Saturday, 23 June 2018

Opening of Great Exhibition of the North

Friday was the official opening of Great Exhibition of the North and Newcastle and Gateshead were bustling with people enjoying the sunshine and curious about what the festival has in store.

I was at the media call in the morning, and got a sneak preview of the UK's largest water sculpture in action.

Later that night the water sculptures came alive again accompanied by music, poetry, drones, lighting and fireworks.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Opening of Which Way North at the Great North Museum: Hancock

Thursday night was the VIP preview of the exhibition 'Which Way North' at the Great North Museum: Hancock. 

I felt rather out of place, but ever so honoured to have been commissioned to make a work for such an important museum and for it to be amongst such an amazing selection of objects and artworks by artists such as Ryan Gander, Andy Lomas and Barbara Hepworth.

After all, how often is my work going to be sandwiched between Helen Sharman’s Zvezda Sokol space suit and Damien Hirst's shark (Heaven)!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Q & A with Helen Shaddock in relation to THEMSELVES HERE TOGETHER at The Word

To coincide with my exhibition, THEMSELVES HERE TOGETHER, I was interviewed by Emma Ormiston at The Word about the audiovisual installation.

Read the Q and A here:

Monday, 18 June 2018

Documentation of performance at THEMSELVES HERE TOGETHER preview

As part of my exhibition, THEMSELVES HERE TOGETHER, at The Word in South Shields, I collaborated with Sarah Grundy on a performance.

This video documents the durational performance.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Newcastle University Undergraduate Degree Show - part 2

The last time I went to look round the Newcastle University Undergraduate Degree Show I was unable to see it all, and so on Saturday I went to view the rest of the works prior to the exhibition closing and being exhibited in London.

It just so happened that on this viewing of the exhibition I saw most of the video work. I was impressed by the confidence of the students whose work involves them performing to camera. I was disappointed to have missed the live performances that happened on the preview night, but was pleased that the work presented in the gallery held it's own even without the performance. 

Katy Bentham's installation in the Hatton Gallery appealed to my aesthetic sensibilities. Her articulate voice accompanied the actions in the film; polishing shoes; folding a shirt. The precise layout of the components of the installation echoed the content of the film and made for a cohesive work, even without seeing the performance.

Fergus Carmichael's two-screen projection was filmed in Greece during a trip funded by the Bartlett Travel Award. The sound alone was outstanding.

There are certainly some artists that will go far if they continue to make work of this standard, and I look forward to following their progression. I wish them the best of luck for life beyond the University.

My current exhibition reviewed by Sarah Davies for Corridor 8

Helen Shaddock: 
Themselves Here Together

The installation at The Word, South Shields is a repeating sequence of projected images and accompanying soundtrack, a montage of voices speaking, whispering or singing disjointed words and phrases. The recording was produced by vocalist musician Sarah Grundy then edited and layered by Helen Shaddock to accompany her projected images and animations.
The words were provided by Shaddock after spending time with groups such as Unusual Experiences at Broadacre House. Here the artist spent time with people who have experienced auditory or visual hallucinations, with a desire to express something of that experience to her audience.
The installation certainly conveys a sense of disorientation, with images flashing up at different points around the room, using all the walls in the space. The viewer is forced to turn this way and that, trying to keep up but always missing something. Frantic, aggressive lines like scratches or scars criss-cross in fast succession as the voices build to a chaotic discordant frenzy. Moments of relief come as softer images take over, pastel coloured discs like microscope slides which linger a little longer.
Shaddock’s research revealed that often those who hear internal voices find the dialogue at times reassuring and comforting, whilst at others it can be disturbing and destructive. These contrasting effects are expressed through the use of pace, volume, colour and mark-making in this piece. The barrage of light, movement and sound, in which it is impossible to distinguish more than the occasional word (‘lose ourselves without… forever… everything… everyone…’) give the viewer an experience of sensory overload, struggling to know what to focus on or where to look. In the more harmonious moments the voices come together like a monastic chant or plainsong which has a strangely soothing influence.
Shaddock is keen to maintain a hands-on approach to creating her artwork, despite it being presented ultimately in digital format. The images and animations were created by drawing, scratching or collaging directly onto 16mm film, with the later conversion from analogue to digital producing a sense of detachment, of being ‘one step removed from reality’, a state perceived by many of those who participated in Shaddock’s research. The artist’s method here makes visible the human involvement in the creative process, with the vastly magnified images refusing to hide the flecks and squiggles of imperfection.
Themselves Here Together is the result of Arts Council England funding and is on display in the StoryWorld room on level 2 of The Word, South Shields, until Thursday 21 June 2018. Opening times are Monday to Thursday: 4–6.30pm and Sundays: 1–4pm.
More about Helen Shaddock’s work and research can be found on her website.
Sarah Davies is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fire at Glasgow School of Art

