Meet the third of this year’s recipients of The Arts Society South Downs Dr Andrew Edney Bursaries, artist Clarke Reynolds . The Bursaries of up to £500 are awarded each year to Outside In artists resident in Sussex and Hampshire to support artists’ practice and development and will be available to apply for until 2029. The two other recipients this year are artists Julia Fry and Andrea Mindel
When did you start making art?
For me my journey began when I was very young – my mum always said I could draw before I could walk. From the age of eight all I ever wanted to be was an artist. Unfortunately I had bad kidneys in my teens so never finished school but I’m a fighter and ten years later I gained a degree in model making and was a dental model maker until I started to lose my sight. Now art for me has helped me deal with losing my sight so art for me is my life and no matter my sight loss art is all I ever wanted to do.
How would you describe your work?
My art has changed a lot over the past six years but one thing has always stayed constant – the use of dots – and now those dots mean something as I use Braille as my art practice. I use the power of words as words are important to someone who is visually impaired by taking the description of how we say the word and use the Braille dot to host the meaning. By playing around with size, colour and medium of the dot my aim is to show the beauty in the design of Braille though my art – getting people to ask questions be involved in the art and hopefully learn Braille through my art.
Why and when did you join Outside In?
When I moved back to Portsmouth from Kent I wanted to see if there was an art organisation near me that helped visually impaired people with art that I could join.Outside In came top of the search as I was looking at disability arts. That was just over three years ago. What draw me to it was the opportunity to create a free art gallery, put my name out there as an artist.
How would you describe your journey with the charity?
It has been amazing. Without their help I wouldn’t be receiving the accolades I am now. It started when I applied for a Share Art talk at Fabrica gallery over two years ago. I spoke about a recent residency, talking about sound inspiring my work and from that they offered me to be artist of the month and I’ve not looked back, doing share art at Pallant House on numerous times and becoming ambassador last year, as I’m always promoting them to other art connections I have made. The Step Up course really changed my artistic practice to what I’m doing today. Being able to print Braille in Ditchling Museum of Arts was mind blowing and it proved my theory that Braille is beautiful in design. Outside In staff have always been on the end of phone and since COVID an email away, and for me that is amazing and now to be recipient of this bursary shows I’m heading in the right direction as an artist.
What has been your standout moment as an artist so far?
That is hard question as every action I have had has had an even better reaction.. To be nominated as Best Visual Artist of the Year by the Portsmouth Guide Awards two years in a row is amazing considering I’m registered blind – it means I’m on par with my peers. Having my first solo exhibition last year and for me the best so far is being selected for We Believe project for Portsmouth Creates; my work will be shown around the city and who knows what reaction I will get from this and where that will lead.
How do you plan to spend the bursary funds?
I want to explore Braille as a visual medium through the use of print. Inspired by the Step Up course I want to learn more about how to print inks, paper, the techniques used and use this to create my own bespoke Braille prints in which will inspire larger pieces of work in different mediums. To do this I will engage the services of Tom Boulton, print maker, in workshops and mentoring and also have him create bespoke dies so I can print Braille as you can’t just buy them in the shops. Also, as my Braille is unique, I’ve designed my own print press and will create my own blocks that will fit into it so a portion of the money will go into creating this piece of equipment.
What difference do you hope it will make to your work?
I hope it shows that Braille doesn’t have to be tactile as people who can see will learn Braille through the visual pattern. Showing the design in its pure graphic form, maybe being the first to think about Braille in this form, pushing boundaries and making thought provoking art just like typographers did in using powerful words in posters. I would like to run workshops in the future using my Braille font blocks, teaching Braille through art and I hope it leads to galleries and museums offering me commissions for Braille art.
The biggest thing is it’s just the beginning. As I said it seems like a new art form and I believe it has a place amongst other written art work. Having the chance to experiment with this format will make me a recognised artist not just in this country but globally…