Monday, 25 September 2017

Juliet Fleming exhibits at The House of Blah Blah

It all began with an article. An article targeted at Juliet; one of those that pop up on the screen as recommended reading in response to browsing history. The article in question, 'How a 3D clitoris will help teach French schoolchildren about sex', prompted Juliet to investigate this part of the female anatomy that she, and it turns out, many others, were relatively uninformed about. Why is it that we are so familiar with depictions of male genitalia in all its states but so ill-informed of the clitoris? 

Juliet Fleming has set out to address this in her current exhibition, Something Coquettish at The House of Blah Blah in Middlesbrough. But please do not panic; this is not a sex education class, it is an investigation into female sexuality, domesticity and pleasure. 

Just as Fleming acknowledges that these topics have historically been ignored, she merges traditional techniques such as sewing with modern technologies such as digital printing.

On entering the gallery (a large, multifunctional and fairly nondescript space with exception to the tiled floor showing evidence of previous artistic intervention) the viewer gets a general overview of the entire show.

A couple of metal frames that were originally intended to be used as structures for temporary studio walls have been reappropriated and now function as reclining supports over which digitally printed wallpaper is draped. 

A third metal structure stands tall acting as a support over which another sheet of clitoris-decorated wallpaper is hung.

Towards the back of the gallery the viewer can see hand crafted ceramic vessels and dishes displayed on the wall and arranged on shelves rather like one may find in the home of someone from the elder generations. One of the recurring motifs in the exhibition is painted in gold directly onto the corner walls at the back.

Numerous unique objects described as plush toys, are scattered over the gallery floor.

At this stage I must reassure you that this is not a gallery in disguise as some form of sex shop, or erotic boudoir.

I want to address the 'plush toys'. Rather than viewing these items as toys, objects giving one pleasure from the act of playing with them, I regard them as soft furnishings. In this case they are clitoris-shaped stuffed cushions that are made from fabric that has been adorned with clitoris designs. 

Throughout the exhibition there are two clitoris icons that reappear. Fleming explained to me that one of these is the anatomical depiction of a clitoris, and the other is a shape that she has adapted as she worked with the previous image.

Using modern image transferring processes, the aforementioned icons have been applied to the surface of the ceramic objects and feature on the patterned paper and the cushions. It is the clay sculptures that I remember from Juliet's previous work when she was based at Newcastle University. Not surprisingly given the problems of making work of this kind; dependent on the use of a kiln, requiring large amounts of space to make and then store, she has adapted her practice so as to concentrate on smaller ceramic items that have a more direct relationship to the home.

When talking to Juliet about the exhibition, I was struck by all the things that she wants to address within the work. It could be quite easy for the exhibition to have felt weighed down by all these issues, but this is not the case. Suggestions are made and references alluded to, providing a starting point for discussion.

What better opportunity for this than by attending the following event on Thursday evening:

Something Coquettish: Closing Party & A Clitoral Conversation

Thursday 28th September 2017
6 - 9pm

Event description

6 - 7 pm Open discussion held in Something Coquettish Exhibition looking into themes of feminism, the digital age, sexual autonomy, gender and stereotyping.

7 - 9 pm Closing Party for Something Coquettish

Gallery visit to Middlesbrough

My trip to Middlesbrough began with Something Coquettish, a solo exhibition by Juliet Fleming at House of Blah Blah, an independent, artist-led gallery, studio complex and project space. House of Blah Blah has a strong emphasis on supporting and developing underground and emerging artists from the region. I'll do a blog post specifically about this exhibition soon.

I then made my way to Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), which is known as a 'useful' museum, a civic institution that promotes art as a tool for social change. Its programme integrates exhibitions and collection displays with learning activities, off-site projects, commissions and community-focused initiatives.

"We wish to have an influence on society, taking a leading role in addressing current issues within politics, economics and culture, and contributing to change. Our programmes encompass themes such as housing, migration, inequality, regeneration, and healthcare."

The tall walls are put to good use in the Kellenberger-White Print Room. Kellenberger-White is redesigning the institution’s brand throughout 2017. The project includes exhibitions featuring archival materials, samples of their own productions, and printed matter drawn from workshops and consultation sessions. The exhibition consisted of a workstation—a printing machine and a digital interface—that visitors could use to create posters expressing their views on Middlesbrough, art, society, and what a museum should be. The posters are being displayed in the gallery on a rotating basis.

The final destination on my visit to Middlesbrough was Platform A located in the railway station of central Middlesbrough. Founded as an extension to Platform Art Studios in 2011, Platform A is a gallery dedicated to innovative developments in contemporary art through its diverse programme of exhibitions. Platform A represents emerging and established artists.

The current exhibition, My Paths Are My Ideas of Imagination is by one of the associate artists, Rachel Clewlow. See my separate blog post for more information about this exhibition.

