Primary/Bristol: Briarwood Special School
Primary/Bristol: Briarwood Special School
Heather & Ivan Morison, Shingled Ghost (study), 2015. © Heather and Ivan Morison, courtesy of the Arnolfini and Bristol City Council

2015 - 2017

Primary/Bristol: Briarwood Special School



Briarwood Special School is part of Bristol City Council’s Primary/Bristol series of artist commissions for primary schools commissioned as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme. As part of the development artists Heather & Ivan Morison have been commissioned to develop a new artwork for the school working closely with the school head, landscape architect Sculpted Earth, and project curators, Arnolfini.

Briarwood is a Bristol school committed to providing a high quality of education, care and life for children and young people with severe learning difficulties, complex needs including autism and sensory impairment from 3-18 years. Both Primary and Secondary sites have specialist centres for pupils with behaviours that challenge, called The Nexus.

The Briarwood site at Briar Way is undergoing development which includes demolition of an existing hall and construction of a new single storey ‘Post 16 Centre’, the relocation on site of an existing modular buildings, the demolition of an existing turning circle for cars/vehicles at the front of the building, and the construction of a new access road and parking bay at the entrance.

As part of the development and in line with Bristol City Council’s public art policy, artists Heather and Ivan Morison were appointed in early 2016 to develop a public art work for the schools rear landscape space. Beginning with the idea of the garden, the garden gate, a clearing, and the woodland beyond, their design comprises a simple flowing landscape that emphasises the changing seasons, strong shapes and forms, a carefully selected palate of materials, textures and colours, and non-prescriptive opportunities for play. In developing the design the artists have worked closely with their appointed landscape architect Sculpted Earth to create a sensory garden for staff and students to use and enjoy.

The garden is due to be completed in late 2017.

This project has been made possible through funding from Bristol City Council as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme. 

Heather and Ivan Morison have established an ambitious collaborative practice over the past decade that transcends the divisions between art, architecture and theatre. Their works range across a diverse set of media and approaches which sees their work manifest itself both within the gallery but also within wider physical and social arenas, from a nomadic theatre company to the creation of large-scale public spaces. 

They have exhibited widely across UK, Europe, Australasia, Canada and the USA and are presently working on permanent commissions in Cambridge and Newbury, temporary commissions in New York and Seattle, exhibiting at the Royal Academy summer show and are shortlisted for the Birmingham Big Art Project. Key past projects include Shadow Curriculum, South London Gallery, 2015; Misery Farm, Hauser and Wirth, Somerset, 2015; Sleepers Awake, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2014; All’s Well That Ends, Schauspielhaus Bochum, Germany 2014; Smile All the While, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 2014; Skirt of the Black Mouth, Tate Modern, London, 2012-15; Nuclear Family, National Theatre of Wales, 2013; Black Pleasure, Eastside Projects, Birmingham 2013; Anna, The Hepworth, Wakefield, 2012; Cave, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 2012; Black Pig Lodge, Southbank Centre, London, 2011; Mr. Clevver, Contemporary Art Spaces Tasmania, Australia, 2011; Plaza, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, 2010; The Black Line Void, Derry, Northern Ireland, 2009; Black Cloud, Situations, Bristol, 2009; Journée des Barricades, One Day Sculpture, Wellington, New Zealand, 2008; And So it Goes, representing Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennial, 2007.  

Their book, Falling into Place, a fictionalized account of their large architectural shelter works, was published by Bookworks in 2009, and was made into an audio book by Palaver Press, New York in 2015. They are visiting lecturers at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths.