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Hand in Hand - An interview with Producer, Mills Brown

29 November 2023

Hand in Hand is the new collaborative artwork co-created with the Children Heard and Seen Community. Since February 2023 our regular group of young artists have collaboratively created a series of brightly coloured life-sized portraits with Artist Producer, Mills Brown.

We asked Mills Brown to tell us more about the project:

The Hand in Hand portraits are stunning, full of colour and creative expression. Could you tell us more about the creative process with the participants? How did you start this particular project?

Our process began with creative expression through movement. Each child was asked to strike their favourite pose, and personalities shone through as we captured photos of each other jumping, clapping, pointing, reaching, and laughing. Next, we projected the photos and traced life-size silhouettes onto canvas. At monthly sessions different groups of children added layers of colour and texture to the canvases with acrylic paint and paint pens.

Each artwork began as a portrait of an individual with a focus on themes of identity and being seen. But ultimately, each portrait was shaped more by the community that added to it over a year. In the end I think it was exactly this long-term collaboration which amplified the joy and vibrancy that unites the series as a whole. 

How did you decide on the artwork title,  Hand in Hand

Walking “hand in hand” with another signifies belonging, safety and care. These attributes are alive in the Children Heard and Seen community as children and families find support and empower each other while navigating the realities of parental imprisonment. 

It also alludes to the collaborative and expressive nature of the project. Many different hands added their own style to each portrait, and a sense of joy is expressed through the painted hands that point towards the sky or reach out to a friend. Finally, the title is a reference to the Children Heard and Seen logo image (which you can spot in the portrait of a boy with a balloon!).

What is most enjoyable about collaborating with the Children Heard and Seen community at Modern Art Oxford?

I really enjoy observing new friendships between young people begin and flourish in our sessions. I appreciate the sense of ease and familiarity the group finds in the gallery after many years of our partnership. I love that in most sessions we have both returning Children Heard and Seen creatives and first time visitors, so there is always a sense of excitement and welcome.canva

Hand in Hand shows the creativity, individualism and solidarity of all the children who have taken part in the project. Come and find the colourful life-sized artworks that are displayed throughout the ground floor spaces at Modern Art Oxford.

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