I had previously arranged to meet Tony Charles, the Director of the gallery to see the exhibition outside of the gallery opening hours. Not only did he do this, he gave us a wonderful tour of the studios attached to the gallery and the workshop facilities that studio holders have access to. He is one of the artists represented by Platform A, and has a studio at Platform Art Studios attached to the gallery. We were fortunate enough to be shown his work which involves the investigation into the relationship between sculpture and painting. Working on aluminium, he paints onto the surface and then uses a grinder to remove some of the surface. He then applies a layer of resin to give an incredible sense of depth and retain the vibrancy of the colours. As the viewer walks around the work, the light reflects different areas of the scratched surface, creating a moving drawing.

For more information about Tony's work visit

Thanks Tony for a wonderful insight into the gallery and studios. It was a great way to end my Middlesbrough gallery tour.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Gill Shreeve exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

"Using installation, video, photography and drawing, I experiment with light, space, perception and motion. My work references the vitality of original experience, the presence and energy of first hand observation, helping us to make sense of our external and internal landscapes, the tangible and intangible. I incorporate visual ambiguities to prompt curiosity and questions rather than resolutions." Gill Shreeve

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Hannah Elizabeth Cooper exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

The world is chaotic, and in such disarray one tries to cope and find some semblance of peace. I create optically stimulating work which utilises colour, space, repetition and layering. The paintings become visual manifestations of my inner reality, providing equanimity.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Jim Lloyd exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

Can you meet me in the country
In the summertime in England
Will you meet me?

Did you ever hear about Wordsworth and Coleridge?
They were smokin’ up in Kendal
By the lakeside

Take a walk with me
Take a walk with me down by Avalon

And I will show you
It ain’t why, why, why
It just is.

Van Morrison, Summertime in England

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Rachel Clewlow at Platform A

The current exhibition, My Paths Are My Ideas of Imagination at Platform A is by one of the associate artists, Rachel Clewlow.

It consists of a number of beautifully executed paintings and drawings relating to walks made by Clewlow. Employing tactics used by cartologists, she transforms raw data gathered from her experiences and transforms this into colourful charts, maps and patterns that are in themselves a new form of landscape.

"Through painting and printmaking Rachael Clewlow has created a visual language that reflects an obsessive attention to detail and a desire to map out her own experiences of the world. In an ongoing series of diaries begun in 2003, she creates rigorous and detailed recordings of her every day movements. Planned abstract journeys taken to explore selected cities and regions sit alongside the mundane routes she takes from A to B. This record becomes a highly personal form of trace and a rich source of data from which Clewlow begins to construct paintings and prints. Drawing from elements of the language of infographics and of cartography, these works also demonstrate an obsession with colour and the formal concerns of abstract painting.

Over the past 18 months she has created a large body of new work for her first solo exhibition. A series of paintings presented in groups, focus on a set of pre-defined walks around Newcastle, London and Rochdale. Each walk represents a performative journey made to explore place through the demands of the related paintings. In the case of this group of works, it is the scale and proportion of the paintings, themselves derived from OS maps, which influences the nature and duration of the walks. Clewlow is bound to 'complete' the walks, a slave to her own rules, composing with her feet and discovering chance like paths through this quasi-intuitive process.

A group of walks in London saw her attempt to find routes across the city created by the 13 protected vistas of St Paul's Cathedral and other monuments. In Protected Views, 69.78 Miles Walked, London (2017), architectural planning restrictions provide Clewlow with a hidden visual structure, which she seeks to make real through the process of walking the streets it traverses below. As with each group of works, a 'Map' and several 'Keys' are the manifestation of this performed experience, charting these new routes as images whilst also speaking of an unknowable, sublime landscape.

Longitudinal Geometry, 129.53 Miles Walked, Newcastle (2016) charts seven days walking north to south across an OS sheet map. By playfully and absurdly sticking as closely as possible to lines of longitude, she invites us to consider the nature of theoretical systems of measure and mapping. The meandering lines of circles in her own map chart the physical meeting of our real world roads, routes and rivers with the cold authority of the OS National Grid. Realised in complementary colours, these delicate forms dance across the surface of one painting, each one a waypoint, a moment of lived experience and a data point in a grander scheme.

Her most recently completed group of four paintings explores the industrial heritage of the area around Rochdale. Man Made Waterways, 91.9 Miles Walked, Rochdale (2017) saw her crossing the Pennine Hills over five days to join a large group of reservoirs, canals and waterways. Here, Clewlow is interested in establishing a new route that honours these critical historic monuments at the heart of the regions growth. For the first time in these works, Clewlow introduces a system of symbols and forms that organises every moment, thing and place she records into her own taxonomy. These paintings offer a visual codification of Clewlow's exterior and interior observations during the process of 'collecting' these unassuming local landmarks. Together with her other recent work, these works provide us with a new way of imagining the ordinary and overlooked as parts in a rich constellation of interconnected moments – new landscapes of colour, form and imagination."

