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‘WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF’
A conversation with Glasgow School of Art student Aimee Haldane
Our collaboration with Glasgow School of Art is an integral part of what Art in Hospital does in supporting the role of the artist working in a health and medical context. Sculpture & Environmental Art student Aimee Haldane was selected for Art in Hospital’s first remote placement which took place earlier this year.
She developed her project ‘What Dreams are Made of” over some months, carefully considering each element and how it could enhance patients’ hospital experience and give some valuable escapism into worlds of dreams and sculpture. Creating beautifully presented sculpture boxes containing instruction booklets, prompt cards and a cornucopia of exciting sculpture materials, Aimee managed to make her project fun and refreshing for everyone who took part. The sculpture boxes allowed participants to work independently to create process-based art in a very relaxed way. From the visceral experience of working with clay to the joyful inclusion of sequins and colourful fabric, the boxes gave as much as their individually spray painted exteriors promised.
Aimee’s project combined a sensitive approach with artistic integrity; she managed to make something that benefitted patients while still being her own unique creation. Her project has been a great success and we are delighted that she has been awarded the GSA Sustainability Prize for ‘What Dreams are Made of” and look forward to seeing what she does next.
'What Dreams are Made of' sculpture boxes being prepared for the art sessions
What are the main interests and motivations behind your art practice?
My art practice surrounds the theme of escapism through imagination. No matter who we are, or what we do, there’s always something magical to discover. I think in this world a lot of people find themselves stuck or busy and it’s important to take a minute to reconnect with play and imagination.
I’m really inspired by Wendy Ewald’s Portraits and Dreams social art project. She taught kids how to use film cameras to be creative and communicate their dreams. This social side of art stands out to me because I think it’s so important to share what we know to inspire others.
I also love Shayna Klee’s work; she focuses on play to create new worlds and stories. Her art is always colourful and imaginative.
My main focus in the last year has been dreams. I love the endless possibilities they hold and that everyone can relate in their own way.
Aimee Haldane 'Intertwined' 2017, everyday objects
What are your preferred media and how do you feel they relate specifically to the subjects you’re looking at in your work?
At first, I was really drawn to everyday materials because they’re accessible, but now it feels like an integral part of my practice. It shows how our imaginations can transform something in our lives into something beautiful and unique. To me it also brings more inclusivity into my art, for example by using a sponge - everyone has their own connotations with the object so it lets people relate in their own ways.
Aside from everyday materials I do find myself using clay for it’s playful properties. Clay emulates the feeling of playdough and that childlike imagination to me. Due to its malleability, there is endless potential.
Recently I’ve also found myself drawn to digital media as it makes imagination real but not tangible. I use programmes such as Photoshop and Procreate.
How have you adapted to being a student in the midst of a pandemic that has meant innumerable restrictions on studio and workshop use?
As hard has it has been for all art students in the pandemic, it’s challenged us to redefine the studio space and our art practices. I think it’s always good for artists to be shaken up as you find new methods of working and consider new directions to work in.
I felt the escapism aspect of my art became a necessary tool with everyone needing a moment of peace in the uncertainty, and a change in the mundane. It led me to realise new audiences and realise that the studio can be anywhere you create in.
A challenge was finding the balance in creating in the same space in which I eat, sleep and relax. It’s something I’ve yet to find the boundaries for but there’s something nice in making art from bed.
Could you describe how your ‘Dreamscape’ map https://aimeehaldane.myportfolio.com/dreamscape came about? Is it something that you think will continue to grow and in what way?
I felt it was necessary to have a space where I could collect my research which is currently on dreams, so I was trying to find a way that worked for me to create an archive. I found Padlet through the uni, and liked how it could be used as a collaborative tool, and the map idea felt a bit more intriguing than a spreadsheet.
I think by everyone adding their dreams to it, it is becoming an artwork in it’s own right. It’s now a space where we can see the world asleep and I would love to continue to grow that side of it. For example, people could add images of their own art and music to it!
Aimee Haldane 'Natures Take over 2' 2018,
flowers, plaster and wire
Aimee Haldane, detail of 'The Imagi-Nation' 2021,
clay Installation at Woodlands Community Garden
Is that something that you might develop for future works?
Definitely! I think now I have a base of inspiration it will really influence a lot of what I make. Recently I recreated some of the dreams for a project like a dream about moths on the carpet I learnt how to tuft and made my own rug moths! It’s a helpful tool for when I’m struggling to feel inspired and also to learn new skills I wouldn’t have tried out before. So I’d love to continue to make these dreams come to life!
Why were you interested in working with Art in Hospital?
I love that Art in Hospital brings art to people who need it; they make it accessible and inclusive which is something I value. Art becomes a form of communication, play, development, and brings an overall sense of peace. As the values of Art in Hospital align with my own I felt I could bring a project that was very me in to the space. I also really value how they work to the patients needs and interests to make beautiful projects and art.
How did you come up with the idea for What Dreams are made of, your boxed sculpture projects for care home residents and hospital patients?
I knew I wanted dreams to be the main focus because they are so playful and have endless possibilities within them which means everyone could find something they enjoyed. It was important for me to bring that to Art in Hospital as I wanted people to feel they could make anything and not feel pressured to work to a specific theme.
At the initial introduction from Art in Hospital it was mentioned they were interested in incorporating sculpture more for their patients, so I decided to provide materials to make this possible for them!
