Injurious Effect (detail), Ellie Shipman, 2023 | Image: courtesy of the artist
  • Critical Mass / / SCULPT


We are proud and excited to announce the twelve participating artists for our brand-new Critical Mass / / SCULPT course starting in September.


Start Date:

End Date:

Online & in-person

Critical Mass / / SCULPT is a new course aimed at artists whose practice centres around sculpture and/or installation art, and who want to develop their creative and professional practice.

Programmed and delivered to each participating artist’s requirements and ambitions, Critical Mass / / SCULPT will provide tailored critique, professional development, inspiration and new lasting networks.

Participating Artists

Helen Acklam |

For the past two years, Helen has been using practice-led research, documentation and an embodied, multidisciplinary practice to explore her adolescent experiences of growing up in a mining valley in South Wales, and the liminal space she occupies today as a mother without children. Helen’s work is fundamentally collaborative, attending to a merging of process, material and site. This has led to a forensic and spiritual connection with the earth and a bodily engagement with matter that has enabled her to explore grief narratives and the impact on individual, community and land. Working with living materials and site-specificity, the work also addresses the impact of industrialisation and colonisation on communities, and the scarring and contamination of the land.  Helen is currently using stone from local bronze-age cairns to consider the power of ritual and story-telling (human and non-human).

Helen Acklam is a multidisciplinary artist living in Bristol and an active member of the Southwest arts’ community – Spike Island Associate, Artist Network Member RWA, member of research groups Space Place Practice & Throes of Grief. Helen has shown extensively, most notably at Royal West of England Academy, 2016, 2018, 2020 & 2021; Whitenoise Projects, London, 2019; Wales Contemporary, London 2021 & 2022; Wells Art Contemporary, 2019 & 20; Tate Exchange with Spike Island Associates, 2017; Spike Open Studios, 2017, 2023; solo exhibition at The Factory, Porth (April 2023).

Candyland, David Bradley, 2012 | Image: courtesy of the artist

David Bradley |

Within David Bradley’s practice disparate works follow a thread of commonality in seeking expression of the aesthetic and conceptual sublime. Whether through abstraction of formless form or representational symbolism. From transpersonal journeys beyond self to the creation of alter egos. From stories and artefacts of the mythic to the intimacy of inner worlds. From more than human animism to the corporeality of consumable culture. Deities of old meet idols of new in image making, ritual object and totems of reverence and celebration.

David studied Sculpture at Sheffield Hallam University, (1998-2001) before moving into the world of special make-up effects upon graduation. In 2010 David began a character driven practice working under the alias of his Curious Confectioner alter-ego. Working as the Curious Confectioner, David exhibited in UK and Europe, was commissioned for commercial advertising, featured on television and film productions and delivered an artists talk at the V&A museum. Due to an ongoing health condition David withdrew from his creative practice in 2016 to attend to more pressing health needs.

Michelle Forrest-Beckett |

The underlying foundation of Michelle Forrest-Beckett’s practice lies within the appropriation of ‘work’, wherein, she re-forms types of labour (physical / mental, skilled / unskilled, productive / unproductive). Reconfiguring digital forms of labour, as matter, does not work towards a resolution, but is a continual work-in-progress, which aims to activate shifts in thinking, with the potential to impact perceptions, beliefs, biases, technological infrastructures, and the re-formation of the currency of labour. Forrest-Beckett’s latest works take a ‘psycho-techno-archaeological approach’, in which, she prises-open the black box of complex systems to unearth internal processes. Rendering playful connections and jarring upheavals, which she produces from a mashup of playlists, poetry, facts, fiction, hearsay, and the odd advertisement, Forrest generates a loosely formed referencing system, using colour-codes and word-associations, to map her laborious tasks and spontaneous reactions. Staging spatial connections between fragments of text, symbols, diagrammatic drawings, and sculptures that she defines as ‘reconstructions’, she configures propositions to be considered in conjunction with each other, on a larger scale. It could be said that the overarching principle centres around a mattering of incoherence, in which, Forrest curates constellations within installations as a form of inconclusive language.

The first family member to attend higher education, while saving to fund her undergraduate study, she trained as a developer of database systems. After graduating with a First-Class, Fine Art Honours Degree, in 2007, she contracted within London’s financial district and witnessed the economic crash, a calamity, which became the undercurrent that would impact her practice. Graduating with an MA, Fine Art (Distinction), in 2017, by 2020, her work captured the interest of the South West Creative Technology Network. Awarded a Data Fellowship to explore the mattering of human-data communication, Love by Proxy, 2021-ongoing slowly processes what it means to work with a broken heart.

