Axisweb Selects: Lesley Halliwell

Sheila McGregor

Artist Lesley Halliwell heads in a new direction for a group show in Chester that questions perception, and perfection. She’s our next Axisweb Selects artist.

In Lesley Halliwell’s latest work, If You Prick Us Do We Not Bleed?, a brightly coloured parachute rises and falls to the sound of a boy’s laughter. The child in question is her son Patrick, who has a rare genetic condition that limits his ability to communicate and function like other children.

Patrick’s laughter reminds us that how things look from the outside may not necessarily reflect how it feels from within. “We live like a normal family,” says Lesley. “Just one that gets a little bit of extra help.”

Until now she has mainly been known for her meticulous spirograph drawings

This video piece is a new departure for Lesley. Until now she has mainly been known for her meticulous spirograph drawings, in which she employs ordinary coloured biro pens to build up dazzling geometric structures, often on a breath-taking scale. On the face of it, autobiography has little to do with their motivation and making.

Yet the artist sees a link between the repetitive, cell-like structures of her spirograph drawings and the more personal nature of her new film. In part, this is to do with the idea of mutation leading to systems’ failure. But it’s also about the tension between surface and what lies beneath, and Lesley’s awareness that people’s perception of what it means to be different is often so far removed from the underlying reality. “Appearances can be deceptive; the surface is not the whole story”, she notes.

If You Prick Us Do We Not Bleed? is part of an exhibition entitled Slippage: the Unstable Nature of Difference in the Contemporary Arts Space at the University of Chester. The show offers an intimate perspective on the lived experience of physical and psychological difference through the work of twelve artists working in a range of media.

The other artists in the exhibition are Katherine Araniello, Lisa Bufano & Jason Tschantré, Eric Fong, Paddy Hartley, Karen Heald & Susan Liggett, Andrew & Eden Kotting, Noemi Lakmaier, Daksha Patel, Jo Thorne, Alexa Wright and Chris Millward. Together, they question the uncertain boundaries of physical and psychological identity in a world that places great emphasis on beauty and perfection.

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