'What Dreams are Made of' sculpture boxes, ready for the art sessions
'What Dreams are Made of' sculpture boxes, detail of the materials.
The boxes have quite a specific aesthetic, can you describe how you developed it? I mean, colour of paper, font used etc.
For me in art, aesthetic is a big thing. I love everything to feel very magical, so with the boxes I wanted to maintain this. I thought it would be good to make every element an experience and fully engage the recipient of the box to want to rummage around. As the boxes are based on dreams I tried to stick to a theme of sparkles, stars and bright colours. I felt these represented a dream like world from the minute you opened it.
I sprayed the outside of the box using a stencil I made of the box’s logo so people knew what they would be getting. Then as the box is opened you see a colourful guidebook and cards. I wrapped the rest of the materials in a cut up gold table cloth to separate the guide and the materials so it wouldn’t be overwhelming and people wouldn’t know where to start. These small details of accessibility also contribute to the aesthetic and experience.
The overall feel is something that is coherent in a lot of my work. It feels very me and as an artist I think that’s a great thing to have.
Are the materials contained in each box materials that you would usually use in your own work?
Yes! As I love to use everyday and easily accessible materials, all the elements of the box are ones I’ve used before. It was important for me to continue that in to the box because I wanted people to challenge their imaginations using these objects they already know in new ways. Glasgow Play Resource Association kindly provided the majority of the materials for the boxes so even the fact that they were from the Scrapstore made me more excited. It’s important to reuse and use others’ scraps as they can turn in to something amazing!
How did you feel that the residents and patients responded to the boxes?
The response to the boxes were great. Everyone was so intrigued by all the elements and more importantly everyone was able to make something! I could tell people were having fun and thinking about repurposing and positioning all the objects by the amount of thought that went in to every piece I see. I hope I reminded them all to play and have fun with art and life. It was also amazing to hear from the patients and AiH staff all the lovely feedback on how people were so excited to make. It makes me so proud to think my little boxes had such an impact on people!
John Cameron at Greenfield Park Care Home, untitled sculpture, 2021, mixed media
Jean Proctor at Greenfield Park Care Home, untitled sculpture, 2021, mixed media
How did you find leading the sessions with residents on zoom? Did you find it difficult to communicate virtually? It can be quite tricky to demonstrate how to use materials that people may have never handled before even in person.
For the zoom calls I had a camera on me and a camera on my hands to show examples of how to make the work. I thought this would be challenging to communicate clearly different techniques but every resident and patient was able to work alongside me to produce their own art. I think it would’ve been a great experience to have been there in person but given the situation we all worked together really well from our own homes. I liked this idea of a shared art studio through zoom!
'What Dreams Are Made Of' online art session via zoom
Was your own practice affected / influenced by working within the context of health and medicine?
By working within the context of health and medicine, I was made to think about things I usually wouldn’t. I had to consider the ethical implications of my work, making sure I was not putting anyone at risk through my project. I had to also think cautiously about the use of materials which I explored to find those best suited to anyone of any level. Working in this way led me to realise that sometimes art doesn’t need a ‘final product,’ sometimes the process and investigation is complete art in itself.
What did you think was the benefit to patients and residents of making work with you?
I like that Art in Hospital works with artists because everyone has their own unique take on art and so many creative ideas to teach. I think the patients and residents could benefit from learning from me because I have a very playful and accessible approach to art.
They got to enjoy playing. It’s something we don’t do as we grow up but by having all these materials they were able to take a moment of their day to roll out clay and throw around glitter. By remembering to play people can have that escape from the world and finding themselves developing their creativity and imagination. It’s beneficial for people in all situations to see the fun in the everyday and not be afraid to make mistakes, as in dream worlds that’s impossible.
I believe as well, it taught a lot of people how to work 3 dimensionally. Everyone I spoke to on the zoom calls was used to working on paper so it was nice to help them see the new ways they can make art. Hopefully this will show them too the potential to look at things differently.
Joan Paul at Inverclyde Royal Hospital Renal Unit, 'My Garden'
2021, mixed media
Resident in Ward 52, QEUH, untitled sculpture
2021, mixed media
Jean Proctor at Greenfield Park Care Home, word assemblage, 2021
Do you think artists have a role to play in health and medicine?
For sure! I wrote my dissertation on the benefits of art to children’s progression and found all the skills art harnesses. From developing mobility to managing emotions art is anything from a creative outlet to a medicine in itself.
I hope people continue to realise the benefits of art especially in today’s world and not challenge it’s worth.
It’s a strange time to say the least and hard to make any plans just now but what do you hope to do after graduating from art school?
I hope to re-find the love of making art for myself and not for a deadline. I want to get back into painting and try out new things like pottery! I’d love to find opportunities to help people through art as I feel I have found a love for that over my time at uni and feel it’s important for me to continue. Although I’m scared of what will come next, I’m so excited going forward knowing I can do what I love.
Aimee Haldane 'doodle' 2021, digital drawing
Aimee Haldane, 'Experiment for Phantasos' 2020, dream catcher mixed media installation at Studio Pavilion, Glasgow
Aimee Haldane 'Change is the Only Constant' 2019, Concrete on Foam
For more information about Aimee's work, please visit: https://aimeehaldane.myportfolio.com/home