Self Portrait Writing – a workshop with writer Iain Morrison

Self Portrait Writing – a workshop with writer Iain Morrison

Arts Ambassador Katherine Wells participated a writing workshop at John Hansard Gallery, looking at and writing in response to Gerhard Richter exhibition.

To start this workshop Iain made sure everyone was comfortable by having the group introduce themselves and talk amongst themselves for a few minutes. After that Iain talked about some works by Gerhard Richter and had the group discuss what we thought of them and what we saw.

Iain shared a letter with the group that one poet had sent to another, describing things that they had seen on their walk and sharing personal insights.

We were all encouraged to pick a single piece Richter  artwork and stand before it, beside it or within its vicinity and to write our thoughts. After twenty minutes the group was called back and then told about the rest of the workshop: to write a ‘hyper’ personal version of what we had each written and then a very de-personalised version. We were encouraged to consider at how all three sound in relation to each other. (I picked Mirror Painting, Grey.)

Gerhard Richter’s mirror painting that Katherine Wells chose to do her workshop writing piece on.

We were given the freedom to write as we wished, some opted to creating a character or writing from the perspective of an object such as how might a tree perceive the works, and others just wrote as themselves. It was a great exercise and inclusive to everyone in the group, that ranged from writers, published authors, artists and students.

Everyone was listened to and looked like they had enjoyed the workshop, gaining inspiration from the artworks around them. It was a great success for all of us and for Iain Morrison.

Iain Morrison is writer-in-residence at John Hansard Gallery, part of SO:Write [], a literature project led by Artfulscribe. Self Portrait Writing, Three Times took place at John Hansard Gallery in response to ARTISTS ROOMS: Gerhard Richter on Saturday 14 July 2018.

Visit Iain’s blog at

After the workshop- the group were able to volunteer their works to be read out loud beside the piece.

Here is the piece Katherine did during the workshop, in conjunction with her chosen Richter piece.

‘Sat in the middle of the room, I witness figures moving and observing the works on display, but they do’t realised they are also being displayed. I watch them as if they were beautiful classical paintings or sculptures. Ones with the freedom of movement and free will.

My eye gets caught by a still figure in a grey space. I can’t fully view them, but they intrigue me. I try to move closer, they step forward. Within the space there are more people, people I recognise, but different.

They are now shadows, ghosts of the people I viewed moments ago.

This art work I am enamoured with made me look at myself as what I am, as what I do regularly. 


Ghosting by to view and not be viewed. 

Moving from the shadows, into the spot lighting, I illuminate myself in the work. I become viewed. To myself and anyone looking in at that moment.

This piece reflects the room. Its an ever changing reality of the viewer.’

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

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