In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Shape Arts’ flagship art award, the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, we've created the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary at Ten publication, featuring essays and texts by Nicholas Serota, Jenni Lomax, Manick Govinda, Noëmi Lakmaier, Simon Raven and Tony Heaton OBE, discussing and exploring the significance and legacy of the award.

The publication accompanies our latest exhibition In Out There, taking place at Attenborough Arts Centre until 17 June and showing work by Adam Reynolds alongside newly commissioned work by 2018 ARMB recipient Terence Birch, as well as work by Sarah CarpenterNicola Lane and Catherine Cleary, who were all shortlisted for this year's award. The publication is available for purchase from Shape directly or at Attenborough Arts Centre; an extract - the ARMB's inaugural recipient Noëmi Lakmaier in conversation with Jenni Lomax OBE, Director of Camden Arts Centre from 1990-2017 and one of the group who set up the ARMB - can be read below.

Jenni Lomax - I have been thinking of Adam [Reynolds] and you know he used to have a gallery - ‘Adam Gallery’? He always described it as: ‘if an artist had been painting cats but really wanted to paint dogs then the Adam Gallery would be the place to start painting dogs.’ People showed work or made work that marked a change from what they were doing before and we wanted to have that ethos when we started the ARMB residency. When we saw your work and your proposal we thought that really fitted with this.

Noëmi Lakmaier - I don’t remember my proposal at all, but I do remember getting the phone call – I nearly crashed my car. I was on the North Circular driving to my studio and someone from Shape called and I let go of the steering wheel and ended up in this soft verge!

JL – So once you got over the shock and realised you hadn’t crashed the car… How did you set about thinking about this residency and how you might use the nine weeks in Camden Arts Centre’s studio?

NL - Initially I didn’t give it much thought. I thought about it a lot but I didn’t think about what exactly I would be doing and I think that’s still how I work. I’m really rubbish at coming up with a packaged idea, it usually grows organically and I feel I have little influence over it.

The residency suited that personality to a ‘T’ - to just go in and experiment and see where it goes.

JL – So did the idea of [Experiment in Happiness] come about from just playing with ideas and experimenting with things in the studio?

NL – I know exactly how it came about and it’s going to sound absolutely crazy… I started my first week and I was really frustrated with myself; I didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m going to waste all this time’, and put a massive amount of pressure on myself. Then one weekend, I went to see a friend in Brighton and I got a fever. I had this weird fever dream of being chased down one of the really steep hills in Brighton by a giant ball of yellow shoes. I felt better, drove to London and thought, ‘well now I know what I’m doing!’ From then on there was such a certainty that this was what I needed to do. 

JL – I wonder whether there was anything in the focus of having nine weeks, knowing that that was a finite period of time? While there wasn’t a big pressure to actually come up with a finished thing, it was up to you what you did with what time you had.

NL – I put all the pressure on myself and I wanted an outcome - that was important to me. But that’s really interesting what you were saying about the time being finite and in that finality was some of its productiveness. I was just reading a piece about Time Limited Therapy and what the possible benefits could be. Having the ending implicit adds value to the work and maybe there is a parallel there.

JL – In my experience of residencies, not just at Camden Arts Centre but also at the British School at Rome, artists never felt that they had long enough, but if an artist had a longer-term residency of, say, two years, they often lost focus because it took away any sense of end point, transition or concentration.

NL – I hadn’t thought about that before but I do think that was really valuable. It was also really sad and definitely didn’t feel long enough - I could have stayed there forever.

How did you know Adam?

JL – I first met Adam when I was working at Whitechapel Gallery. He was studying at Cass School of Art across the road, so I met him there. He decided he wanted to set up this gallery in Walcot Square, where he and his partner Isabelle lived, and he wanted advice and help. I became involved from then on and, because he was a good artist, I invited him to undertake a residency at Camden Arts Centre in 1994. He was so intelligent and his interest in art was very broad. Quite a lot of artists showed at Adam Gallery – Tracey Emin at one point, Lucy Gunning, Daniel Sturgis and many more. Lots of other artists supported it: Antony Gormley, Rob Kesseler… It really was an experimental place, so when Adam died the idea of setting up something in his name that would carry on supporting artists and supporting innovation was really important.  

NL – It’s so wonderful to hear that. I don’t think I was aware of that at the time. I say this with some guilt, but I think I applied to it as an opportunity; I didn’t know its background or where it came from.  

JL – Well yes – that’s as it should be!  

