Geraldine Montgomerie

Tell me more about yourself!
I’ve always lived in Leeds. I like Japanese punk rock and I drink my coffee black no sugar.

How did you get involved with art?
My grandad was an architect and my grandma expressed herself creatively with sewing and sketching and I think this has influenced my closest family to be problem solvers with an artistic sensibility.
I guess to me Art is life and I have been a maker and a drawer for as long as I can remember but about 10 years ago I went back to study art at Leeds College of Art [now Leeds Arts University], where I studied black and white film photography, at the time I changed my name to Cindy Sherman so that I could call my work original Cindy Shermans.
Changing my name started to become a problem though – I hadn’t changed my name at my bank, but because all my other ID had changed I got a cheque written out to Cindy Sherman and I couldn’t pay it in. Perhaps if I were better off financially I would still use the name Cindy today! Anyway in the last 5 years my artistic efforts have become something I have wanted to share with other people.

What art forms are you working with or enjoy the most?
Up until now I have generally considered myself a drawer, usually following my interests and learning. Sometimes I paint on top of my drawings and sometimes I colour my drawings digitally. My drawing style is often a bit wonky, being very influenced by my love of graphic novels, and also I find it really enjoyable if I can accept and enjoy mistakes and unexpected results. I also take commissions and hope that people that ask, also enjoy my wonky style. More recently I have been revisiting sewing and embroidery, so that, with practice I can draw better with thread, and I’m hoping to incorporate this into future work.
In terms of influence I probably borrow approaches to drawing from graphic artists like Charles Burns and Dame Darcy but I also like to follow artists with unusual backgrounds and paths to recognition. For example Henry Darger, an Outsider Artist who was reclusive and unknown as an artist in his own lifetime – his art only being discovered after his death] and Yayoi Kusama [a Japanese Artist, who creates fashion design painting, sculpure and installations despite being voluntarily instutionalised to manage her mental health, and may be one of the most iconic living artists to come from Japan].

How does the word CONNECT resonate with you?
For this year, I’m mixing the work I’m paid to do (working in a therapy service) with my personal interests (art, community and story telling). I have been working with a local story teller, Matthew Bellwood, to interview people around Leeds and surrounding areas who have experience of talking therapy. I will be developing text and pictures, and linking the themes to song with the help of musician, David Broad. It’s an ambitious project that connects therapists and patients, connects people geographically, connects words, music and drawings.
In the interviews we have asked people to connect their experiences to fairy tales and folk lore… when we talk about difficulty coping we might talk in metaphors – you might say I’m drowning, I’m lost, I’m low, I’m down, or we might exagerrate reality. I’m hoping that by using these metaphors and colourful use of language, and by taking a step away from the reality, the experiences hopefully can be understood even by people who haven’t experienced mental ill health distress.
I used to work in prison some time ago and I noticed that the two types of books that were most popular were True Crime and Fantasy Novels, and I feel fantasy can be a way of tolerating difficult situations.
Another thing that prompted this exhibition is that mental health services in Leeds are currently going through a retendering process, so that the landscape of the service could dramatically change over the next year. This is an opportunity to have a broader conversation about the wider wellbeing we experience – we focus a lot on symptoms and medications but we forget about how important having a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives is. When we experience bereavement, or any loss, we see a change of who we are, and can lose some our understanding of the world and our place within it and our sense of our own value – like talking therapy and other community support and activities, artistic expression can be a way of changing meaning in our life and bring back that value.

Tell me more about your exhibition/event for Love Arts? Where and when can we find you?
Sela Bar 4th October for 3 weeks, launch night is on 4th October.
[You can find out more about Geraldine’s exhibition here]

Have you exhibited before?
I have been exhibiting with Love Arts for a few years now across a few different venues. I have previously exhibited in group show and solo exhibitions mostly in West Yorkshire such as a cafe in Leeds Art Gallery and in South Square Centre in Bradford. I am also part of a Leeds-based group called Sketch That, a group of artists who meet up once a month to make art at different locations around the area and has an annual exhibition.

How has Arts and Minds helped you with showcasing your work?
I think for me the benefit of working with Love Arts has been the sense of community that it fosters and the ambition that it instils in you. I have curated four exhibitions for other artists over the last year, increased the number of commissions I do and pursued opportunities to make three dimensional drawings, leading to recently taking part in an exhibition on the theme of Emily Bronte the South Square Centre in Bradford.
I attend social events with Arts and Minds on occasions and use my Arts and Minds membership card for discounts in Fred Aldous.