Exploring the Outside In galleries with… Clare Gravenell

Transformation is the theme chosen by artist Clare Gravenell for this exploration of the Outside In galleries.

About the theme:
I’ve been contemplating life and death more in this period of self-isolation. Since the age of 15, I have experienced extreme fear and panic attacks whenever I considered not being alive. Decades later I still have an uncomfortable relationship with death.

One thing I know is on a biological level the cells in my body are constantly dying and being created. There is a process where each cell is going through different states and I feel this strongly on an emotional and mental level too. We are all changing to some degree all the time. My theme of the artwork I have selected to curate is transformation- the process of changing states from one form into another. My view on life and death is one of transformation. It is something we have been doing unconsciously on a biological level since the day we were born. As artists when we create our work goes through stages and develops over time, so transformation is inherent in our practice.

I’ve focused specifically on artists that identify with the theme of transformation as a process or idea to express or a personal experience…

For Jaimie Cahlil work the later was true…
“A deeply transformational experience I had in early childhood is represented in the presence of light in all my work. The observant viewer will also notice the presence of symbols and archetypes, and the universal structure of the ancient sacred ‘mandala’ (Sanskrit – referring to a dot or circle with a circle”
This is certainly true of his piece Mandala of Transformation. The movement he has created actually reminds me of a biological cell that is constantly in flux. I am drawn from the fluid circular arcs and shapes into the centre of the light. I also enjoy its visual neutrality with a hint of colour inviting you to the light. Jaimie’s work is figurative as well as abstract. His piece One Song I found visually mesmerising and it conveys another aspect of transformation which is that of merging. Forms, in this case two figures, are intimately becoming one. A moment of deep connection that we all long for as humans. The attention to subtle light gives the figures almost a spiritual aura and the symmetry where the eyes met is incredible.


Using the body is a perfect vehicle to express transformation as artists and Liz Aktin uses her skin as a source for creating her work, as she explains:
“Physicality underpins my creative practice, using my skin as a soft canvas and terrain for imaginative transformation and healing.”

The healing part for Liz is to de-stigmatise the illness of compulsive skin picking through her art. Her piece Silent Lament has a quietness and an air of intrigue. Flowing out of the tear ducts are lines which then take another form of expressive of ambiguous writing
I like the way the emotion and motion of tears are on this visual path that leads to its full expression in floods of words. They are upside down some legible some not. Black and white photography gives this piece a powerful silence and visible expression.


Stephen Jackson uses photography that engages with transforming our perceptions of our world in a beautiful playful way. Arcadia is like the ultimate paradise with its tranquil and lusciously green landscape, bathed in an ethereal light. There is a naturalness that brings peace to my eyes and allures me into its photographic detail and surreal quality. For me the symmetry and central focus of light has a similar quality to Jaimie Cahlil’s work.

Instead of creating from digital technology the paintings of Micheal Wright use the past, those produced in Europe between the 16th –19th centuries. His process is very selective, and this leads to “a painting that has gone through its own transformation to produce an artwork that has a different or even a false sense of narrative from that of the original.”

Ghost was my favourite piece of Michael’s work. It has a swirling feel almost as if a terrible cyclone was approaching and there is a tiny white figure in the midst of being swept away. Memories of the film “the Wizard Of Oz” came into my mind, there is this still moment where anything could happen. It has a state of flux where brilliantly painted earth and moves into the sky and descends into a darkness that then returns to the earth. Its oozes atmosphere and drama. Again, I see this light at its centre, which is a recurring theme running through the works I selected.

One of the most powerful use of light and colour is in the work of Martin Turrell. The figure in Spiritual Ascension is visually exploding into strands of soothing light and, as the title suggests, is ascending into another state. I feel uplifted by the colours and this sense of expansion and transforming our bodies into spiritual dimension. I am secretly hoping this is the state we all find ourselves as we die. It’s an incredible image that I can’t comprehend how it was produced and yet that’s its beauty too.

I have chosen another piece by Martin as a contrast and exploration of another state. With Beings Of Light there is a focus on inner energy and play of delicate light within two silhouetted figures. The dark colours used invoke a sense of shamanic ritual that creates patterns of energy inside their bodies akin to a visual X-ray. Or perhaps they are channelling cosmic energy. The truth is I have no idea, I simply love seeing the different but unique light patterns they create. They give me an impression that we are made up of the same light and energy and more than blood and bones.

Meg Miller’s work has an earthly abstract presence in comparison to Martin’s spiritual dimensions. She describes her ideas as “my pollen, I transform them into something more refined, my honey” . In Shetland Serpent 3 she uses the rich organic material of cow dung and chalk to create an image inspired by the coastal inlets. It’s the simplicity and textural qualities, so completely different the other pieces I selected, that was why I chose this piece. Its feels refined and defined right down to the very basic elements of earth and water.

The final piece I selected, ReShape the Past 4, shows a more deeply personal expression of transformation with the work by Emiko Yamaguchi. Its textural, bright, multi-layered appearance is filled with memories and story of her past to “transform pain into beauty”. When you read the story, the imagery comes alive and its very brave to expose ones pain in such a public way. The process is not only healing to her but helps others that have suffered.

About the selection:
The process of curating was one not of just selecting artwork but a deep journey into other artists reasons for creating, their psychology, personal experiences and different ways to produce their art. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to explore and discover so many diverse and incredible talented artists and put together work that hopefully you find transformative experience to see.

To see close ups of the artwork, please user the slider arrows below:

List of selected artworks

Jaimie Cahlil – Mandala of Transformation & One Song
Liz Aktin – Silent Lament
Stephen Jackson – Arcadia
Micheal Wright – Ghost
Martin Turrell – Spiritual Ascension & Beings Of Light
Meg Miller – Shetland Serpent 3
Emiko Yamaguchi – ReShape the Past 4

2 Comments about this

  1. Malcolm

    A well written piece of work!
    I feel I have seen something for the first time that has always been there!
    I need to think more about it.

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