From then til now: a speeded-up life story

I grew up in the East Kent countryside  – number four out of six sisters. Our house was on a lane that petered out into a bumpy track and farmland. We cooked stinging nettle soup over smoky fires, broke bones doing bare backed riding stunts, and learnt to drive in an old blue Skoda round the fields.

I always loved art, with a particular fondness for drawing maps and cross sections, which I have to this day. I went from school to art college but when I got there I felt disappointed at how competitive it was, and how disconnected it felt from everyday life.
Going upstairsPainting-a-map

One day I skipped college and went to the Outsiders exhibition in London. Even writing this many years later, I have the same thrill of excitement that I felt seeing that wild work, especially Francis Marshall’s amazing figures. I realised that college was not the place for me and so I moved to London and joined the fun happening at Oval House – a buzzing community arts centre. I started doing workshops and performances there and never looked back.

Along the way, I have done many different things and worked with hundreds of great people. I’ve taught performance at the original Bristol circus school, and directed theatre, cabaret and circus shows in big tops on windy hillsides. I’ve toured street theatre shows to European festivals, and performed as a circus strongwoman, a trumpet playing assassin, a Thatcherite MP and the Pope.
I’ve played accordion on a solidarity circus tour of Nicaraguan schools, hospitals, and with the Sandinista army, with a little van repair thrown in.
Mending the van in Nicaragua

I’ve made paintings, drawings, artists’ books, maps and animated films which often revolve around ideas of connection and belonging. I’ve had solo painting shows and been part of group exhibitions. I’ve done national tours with a little shed full of my artists books, and made an animated film screened in a cinema run by wolves.
Luci Gorell Barnes Little Lupin

I’ve done an MA in Fine Art in Context at UWE, and a PgDip in Research and Professional Studies in Education the University of Bristol. I’ve mentored young artists, done visiting lecturing and presented my work at conferences. I’ve worked with academic researchers, linking them with communities to gather local knowledge and ideas, and co-producing and illustrating books that turn research facts into fiction.
Book illustration

I’ve made art alongside lots of different people including women prisoners, Gypsies and Travelers, children, refugees and asylum seekers. I was Artist in Residence at Speedwell Nursery School and East Bristol Children’s Centres from 2004 to 2020, working with families using creative practice and organic gardening to bring people together.
Artist in Residence at Speedwell Nursery School and Children's Centre

I’ve moonlighted as Bad Maman, mixing a sticky combination of foraging, fundraising and feminism, and raising over £12,000 for woman and girls displaced by conflict, especially in Yemen.
Gin and flowersRhubarb

Along with my partner Rich, I’ve serenaded people shielding during the COVID lockdowns, and made all sorts of adaptions to my practice to keep people creatively connected.
Food of Love 6

I’m endlessly inspired by other people’s work, including the lovely film Visages Villages by JR and Agnes Varda; the epic paintings of Paula Rego; Augusto Boal’s radical ideas in Theatre of the Oppressed; the extraordinary animations of Jan Svankmajer; the music of Miriam Makeba; the compassionate research of Mary Brydon-Miller and Mary Watkins, and Shaun Tan’s gentle but powerful drawings. Above all I am motivated by the power that creative practice has to connect, enable and inspire us all.

To download my CVclick here.