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For installation artist Jill Woods, light is the medium

Through our Patrons Scheme, we support Christians who are making engaging, powerful art or who are using their skills to serve their local communities.

This term, one of our grants has gone to Jill Woods, an installation artist. We caught up with Jill to find out about more about her journey and her latest installation.

HI Jill. Could you give us a bit of introduction to your art journey?

It’s been a ‘long and winding road’! I loved art at school, but dropped it to do science subjects at A level and then went on to do a science degree.

Throughout university, I continued to make things – clothes, cards and gifts for family and friends. That approach continued for many years – just dabbling and enjoying exploring my creativity, visiting art galleries and learning about other artists. I did a number of workshops, mainly involving textile techniques, and I was part of a creative group with friends taking a creative approach to the meditative practice of Lectio Divina. 

I explored doing an Art Foundation course when my two children were small, but it wasn’t the right time. It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally felt it was a good time to push the door. I managed to get in to my local college (at 54, I was the grandma of the group) and I absolutely loved my time on the course. I was really drawn to installation art for the potential it has to be multi-sensory and participatory, and to the use of light and shadow in exploring ideas of spirituality.

I wanted to carry on by doing an undergraduate degree, but I could only get funding for an MA, so I leapfrogged into a part-time MA in Textile Practices at Huddersfield University where I continued to explore light as a medium within installation art.

We were delighted to be able support you recently, through the Sputnik Patrons Scheme, for your piece at the LIGHT:space exhibition in Stockton. Firstly, can you tell us about the exhibition itself.

The exhibition was developed by Wild Vision Collective, a group of 4 artists who had come together at the beginning of the pandemic to encourage each other. They had a desire to reach out prophetically to speak hope to the community of Stockton using art. Following on from a successful Pop-up Gallery in one of the empty shops in the Wellington Square shopping centre, they proposed a light trail using more of the empty shops. This would be COVID-safe as visitors would be outside looking in and social distancing could be observed. Their proposal was accepted, they obtained a small amount of funding from the local Arts Centre and the LIGHT:space Art Trail was born. I heard about it through their Curatorspace open call.

So, what about your piece in the exhibition? Talk us through it.

This was the very first time I had exhibited because there had been no end of year show, so I was really excited and nervous. My piece is called ‘The Light Shines in the Darkness’ and it is based on the final piece I did for my MA, adapted for the window space I was given. It uses light and reflective materials, stitch and wire knit to encourage a meditative experience for viewers. As well as using light as a medium, I am interested in the structure of DNA and chromosomes and the role they play in the structure of life and identity. 

The piece consists of multiple stitched floor-to-ceiling hangings made from silver mylar and dichroic film strips, loosely based on a stylised DNA molecule. There are also tubular pieces of knitted stainless steel wire to represent the banded appearance of chromosomes. The hangings are lit so that the reflections created are captured on the walls, ceiling and floor and these move in the air currents created by a fan. To me, coming from a faith perspective, this speaks of how the light of God illuminates us and makes us each unique like the reflections created – we are not just the result of our DNA because God takes what we are and makes something wonderful. The title comes from the opening verses of John’s gospel which I felt were appropriate for the time in which I was working during the COVID pandemic.  I am very grateful for the funding I received from the Sputnik Patrons Scheme which has enabled me to purchase new lighting to replace the battery-powered lighting I had used originally and improves the sustainability of the work.

Find out more about Wild Vision Collective and the LIGHT:space exhibition here, or follow Jill’s work on Instagram.