It was with great sadness that last night I was informed about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. 

Four years ago I was in the historic building when a fire broke out and caused excessive damage. It is an experience that I will never forget and I still get a very physical and emotional response when I think about it. The people of Glasgow and beyond showed exceptional resilience, generosity and determination to restore the important building and support the students who were effected. This is evidence of the huge impact that the building has had on many people, not just those who have had the privilege of working in the building. I hope that the same fighting spirit can be mustered once again. Thankfully, the 2014 fire did not cause any deaths, and I am relieved to find out that the same is true of the latest fire. My heart goes out to Glasgow and the GSA community. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Newcastle University BA Fine Art Degree Show

The Newcastle University BA Fine Art Degree Show brings together the work of 64 students, 14 of whom are exhibited at the Hatton Gallery, and the other work is shown within the Fine Art Department at Newcastle University.

Covering a wide range of artistic practice, the show includes painting, sculpture, print, performance, text and installation. 

The exhibition is open until 16th June 2018.

Lizzie Munn

Lizzie Munn

Lizzie Munn

Harry Pickup (woodcuts) and Susannah Curran (sculptures)

Friday, 8 June 2018

Sneak peek at Which Way North

On Thursday I met one of the Project Managers working on the Which Way North exhibition that is being installed at The Great North Museum: Hancock to discuss some of the practicalities of installing my artwork. I was excited to get a sneak peek at the exhibition during the install process. There is a heavy security presence guarding the amazing range of objects and artworks that are going to be included in the exhibition, and I felt rather privileged to be allowed into the gallery. 

I was taken to the case that my work is going to be mounted in, and we sorted out the best way to hang the work. We had to change the plans for the way that the work would be mounted, so I headed off to the studio to collect one of the test pieces and returned to the gallery with magnets and washers. We tested whether this combination would be an effective solution, and were all relieved to find that it would work without damaging the artwork. The Lighting Technician is going to adjust the lighting of the case so the work can be seen in the way that I intend.

I'm going back on Monday to install the work proper, and am looking forward to seeing it in place.

Which Way North at the Great North Museum as part of Great Exhibition of the North

One of the things that I am working on at the moment in the studio is a new commission that will be exhibited in Which Way North at the Great North Museum as part of Great Exhibition of the North.

This is the press release:

This summer, Newcastle University’s Great North Museum: Hancock will be home to hundreds of star objects on loan from the UK’s leading collections.

As part of Great Exhibition of the North (22 June – 9 September), the museum will present Which Way North, a special exhibition throughout the building exploring the heart and soul of Northern England through stories of its pioneering innovators, designers and artists.

With content conceived by guest curator Gráinne Sweeney, Which Way North has been produced by the Great North Museum team and will feature 250 items borrowed from more than 100 lenders. Star attractions include:
Damien Hirst’s Heaven, 2008-2009, on loan from Damien Hirst / Science Ltd.

Image: Damien Hirst, Heaven, 2008-2009. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

A rare miniature book created by Charlotte Brontë, from the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
Dame Vivienne Westwood’s pirate ensemble, from the V&A Museum.
David Hockney’s Le Parc des Sources, Vichy, 1970, from Chatsworth House.
John Harrison’s marine timekeeper H4, from Royal Museums Greenwich.
The sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who, designed by Dan Walker and used by Matt Smith’s Doctor, from BBC Studios.

These new highlights join major loans already announced, such as Helen Sharman’s space suit, the last piano played by John Lennon and George Stubbs’ iconic painting Whistlejacket.

Caroline McDonald, manager at the Great North Museum, said:

“We’re counting down the days to 22 June when Great Exhibition of the North kicks off and visitors can see these important loans in NewcastleGateshead. From art and design to ground-breaking innovations, we hope there’s something in our show to inspire everyone.

“Bringing together 250 objects from over 100 lenders is amazing for the museum. Many thanks to National Lottery players; our Heritage Lottery Fund grant has made it all possible.”

Professor Eric Cross, dean of cultural affairs at Newcastle University, said:

“The Great North Museum is going to play host to some amazing pieces of art, design and artefacts which celebrate the very best of the North. Visitors will also be able to experience the museum as they've never seen it before.

“We are thrilled Which Way North will feature Newcastle University’s very own Richard Hamilton who taught Fine Art here and has been described as the 'father' of Pop Art. It’s also going to include inspirational pieces such as Helen Sharman’s space suit. We can’t wait to see it all come together and look forward to welcoming visitors to discover more about how innovation and creativity in the North shaped the world in which we live today.”

Which Way North takes its inspiration from the Duchess of Newcastle’s 1666 novel The Blazing World, thought to be one of the earliest works of science fiction. It describes a fantastic realm in which skilled navigators of sea and sky embrace a world of possibilities beyond their own. Visitors to the exhibition will find a 1668 edition of The Blazing World at their starting point, as well as other items they might need for an adventure, including the eleventh Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and a fan showing a map of the North from 1778.

Image: Matt Smith as Doctor Who. Sonic screwdriver designed by Dan Walker © BBC Studios

From thereon in, the exhibition journeys through a number of themed interventions in which bold new displays burst through the existing museum galleries.

To the Moon and Back is the theme in the Hadrian’s Wall gallery, taking Helen Sharman’s space suit as the lead for an exploration of the stars, the seas and Northern pioneers. Other highlights here include John Harrison’s prizewinning H4 timekeeper and an original watercolour illustration by Anita Jeram from the classic children’s book Guess How Much I Love You.

Buried Treasures: In an Octopus’s Garden is the theme for the Fossil Stories gallery. Here, an intimate collection of hidden gems and shiny trinkets sits alongside the museum’s imposing replica T. rexskeleton. Highlights in this space include a pirate costume designed by Dame Vivienne Westwood and a replica of physicist Peter Higgs’ Nobel Prize medal.

Moving upstairs, Human Machine Motion is the theme in the Special Exhibitions hall. An installation of Richard Hamilton’s artwork Man, Machine and Motion is the inspiration here for a celebration of Northern flights of fancy, engineering and nature in motion. Other must-see attractions include George Stubbs’ famous horse portrait Whistlejacket and a full-size replica of Sir George Cayley’s glider.

Spanning the Ancient Egypt and Natural Northumbria galleries, This Kingdom Called Home – sponsored by Home Group – is an emporium dedicated to Northern achievements that have influenced the way we live. Star loans here include David Hockney’s large-scale painting Le Parc des Sources, Vichy and a rare miniature book created by 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë. The space also features a model of Gateshead’s forthcoming ‘Innovation Village’. The aim of the project, led by Home Group, is to build a variety of properties using new modular methods of construction and to draw lessons that could help solve the UK’s housing crisis.

Visitors will have the opportunity to contemplate Damien Hirst’s Heaven in a bespoke ‘white cube’ space on the museum’s ground floor. The installation comprises a shark suspended in formaldehyde solution.

Which Way North at the Great North Museum is a free exhibition made possible by National Lottery players, with funding awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum is closed to visitors from 21 May – 21 June (inclusive) while the exhibition is installed. An extensive programme of public events supporting the exhibition will be announced in the coming weeks.

Great North Museum is one of three hub venues for the summer’s Great Exhibition of the North, alongside BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead.

For more information on Great Exhibition of the North please visit:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

For Freedoms - Billboard Project

The largest public art initiative in U.S. history will place billboards in all 50 states ahead of the 2018 elections.
For Freedoms, which was founded by the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman in early 2016, is spearheading the ambitious $1.5 million countrywide initiative. The organization will also partner with more than 200 local partners to stage free public programming ahead the November midterm elections, aiming to promote civic engagement rather than push one party or agenda. The crux of the political action committee’s mission is the 50 State Initiative, which will erect 52 artist-designed billboards in every state as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, all funded through 52 separate Kickstarter campaigns aiming to raise $3,000 each. “We are hoping to bring art to the center of public life in the lead-up to the midterms, which is where we think art should belong,” Gottesman told the New York Times.
Artists who will contribute billboards include Sam DurantTheaster GatesMarilyn MinterTania BrugueraTrevor Paglen and Carrie Mae Weems. And while For Freedoms states that it wants to promote discourse rather than a single ideology, billboards in the past have rankled supporters of the current administration. One giant sign that was erected in Pearl, Mississippi, placed the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” atop a famous image of peaceful black protesters in Selma, Alabama, who stare down a line of police. It drew the ire of the state’s governor, and was later exhibited at MoMA PS1. 

And a billboard designed by Zoë Buckman that was installed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in October 2016 referenced the Access Hollywood tape, which captured audio of the President bragging about groping women, reading, in gigantic letters, “Grab ‘em by the ballots.”

Friday, 1 June 2018

Recovering the Voice event at The Word

Together with Jenny Richards and Violetta Hionidou, I have been involved in the organisation of 'Recovering the Voice', an event that took place today at The Word. The broad aim was to make connections between research on physical voice that is happening across Newcastle University. We want to bring to fore an area we think is a unique strength at Newcastle University, and to add to the orality network a distinct focus that may help us to think about future cross-disciplinary bids to UKRI.

1. How do we recover the voice?

This is a question that is relevant both to arts and humanities scholars/practitioners who work historically, whose sources are textual only, and to clinicians who work with patients who have had major surgery on their vocal cords. In both cases the voice is 'lost'.

2. How do we work together to understand the cultural value and the semiotics of the voice?

It was a truly fascinating event and I am very stimulated and want to learn more. Before I reflect on the events of the day in another post, here is an outline of the event

10.00-10.30 welcome: introductions, what we hope to get out of today? Tea and coffee on arrival.

10.30-12-00 session 1

Provocateurs: Richard Wistreich (Royal College of Music, London), Jo Nockels (Opera North, Leeds), Peter Adegbie (poet and preacher), Vinidh Paleri (ENT surgeon, Royal Marsden, London)

12-1.00 Lunch

1.00-2.30 session 2

Provocateurs: Sue Bradley (oral historian, Newcastle University), Felicity Laurence (independent scholar; music education), Christos Salis (neurolinguistics, Newcastle University); Christos Kakalis (architect, Newcastle University)

2.30-3.00 tea and coffee

3-4.00 Final roundtable and next steps

4pm Please feel free to view Helen Shaddock's exhibition at the library.

Questions to think about

Morning (Jenny introducing)

Part 1 Recovering Physical Voice

- what does the voice mean to you?

- why is voice important to your work?

- how do you understand and analyse the physical voice?

- in what way does the voice carry meaning?

- what do we *not* know about the voice but need to know?

- how do we recover the voice, whether in actuality (i.e. rebuilding a voice) or historically?

Afternoon (Violetta introducing)

Part II: Recovering the voice and orality

- Orality versus voice/vocality: how do you define each? which focus works best for you and why?

- What are the social aspects of work on voice/orality?

- How important are hearing and seeing to orality/voice?

- What are we excluding through a focus on voice/orality?

- Do we need an international perspective on voice/orality?

- How can the digital help us to recover the voice/orality?

- How do we best translate the voice/orality into a written text?

Final Roundtable

Next steps: a final provocation, to be led by Liz Kemp:

It has been said we lack a 'science of the voice' (Adriana Cavarera). If we were to build a field to address this, what would it look like?

Thursday, 31 May 2018

How do human voices work? - podcast

What makes our speaking voices so distinctive and so recognisable? How can we transform the way we use our voice?

This podcast was produced at the time of the This Is A Voice exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. This Is A Voice is also a book by Jeremy Fisher and Gillyanne Kayes offering 99 exercises to train, project and harness the power of your voice.

In the podcast, Jeremy and Gillyanne join Nicola Davis in the studio along with Steven Connor, professor of English at the University of Cambridge, who has written extensively on the history of the voice, sound and music.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Martha Graham quote

I'm enjoying listening to BBC Radio 4's Book of The Week, which this week is Zadie Smith's Feel Free.

Zadie Smith reads from her latest essay collection where she offers sharp, and sometimes funny, insights and observations on high culture, pop culture, social change, political debate and the personal. Yesterday's edition featured some lessons on the connection between writing and dancing.

Smith mentioned a quote by Martha Graham which I think can apply to many creative people, not just dancers.

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

BxNU MFA | Graduate Exhibition at BALTIC 39: You Kept Me Vaguely Sane

It is always difficult to create a title for an exhibition of this kind where the exhibiting artists are brought together simply because they are studying the same course, at the same time, at the same institution. You Kept Me Vaguely Sane refers to the thing that kept the students vaguely sane in these unpredictable times, namely creativity.

"In 2016, in his speech before meeting the Queen to relinquish political office, David Cameron thanked his wife Samantha for keeping him vaguely sane. As a group of young artists working together in the two-year period following this event, we find ourselves in a state of flux, living, reacting and adjusting within this aftermath. Responding to this Brexit limbo and the ever-moving political landscape, the thing that has kept us all vaguely sane is the sanctuary of our creativity."










Thursday, 24 May 2018

Orla Kiely on BBC Radio 4 Front Row

As a fan of surface and pattern design, I was interested to listen to Thursday's edition of Front Row on BBC Radio 4. On the eve of the opening of the first exhibition dedicated to designer Orla Kiely, she was interviewed by Shahidha Bari. Orla Kiely discussed the origins of her work at a kitchen table in Ireland and why she thinks that pattern can make you happy without even noticing.

The exhibition is at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London and is said to "explore all aspects of Orla’s creative output, from lifestyle and fashion ranges to use of colour and detail and the geometry of pattern." 

The exhibition draws "on an archive of over 20 years of work, offering visitors unparalleled insight into her methods and concepts, exploring sketches, mood boards, samples and a range of making techniques."

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Laura White artist talk at The NewBridge Project

Last night I attended an artist talk by Laura White at The NewBridge Project. "Laura White’s practice focuses on a negotiation with the world of STUFF, i.e. interactions with materials and objects, exploring ideas of value, profile, association, meaning and behaviour of materials, individual and collections of objects. Things are explored both as material stuff and anthropological signifiers, that are capable of revealing the human condition - vulnerabilities and capabilities, value systems affected by consumerism and material status, and object/human dependencies. Her works occupy a fluid space, on one hand demanding critical discourse, and on the other their own ambiguous and intuitive logic.

Laura White’s practice is interdisciplinary including sculpture, installation, drawing and photography. Her web site ‘Tenderfoot’ launched in 2017, is an on-line space for exploring materiality through her own writing, forums, events and a curated space where she invites contributions from artists, writers, and makers. White also runs participatory events for example, 'What it means to handle stuff - auto-pedagogy - a course in butchery’, which saw White bring RCA students and staff from Raven Row Gallery London together to learn butchery skills under the guidance of a professional butcher, here looking at what it means to learn a skill and to deskill, the environment we learn in and the groups we learn with and skills we can access both as an amateur and as a professional."

The tone of Laura's talk reflected that of her practice; she spoke with generosity and honesty. It is clear that Laura knows her stuff, and approaches her practice with a great deal of rigour. However, the work is rooted in the everyday, and I find that the familiarity of the materials used helps me engage with the work.

Laura is currently working with a choreographer to explore the body in the work. Up until now the body has physically been absent from the work, but is present through the making of the work. By working with the choreographer, Laura is exploring whether it is too literal to have the body within the material.

Laura spoke about the three elements to her practice:

FIELDWORK - research, out and about, with other people, everyday encounters

STUDIO - playing with materials, investigating materials, processes

WRITING - reflecting on interactions and experiences, sometimes writes site-specifically and then leaves the writing to be discovered in the situation. 

Laura uses her website, Tenderfoot as a place to share her writing. Every three months she invites a guest to contribute to the website. Tenderfoot also shows documentation of workshops that she has done with other people (DIWO - Do It With Others).