Meet our 2021 BRILLIANT commissioned artists

We’re thrilled to introduce you to our six BRILLIANT commissioned artists who will turn their bright ideas into unique light artworks to be exhibited in Durham at the next edition of Lumiere in November 2021. We received a record number of applications for the BRILLIANT scheme, which this year was open to the whole of the UK for the first time, with people across the nation encouraged to unleash their creative potential.

Four of the chosen winners are from the North East, with an additional two applicants selected from outside of the region. Winning ideas include a set of giant gardening tools and an artwork inspired by County Durham’s changing geography.

BRILLIANT received a record 272 applications, an increase of over 250% since 2019, with a fifth of applicants identifying as d/Deaf or Disabled, Black or a Person of Colour, supporting our mission to broaden the diversity of those working in the medium of light art.

The commissioned artists, supported by our BRILLIANT sponsors EMG Solicitors, will now develop their artworks working closely with Artichoke’s producers, who will provide production advice and technical support to turn their vision into a reality. Their work will finally be shown alongside international artists at Lumiere, which is commissioned by Durham County Council and takes place from Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 November 2021.

Collectively, the six winning artworks respond to the extraordinary year we have lived through, reflecting on how we have reconnected to, and found solace in, our homes, local communities and the natural world.

“We are absolutely delighted by the number and diversity of applicants who have applied to BRILLIANT this year, not only from the North East but from across the UK. The six winners presented ideas to the panel that were imaginative, beautiful and ambitious, and they each attest to the extremely high quality of the applications we received. BRILLIANT can provide both a stepping stone into the world of large-scale public art for winners, as well as enhancing the Lumiere artistic programme for audiences by presenting light art pieces created by unique, diverse voices. I warmly welcome our six winners to the Lumiere artist alumni, and can’t wait to work with them to bring their ideas to fruition.”

~ Louise Dennison, Artichoke’s Head of Learning & Participation


Daksha Patel

Headshot of Daksha smiling and wearing a blue cardigan, black top and red trousers

Daksha is a Manchester based artist whose work engages with mapping, measurement and scientific visualisation. Her current residency with Invisible Flock at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is part of the Liverpool Biennial program and explores Lidar scanning technologies. Recent residencies/exhibitions include: King’s College London, Life Science, University of Dundee, Dundee Contemporary Arts; Paper2 Gallery, Manchester; Watermans Arts, London and Horniman Museum, London.

“BRILLIANT is a wonderful opportunity for me to develop ideas from earlier light works made in Portugal. My process will begin with drawings from maps of the social and geological histories of Durham, which will be projected to evoke traces of the past upon the present day. I would like the light projections to be ephemeral and magical, and suggest the passage of time.”

~ Daksha Patel, BRILLIANT winner

Steph Whalen

Headshot of Steph smiling, she's wearing hoop earrings, a grey top and a black dungaree dress

Steph Whalen is a special effects artist from Spennymoor, County Durham. She has a wide variety of skills in media, art and theatrical and media makeup. Currently, Steph is studying within East Durham College’s Creative Industries Department, and will be attending The Northern School of Art later this year to study BA (hons) VFX & Model Making. During Lumiere 2019, Steph collaborated with other students and expert creatives from Guildhall School of Music & Drama on the piece, Lift off, which inspired her to apply for BRILLIANT. This will be her first solo project and through which, she hopes to raise awareness for hidden disability.

“Winning BRILLIANT will give me the opportunity to create my first ever solo project and showcase my work on such an incredible local platform, which is really exciting; it will build on my current skills as I progress forward in the autumn to begin my studies in BA(hons) VFX & Model Making at The Northern School of Art. Working on producing my own piece of work for BRILLIANT not only gives me an amazing set of new skills to move forward with but will also hopefully also inspire others with hidden disabilities to believe that their dreams are worth chasing.”

~ Steph Whalen, BRILLIANT winner

Northern Butterflies

Collage of six members of the Northern Butterflies and the founder Samantha, they are all dressed in colourful clothes and some of the members are wearing sunflower lanyards

Northern Butterflies is a creative charity based in Cramlington, Northumberland and founded by Samantha Goodlet. Northern Butterflies has engaged many people in meaningful, creative activities, promoting social inclusion and interaction. Learners attending Northern Butterflies range from 18 years to 75 years of age. The charity aims to improve wellbeing for those experiencing mental health struggles who also have a learning disability. Northern Butterflies has engaged and participated in community exhibitions before, winning the Cramlington Culture Award in 2020.

“We applied to be part of BRILLIANT to have the opportunity to showcase our creativity, learn new skills and for the amazing experience. We are so excited to be part of BRILLIANT, to have our ideas lit up and be seen by thousands of people. This opportunity is magical for us to stretch our creative wings and fly. We can share our new skills with others in our local community and showcase our artworks in other community outdoor settings in Cramlington.”

~ Northern Butterflies, BRILLIANT winners

Paul Jex

Headshot of Paul wearing a white T-shirt and black jeans with his hands behind his back

Originally from Newton Aycliffe, now based in Gateshead, Paul completed a Master of Fine Arts at Newcastle University in 2018. He has exhibited throughout the UK and in 2019, he was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries, exhibiting at the South London Gallery and Leeds City Art Gallery, which subsequently acquired one of the selected pieces: She. By looking at the mechanisms and methodologies of art, Paul explores the interaction and relationships within the art world, which include its institutions, involvement with mass media and crucially, the role of conversations and anecdotes.

“I work full time and do my art practice in my spare time. The past year, it’s been impossible to find headspace for creativity, which I’ve found very challenging. But when the open call for BRILLIANT was released, I knew there was an opportunity to channel my creativity and focus on a project that can be shared as something positive and optimistic, towards the end of a challenging and difficult time. I live 40 minutes’ drive from my family, and I’ve seen them no more than four times in twelve months. Being selected for BRILLIANT is my way of connecting with my loved ones, and I hope the work resonates with people who were in the same situation. I’ve been to every Lumiere event, and to be involved this year is very special.”

~ Paul Jex, BRILLIANT winner

Tendayi Vine and Bea Wilson

Collage of Tendayi and Bea, Tendayi is on the left wearing black shirt and jacket and Bea is on the right wearing a cream dress

Tendayi works as an artist and educator in London and Bea is a production designer based in Bristol.

“We are currently based in two different places – London and Bristol – but are so excited to be working together again for BRILLIANT 2021. We feel that the Lumiere festival is the perfect platform for our work, and have loved the process of designing a piece that will be situated in historic Durham. The last year has been so tough for us all, and now more than ever, it feels like there is a need for creativity – we feel very lucky to be part of this exciting event.”

~ Tendayi Vine and Bea Wilson, BRILLIANT winners

Erin McDougle

Headshot of Erin, she has one hand on her right hip and is wearing a cream dress

Erin is a graphic and brand designer from the North East, currently based in Newcastle. Her work typically involves branding for businesses, but in her spare time she can be found crafting illustrations and lettering.

“I have always been a huge fan of public art and the way it can resonate with so many audiences. BRILLIANT is an amazing opportunity to create something I would have never otherwise have the means to create. The Lumiere Festival is such a key event in the North East and to have ideas from local and emerging artists come to life is crucial for bringing a focus to the creative scene here. It’s a great way for local and national creatives to have their work uplifted.”

~ Erin McDougle, BRILLIANT winner