Simone Hesselberg

Simone Hesselberg is an emergent artist/curator/instigator whose work is centered around support structures, with a focus on alternative pedagogies, collaboration, and co-mentoring. Her current work is informed by her investigation of physical and social support structures. By using forms found in construction, she explores ways that she can support, and be supported by, peers and collaborators. Simone is particularly interested in the use of sculpture and installation as a form of practice-based research in order to develop, connect and translate ideas derived from construction, architecture, mentoring, learning and relationships. Through a making practice, she is able to present the interpersonal part of her practice that isn’t always visible – thus exploring the multilayered, interdisciplinary approach of an artist-curator.

Simone Hesselberg is an artist-curator based in Bristol and holds an BA in Fine Art (Oxford Brookes University) and MA in Curating (University of the West of England). Simone has curated a number of projects, including a series of visual arts salons, supported by Reading International & the University of Reading. In 2019 she undertook a year- long curatorial placement at Spike Island where she supported solo exhibitions including Libita Clayton, Meriç Algün and Veronika Ryan, alongside co-curating a number of artist development projects. In 2021 she initiated Co-, a non-hierarchical, interdisciplinary collective to explore creative strategies for collaboration and skill-sharing as tools to support and enrich new, unexpected ideas. Simone was recently awarded an a-n Professional Development bursary to develop a series of sculptural works that reflect the mutually supportive relationships she has built with peers.

Performance notes: The Wreck Diver, Anno Mitchell, 2022

Anno Mitchell |

Anno Mitchell’s practice, based in drawing and installation work, centres on wreck, recovery and deep time. She has recently been exploring the overlap between the Torrey Canyon oil disaster off the Cornish coast in 1967 its lasting impact and the symbolic landscape of the southern English coast. This work on the disasters led to the creation of an imagined set of recovered artefacts and Anno is currently working on both an exhibition and film project to further develop the project. Of the project she says “The Torrey Canyon created a deep time marker right at the start of the television age and in the white heat of British technological expansion. It created what is still the largest oil disaster in UK waters and has left permanent evidence of the Anthropocene on the coasts of the West Country, the Channel Islands and of Northern France. My recent work is about how we can use the Torrey Canyon as a trapdoor into an experience of deep time as well as an interruption in a set of near and ancient global connections facilitate by the sea and by our trade across it”.

Anno Mitchell works primarily in drawing and installation and is based in Brighton. She studied Fine Art at Leeds University before starting a technology company, then holding the first Arts Council Traineeship in digital and developing art content while developing public art for digital space. Anno holds an MA in Architectural Theory and an MFA in Fine Art. Anno has exhibited at Stonespace London, RK Burt, The Biscuit Factory and held a performance residency at APT London.

Mandala, Saroj Patel, 2022 | Image: courtesy of the artist

Saroj Patel |

Saroj Patel’s practice explores the contrasting and sometimes conflicting identities of a British Indian artist. She draws on the ritualistic practices and cultural traditions that have long influenced her and while Patel’s sculptures are a celebration of Indian culture and community, they are also a way to address her own relationship with my upbringing. Growing up in the UK, surrounded by a large Indian community, Patel has always been drawn to the aesthetics and ritualistic elements of traditional ceremonies, but has also felt a tussle between two conflicting ways of life, finding herself struggling to meet all expectations. As a woman, she experienced the pressure of trying to embody two starkly different gender expectations. In Patel’s practice she attempts to find an empowered space to connect with these visceral aspects of her heritage and explore the joys and challenges of growing up as a woman between cultures.

Born in Preston, England, and now based in Oxfordshire, Saroj Patel graduated from Central St Martins, London, with an MA in Fine Art in 2019. In 2022 Patel was awarded an Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant. Recent group exhibitions include Zari Sona Moti: Glitter Gold Pearl at Darle and the Bear, Oxfordshire and Awe and Wonder, for the Chaiya Art Awards, London. In 2022 Patel was commissioned by Clifford Chance, London, to create Observational Realities, two sculptural installations for their offices, part of her 2020 Clifford Chance Sculpture Prize award. In 2022, she took part in Tate Lates’ panel discussion She Made Me Do It, exploring how women artists shape their practices and gave a talk at the Ways of Seeing Conference at the National Gallery, London. In 2019, Patel took part in Art Night, Hix Art and Participatory Workshops at Tate Exchange. The same year, she was a finalist in the Hix Award, shortlisted for the Tiffany & Co x Outset Studiomakers Prize and won the Tension Fine Art Gallery Prize.

