residencies in the past? How have you found this experience?

All my previous residencies have been self-devised and self-funded projects; whilst they, as well as this residency, have been great experiences and helped to develop my practice, I am very grateful to The Everyman and Playhouse and to dot-art for this opportunity and their support.

The residency exhibition at The Everyman by Ali Barker titled ‘Two Theatres, One Vision’ has it’s private view on Thursday 14th March 5:30pm-7:30pm and will run until 23rd March. Please see the opening times and address here.

Discover more of Ali Barker’s work on our online shop!