Facilitating the Insight Partnership

Outside In’s latest exhibition, Drawing Insight, is a collaboration with the University of Chichester. The exhibition showcases work by Deborah Petch and Yvonne J. Foster. Deborah is an alumni of the University of Chichester MA Fine Art programme and Yvonne is an artist associated with Outside In. Working collaboratively over a three-month period, the artists have shared their creative practice and experienced each other’s way of working. Together and separately, Deborah and Yvonne have created new and insightful artworks. The pair were supported throughout the process by artist and project facilitator Rachel Redfern, who is also a University of Chichester Fine Art Alumni. We asked Rachel to share her experience of supporting this creative partnership.

Reflecting back on the three months of this project I have often felt that I have had a dual role – as a facilitator but also as an artist.  The two are intertwined; you can’t have one without the other to get the best out of working with two other artists. Being paired with both Deborah and Yvonne for the Insight Partnership allowed the accidental to play its part – nobody would have known that Yvonne as the Outside In artist would have a story that would mirror my own. Whilst I had a job to fulfill as a facilitator I was looking at Yvonne and acutely aware at times that I had been and could be sat where she was, the Outsider looking in.

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Rachel (right) with Yvonne (left) at Yvonne’s home in Brighton

Creating art comes from the core of an individual’s head, heart and soul. Collaborating means sharing those inner workings and I didn’t quite understand how hard that could be until I worked on what has been a very intimate project. Larger projects would allow artists to hide something, keep something back for themselves. This was impossible for the three of us. The pressure of that was heightened by the fact that for Deborah art means freedom and the ability to express herself and for Yvonne it is a controlled way of reaching out to the world to tell her story, but also a means of protection. Finding common ground was a delicate and sensitive process. At times it revealed the fragility in all three of us.

What resulted was a focus on differences in scale, speed of execution and materials. Each process reflects the inner workings of each artist. The art became the conversation and the results speak for themselves – remarkable pieces of work that reflect what it means to be an artist. As a facilitator is was important for me that we captured the essence and spirit of how we worked – it is key to how I myself live, work and paint – that drive to uncover the honest truth about what ‘Drawing Insight’ really means.

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Drawings and photographs from a day that Rachel, Deborah and Yvonne spent together at Cissbury Ring

My own practice is increasingly split between the making of art and the business of art. Combining recent creative experience and over twenty years working professionally in business development roles has helped me to pursue a growing passion to be part of coaching, facilitating and implementing projects that allow artists to flourish.

My practice as an artist shows that our lives are reflected in our work and it is sometimes hard to take somebody else’s life into your work (or somebody else’s work into your life). Art magnifies what we feel in every day life and allows conversations that would otherwise be difficult. Having those intimate conversations, working alongside professional artists to draw insight from the making of art has made me realise I am exactly where I was meant to be.

There is fragility in all of us, some hide it better than others and there is sometimes no clear answer to who is an Outsider. Deborah, Yvonne and I have been given the luxury of taking time out of the ordinary to pursue the extraordinary. In a time starved world this is a rarity and the outcome I hope reflects that. For me personally this project has allowed real conversation to happen and art has helped me find my voice around the difficult issues of both mental health and suicide, a voice I hope I can use to good effect.

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Left to right: Deborah Petch, Rachel Redfern and Yvonne J. Foster

Drawing Insight is in the Studio at Pallant House Gallery from 1 to 26 March 2017. Entry to the exhibition is free.

Find out more about Rachel Redfern’s work at rachelredfern.com.

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