Tipping Point, Melissa Pierce Murray, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout Tower and Artspace, 2023 | Image: Ann-Katrin Purkis

Melissa Pierce Murray |

Melissa Pierce Murray’s practice considers how engagement, interactions, objects and materials can facilitate and deepen awareness of our place in the world. Often interactive or participatory, her sculptural works use an aesthetic driven approach to interweave materials, emotion and narrative, creating a tactile allure and unnerving edginess. Melissa’s practice is informed by interdisciplinary studies and interests in literature, physics and dance, while her sensitivity to place and material arises from her roots in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Melissa Pierce Murray has shown work extensively across the UK and Internationally including: Artwalk Wakefield / Index Festival / Yorkshire Sculpture International, Wakefield, 2022; The Hostry, Norwich and University College, Oxford, 2019-20. She was also invited as a keynote speaker for Mestizajes International Conference on Art, Literature and Science, Spain, 2021. Melissa holds a BA (English Literature, Physics, University of Colorado) and MA Fine Arts (Norwich University of the Arts, U.K).

This is my witness statement, Stevie Ronnie, 2022 | Image: courtesy of the artist

Stevie Ronnie |

At the heart of Stevie Ronnie’s practice is an intrinsic enquiry into language: its intricacies and its material possibilities. Stevie is interested in what cannot be said and what is lost in translation in the context of our changing world. His fragile, emotive and multi-sensory works are informed by research into the history of language, dialects, Braille, etymology, technology and poetics. Through his inherently interdisciplinary approach, Stevie blends diverse techniques from a range of artistic disciplines to conjure feelings of love, disappearance, (dis)connection, time, place and memory.

Stevie Ronnie is an artist and writer based in Northumberland. His works have been exhibited in the UK, Europe, Japan and USA. A natural collaborator, Stevie has worked with artists, arts organisations, charities, communities, businesses, schools, libraries, galleries and festivals to produce engaging encounters with art. He has held residencies at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Cove Park, North Light Arts and The Arctic Circle. Stevie’s artworks are held in several public and private collections, including the British Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. His moving image works combining poetry and film have screened internationally, attracting several awards. Twice long-listed in the National Poetry Competition, he has published five books of poetry, which have earned him a Northern Writers Award and a Jerwood/Arvon menteeship. Stevie is the recipient of two prestigious MacDowell fellowships in the US for his interdisciplinary works. In 2022 he participated in MDP’s Dialogues programme and completed the correspondence course in painting at Turps Art School in London. In 2023 Stevie was named on the shortlist for the North East Emerging Artist Award by the National Trust and selected for the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The Point at Which, Alice Sheppard Fidler, 2021 | Image: Sarah Maingot

Alice Sheppard Fidler |

Alice Sheppard Fidler is interested in the fragile and imperceptible boundaries between places, between human experience, and between states of being. She plays with oppositions and contradictions and surveys the tensions between binaries such as: absence and presence; isolation and communication. Alice’s practice is an amalgamation of sculpture, installation and performance. In response to the excess produced in the physical world, Alice uses found materials and spaces, transforming them through minimal adjustments and subtle gestures. Her installations are temporary ‘stagings’. She often works with modular elements to build forms that are different each time they are constructed. The transience of the work is key, whether it is an object that can be packed away or a performance which cannot be repeated. Alice’s site-specific approach often operates outside the gallery context, responding to the available, universal, on-hand resources that each new project offers up. She spends time in a space to understand its materials and history, creating work informed by the specificity of the place. Alice uses the body, present or absent, as a tool. Her approach is often performative, employing movement as well as theatrical tools and language. She’s interested in seeing the drama of a moment teased out through common place actions, mundane objects and humour.

Alice Sheppard Fidler is a current recipient of the Gilbert Bayes Award for 2023 from the Royal Society of Sculptors, and is exhibiting in The Mother Art Prize, London 2023. Selected solo shows include, Imagining the fluidity of Permanence, Casa Regis, Italy 2022, and leave / stay / arrive, an exhibition with artist Rebecca Stapleford on the former site of the Comrades Club, Nailsworth 2021. Alice received a commission from Bricks, Bristol for the development of new work in 2021 and exhibits regularly in group shows including in the RWA Annual Opens, Bristol. Born 1966, UK, Alice, is a mature, early career artist, living and working near Stroud, Gloucestershire. She is a guest lecturer at The University of the West of England, Bristol where she received her MA in Fine Art in 2020.