NL – What was nice about the residency too was that it sat very much within the exhibition curatorial programme rather than education and outreach. My experience, certainly at the time, was that if galleries wanted to work with disabled artists they would always be slotted into the education and outreach programme. I think that’s still the case sometimes.  

JL – One of the things that would be wonderful as an outcome of the Bursary: if institutions change that attitude. 

NL – It would be great to see artists that have done the residency becoming… I mean, I don’t like the word ‘mainstream’, but if we start to see them in big, curated exhibitions and biennales. I think it’s more likely to happen having had [the ARMB] than not having had this.  

A vast, empty, wood-panelled concert hall (the Sydney Opera House) with a huge bunch of multicoloured helium balloons floating together above the stage with a very small human figure suspended laying down at the bottom of them

Image: Noëmi Lakmaier - 'Cherophobia' at Sydney Opera House. Photo by Joy Stanley

JL – I was interested to hear that you have worked on a new piece, ‘Cherophobia’, and that the seeds of that were sown during your residency at Camden Arts Centre. Thinking about our conversation about time and having a finite amount of time - it has expanded beyond the residency period.  

NL – It has. The idea definitely developed during the residency; it was fertile ground for a new idea to develop in a way that I think sometimes everyday life isn’t. I was very naïve at the time and thought, ‘well maybe I can realise [Cherophobia] as well?’ in a space that would have been way too small, but the idea never left me and I knew I had to realise this. I took it in a lot of different directions but it always felt impossible – the space, the cost and the engineering behind it - and then Unlimited [the arts commissioning programme co-run by Shape and Artsadmin] came along and it suddenly became possible. Eight years after the residency, it came to fruition and it recently travelled to Sydney Opera House, so from Camden Arts Centre - the spark of an idea - to an installation at Sydney Opera House.  

JL – So what happened there? Was it inside the Opera House?  

NL – Yes, it was inside the main concert hall. It was more or less the same piece as the one I did in Shoreditch in 2016, where I’m suspended for 48 hours under 20,000 helium balloons. This experiment of lifting my body with 20,000 helium balloons over a duration of 48 hours – it’s amazing how this developed over eight years.  

JL – It’s interesting that the other part of your intellectual space has been taken up with your course in psychotherapy. Do you see a point where that will all merge together?  

NL – The more I think about it I think the philosophy and existential side of my work has always been there and I think it is now starting to fall into place; I do find myself making connections. I was thinking about the value of something like the Camden Arts Centre residency and the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary – it’s something outside of everyday life, at least for me anyway, and that opened up possibilities. In a way that’s what therapy is too: you go out of the everyday – a very specific limited, contained, boundaried space – and the residency offered that too.   For me, it was especially out-of-the-ordinary because it was my first major residency. I had been working in an employed capacity for a few years and by the time I was offered the residency I was really starting to hate my job, so having the residency gave me an opportunity to give that up; to do what I really wanted to do. It gave me enough financial support to say ‘I’ll take this risk’, take the plunge, become self-employed and take being an artist seriously. I might never have done that if I’d not had that opportunity.  

JL – So how long do you think [the ARMB] will continue to inform your work?  

NL – I think it has informed who I have become as an artist and how I work. It was a time of lots of realisations. Realising the process as the piece, which I think I hadn’t understood before and grew into during the residency - that the whole process of making is a performative event. That’s become increasingly important.  

JL - Your latest piece is inspired by ‘Sisyphus’, the piece Adam was due to perform. That piece linked to Carl Andre’s ‘Equivalent VIII’ – the idea of collecting washed-up bricks from the Thames mud at low tide, and the sense of Adam carrying these bricks up one at a time, like Sisyphus with his rock.  

NL – I’m really interested in what Camus says about Sisyphus - he doesn’t so much talk about the act itself but focusses on the idea that we should see Sisyphus as an unhappy man, and the emphasis on meaning. That what matters is the meaning and the task.   I was aware Adam’s performance was going to happen. I wish I’d met Adam! 

JL – Well - his spirit lives on.

In Out There takes place at Attenborough Arts Centre until 17 June. Please find full information on the exhibition at

The Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary at Ten publication is available for purchase from Shape for £5 + £2 P&P - please email [email protected] or call 020 7424 7330 if you would like a copy. You can read a further extract, by Arts Council England Chair Nicholas Serota, here.

Image: Noëmi Lakmaier's ARMB residency at Camden Arts Centre