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Joanna Sperryn-Jones makes and breaks sculpture and frequently encourages others to participate in the process. Her research is concerned with perceptions and experiences of breaking and simultaneously explores and draws parallels between personal experiences in life, such as breaking bones, with those of making/breaking sculpture. For the last two years Joanna has led a research cluster called SelfScapes that explores the relationship between individuals and environment through making artwork. Joanna is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Sculpture Practice at York st John University and studied sculpture at Norwich University of the Arts gaining a degree in 1997 and a PhD in 2013. Joanna has exhibited in the UK and internationally in Germany, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Finland, USA and Canada.

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Joanna is currently working on a new project for NetPark funded by EIRA and based at METAL Southend working with the University of Kent and University of Essex. Joanna is working with the computer scientist and artist Sophia Ppali to create a new augmented reality app for NetPark. The app explores our reciprocal relationship with trees and will involve the community in creating a virtual forest sited in Chalkwell Park. The research during the process of creating the app will focus on how using augmented reality can change the way we perceive our surroundings and what ways it can be developed to enhance users’ wellbeing.


A page from my sketchbook showing initial ideas of creating virtual flowers that could be multiplied and planted by the community but would die as people walked over them. It shows images of roses and flowers from Chalkwell Park and a VR artwork by the artist Marina Abramovic that was shown at the Venice Biennale, Rising 2017 in which viewers pledge to do tasks to save the environment and doing so prevent the VR glaciers from melting and the virtual Marina from drowning.


I made these drawings of tree bark whilst in residency at METAL Southend during 2019. The first part of the app will focus on specific details of trees and other elements within the park, including these.


Another page from my sketchbook showing my visual research into the trees at Chalkwell park. This tree will also be used in the app.


In addition to the structures of trees (which are very different for different types of tree, I also looked at the shapes of leaves and patterns of the veins. I used a 3D pen to draw the leaf outlines. I also looked at Pokemon-Go for ideas for the app which might have some influence on part 3 of the app (the virtual forest)….


These are further studies of the leaves using a 3D pen (top left), rubbings (top right) and created in Virtual Reality using Google Tiltbrush software and an HTC Vive headset.


These pages from my sketchbook are centred on a drawing I made of a drain cover in Chalkwell Park that will be featured in the first part of the app (in relation to trees!). Other images are from the AR app Minecraft Earth creative mode as I was interested in the ability for people to build creations together that could be located within the actual world. It also has VR experiments attempting to encourage the viewer to think more about the ground they are walking over, and it has an image of London as I was interested in all the normally unseen labyrinth of connections.


Current Plans for the new NetPark app – ‘Reciprocity’

Part 1 of Reciprocity enables you to choose different locations in the park to learn more about trees and our relationship to them. At each location you will earn a virtual leaf. You can chose to earn one or several before progressing to the next stage, you can return to stage one at any point to earn more leaves.

Part 2 enables you to add a design your own virtual leaf on your mobile device. You will be led through choosing colours and creating designs that express how you are feeling.

Part 3 you can visit the Fictional Forest to add your leaves to a virtual tree. The Fictional Forest is a multi-sensory virtual place to explore where you can experience other people’s artwork leaves alongside your own. You also learn how to maintain the forest.

Below are leaves that were drawn for us by the generous attendees of classes at the NetPark Mental Wellbeing Project classes at Metal Art School in Southend who allowed us to test the idea on them! The colour chart shows how colours can be linked to emotion  – we would like people to use the activity to express their emotions so that the trees in forest will be an expression of how the community is feeling.

The virtual forest is still under-development as we design virtual trees that will grow as more people participate…

Joanna Sperryn-Jones