The first phase of my self-designed, socially-engaged art project, called ‘Age in the Frame’, is nearly done and lockdown has given me more space to concentrate on the image making and marketing of the project . It grew out of work I’d been doing on age and ageing in the studio, and has now been running for a fascinating 20 months.  

Diary postings on the work continue to run as I respond through the image making, which is central to the project. So please see my Posts to hear/read the views of some of the participants, and see how the work has developed from some of the early experimental work – an initial visual response – to the current images.


Rationale for the project

Ageing populations are one of the most pressing social concerns of the 21st century. Policy makers and researchers are engaged in addressing the social, political, medical and economic implications of our ageing society. However young people are currently not included in debates on longevity, and older people are increasingly told how to age well, but are not asked their uniquely personal views and experiences of ageing.

In an extended project  – called ‘Age in the Frame’ – my aim is to explore ageing from the ground-up, seeking unmediated voices from a diverse range of older and younger people whose voices are increasingly faint behind longevity policy agendas. I’m interested in hearing and recording their views and experiences, and in the processes underpinning socially-engaged artistic practice.

Artists are not part of the debates on ageing and yet they hold some of the most powerful and collaborative tools for contributing to awareness, and generating different perceptions and conversations.

The method

In an initial small scale study, a diverse range of men and women of 60+ years are asked their views on ageing and their experiences of becoming older. These views are audio-recorded and anonymised. The modus operandi of the ‘interview’/conversation is for me to come to it without any preconceived ideas or agenda and to hold a human-centred conversation with participants, so that they are comfortable expressing their views.

Similarly young people – 15-18 years initially – are asked their views of old people and ageing.  Their views too are audio-recorded.

My contribution

My contribution as an artist is to access the recordings, the other documentary material from all participants, and the many processes of the enquiry, to develop an artistic response in the form of image making.

A statement about the images: Constructed paintings in paper, spray paint and pastel. Through recorded subjective accounts with participants on ageing, the visceral and complex nature of old age and the ageing process informs the central focus of the image. Influenced by a training in sculpture, the images are approached as a form of construction, where the assembling of elements allows for a process of direct physical engagement with medium. A variety of papers with different surface qualities are pre-coloured to allow for an interplay of flat plane, depth and perspective, the background either coloured or left uniformly plain in tone, to allow the iconic nature of figures and symbols to be articulated. The narratives emerge through the tensions between formal layout and the charged content of the subject matter. Deborah’s work draws influence from tribal art, ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures, and the symbolic and pared down nature of the later paintings of Peter Kinley.

If you’re interested in hosting a talk on the project, please do get in touch.

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