Injurious Effect (detail), Ellie Shipman, 2023 | Image: courtesy of the artist

Ellie Shipman |

Ellie Shipman is a visual and participatory artist whose practice is concerned with concurrent states of being and the process of drawing out shared commonality between them: hope and fear; isolation and togetherness; the domestic and the public; grief and joy. The liminal space where these states rebuff, align and overlap is explored, shared and reflected on through multimedia artworks using found objects, textiles, drawing, audio and installation. Ellie is interested in what it is to be a woman; the experience of birth and new motherhood as well as notions of community; sustainability and anticipatory mourning for climate collapse. Works are often site specific, participatory or interactive – including people in research, process and product. Ellie regularly collaborates with researchers, scientists and fellow creatives as well as the general public and a diverse range of community groups.

Ellie Shipman is a visual artist and illustrator living and working in Bristol, based at Bricks Bristol. Ellie studied BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art (2008 – 11) and deepened her research into climate resilience and participatory art through undertaking a MSc Sustainable Development in Practice at UWE (2015 – 16). Ellie spent a year living and working in Vietnam in 2019, undertaking residencies with Fashion Revolution Vietnam and Undecided Productions alongside self led projects. Ellie was awarded Arts Council England’s ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ (DYCP) funding in 2023 to pursue new avenues in her creative practice and is currently working on a year-long programme of mentoring, residencies and creative development. Commissioners, funders and partners have included: Arts Council England; We the Curious; The Vietnamese Women’s Museum; Pump House Gallery; The University of Bristol; The University of Cambridge; Historic England; The Royal Shakespeare Company; Wellcome Trust. Ellie is a member of Spilt Milk Gallery and an Associate at Spike Island.

Standing Floor, Abi Spendlove, 2020 | Image: Greta Zabulyte

Abi Spendlove |

Abi Spendlove’s sculptures, drawings and installations engage with materials that live and move. She uses translucent, porous and reflective materials to create artworks that absorb and reflect light. Materiality is key to Spendlove’s artmaking; she responds to the complex histories and unpredictable movements of materials – from Medieval fragmenting glass to Antarctic ice. Natural materials have vitality. Their molecules embody growth and decay: patterns and movements which draw connections with climate and environmental change. Organic materials carry metaphors, they resonate and reverberate through particular people and places. Water is transcorporeal, it moves through humans and objects and is present in all living things. The passing element of time threads throughout Spendlove’s practice: Entropy, decay evaporation, sublimation. The images that emerge from the work trace the movements of these processes. In her detailed drawings she closely observes an image or object for a period of weeks in order to interpret it. To Spendlove, the creation of an artwork is a process of slowing down, grounding, paying attention. Her artworks are an invitation for others to do the same.

Abi Spendlove is a visual artist based in Luton, Bedfordshire. She studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw and Central Saint Martins in London and completed a Fine Art MA at the University of Hertfordshire in 2018. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including New York and Tokyo. Key exhibitions include Mediator at Broadway Gallery, Underfoot at Storefront Gallery, and Accumulate at St Albans Museum + Gallery. In 2021 Spendlove was awarded a DYCP grant from Arts Council England to explore connections to climate change within her work. This led to an experimental artist residency with British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge this year, in which she developed methods of drawing on ice inside a freezer. In 2022 Abi was awarded a Luton Heritage Grant, through which she is developing a new project about the natural heritage of the River Lea. Spendlove is an experienced workshop leader and teaches part time at the University of Bedfordshire. Her work is included in collections including Franks Suss and Olivier von Schulthess.

Queen B, Marie-Paule Tano, 2023 | Image: courtesy of the artist

Marie-Paule Tano |

Marie-Paule Tano is interested in exploring different aspects of African cultures; learning about & reinterpreting traditional African Art. Her research is based around the cultural & personal impact of displacement; the image and place of the Black woman in Western & Southern societies. Marie-Paule studied design & jewellery manufacture at CSM & Holts Academy, welding for artists at the London Sculpture Workshop and developed the wax carving skills she uses to sculpt her pieces through experimentation.

Marie-Paule Tano’s first jewellery collection incorporated sculptures inspired by ancient African artefacts to high fashion necklaces as a way to embrace alternative standards of beauty. She has collaborated with other creatives including jewels for designers Loza Malhéombho and Imane Ayissi, Beyonce’s musical film Black is King and Rwandan artist Cedric Mizero on an art film collaboration. She has since been experimenting with jeweller’s wax, metals and fabrics to develop a series of sculptures and tapestry inspired by traditional African masks.

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