Nick Kennedy

For me, it is the hand-drawn and human elements that elevate the work from being a translation of information into another realm. Clewlow's work gives me great pleasure and the more time I spend with it, the more I am drawn into the detail and notice new things. The process behind the work adds weight to what simply are stunningly beautiful creations.

The exhibition runs until 5th October

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Liz Green exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

‘Where is it, this present?

‘…gone in the instant of becoming.’

William James

My work creates a space between two states so that they can be felt simultaneously. A place between being observed and observing, between the past and the present, somewhere between remembering and experiencing.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fang Qi exhibits in Newcastle University Summer exhibition

'Fang Qi is a Chinese artist and illustrator currently undertaking a practice-based PhD at Newcastle University on the relationship between illustration and installation art. Her research will contribute to new visual narrative strategies in illustration which aim to reconstruct the self and identity.

Fang Qi’s works encompass drawing, illustration, video, animation, installation and creative writing. She has been deeply influenced by the artists Song Yongping, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Marc Chagall and novelist Woolf Virginia, as well as the open art theory of Umberto Eco and the power theory of Jean Baudrillard. Her works attempt to arouse audience’s self-awareness and values of their roles in the powers, trying to construct a legal position of “independent self” in modern China.'

"In the dialogues and puzzles aroused in her unsettled shapes and tangled metaphors she unveils the absence of ‘self’ in oriental philosophy and collectivism."

Monday, 18 September 2017

Catherine Bertola, Jo Coupe, Cath Campbell and Jen Douglas, in conversation with Bryony Bond, Creative Director of The Tetley, Leeds at The NewBridge Project

As part of The NewBridge Project's Practice Makes Practice programme, artists Catherine Bertola, Jo Coupe, Cath Campbell and Jen Douglas, were in conversation with Bryony Bond, Creative Director of The Tetley, Leeds.

The artists presented and discussed their recent exhibition In and Out of Sight at UH Galleries, in the context of their individual practices and wider group activity.

Catherine Bertola

Catherine Bertola creates installations, objects and drawings that respond to particular sites, collections or historical contexts. In her new work she will use film and photographic processes to re-animate photographs of empty domestic interiors through the inclusion of her own presence.

Cath Campbell

Cath Campbell’s work encompasses drawing, photography, sculpture, digital printmaking, installation and large-scale architectural interventions. For UHGalleries she is making a new architectural work that will house an ongoing sound installation exploring traditions of social singing and collective voices, using found film footage to provide the lyrical content.

Jo Coupe

Jo Coupe’s work is rooted in a fascination with impermanence. From photography to installation, video, objects and sound, she creates works which investigate transience, precariousness and unpredictability. For In and Out of Sight Coupe will use the human voice to create an immersive sound installation.

Jennifer Douglas

Jennifer Douglas creates large-scale paintings, sculptures and installations to explore relationships between inherent function and renewed significance. A new series of paintings will explore the physicality of mark-making and reference the working environments of heavy and light industry and their painterly equivalents within the history of modern and contemporary art.

This group of independent female artists all have their own established successful careers, but come together to exhibit alongside each other and discuss their work together. This form of working together does not have a name as such - they are not collaborating and are not a collective, but support each other and work together on exhibitions. There are links between their work, both formally and conceptually, but these are not forced to produce coherent themed exhibitions. It seems that the group trust each other and know that the work will gel together in the way that they co-operate so well together as a group.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the artists are all of a similar age and have families. Yes, their individual practices have been affected by such factors, but I am eager to refrain from dwelling on these circumstances for too long. I feel the work deserves to be discussed and talked about for what it is, and I do not get the impression that any of the artists are making work about being a mother or because they are a mother.

Naturally the topics of discussion did include gender and parenting, and I began to think about whether this would have been the same if it were a group of 4 artists who were in the same circumstances but were male. Would we have been asking them how they manage their working lives as fathers? Indeed, would their practice have shifted since having children?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Peter Hanmer exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer Exhibition

Blending the uncanny and fantastical, Peter creates largely sculptural works seeking to offer an explorative often satirical perspective on themes ranging from the ideological to the environmental. 

His figurative works are designed to provoke the senses and the mind, while resisting easy interpretation. 

Offering what the literary theorist Terry Eagleton calls ‘the great humanist function of culture;’ the cultural critique.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Shaney Barton exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

‘Existence is vibration. When we separate something into its smallest parts, we always enter a strange world where all that exists is particles and waves. The fact that everything is in a state of vibration also means that everything is creating sound. And as sound is created, there is a master listener to receive the sound: water.’

Masuru Emoto

Friday, 15 September 2017

Kate Stobbart exhibits as part of Newcastle University Summer exhibition

Outstanding Life Changing Sculptures made by other people (and me)

Sculptures mostly made with other people when talking about something else.

'Without question one of the most indecisive artists of her generation Kate Stobbart is influenced by a strong sense of inadequacy and a deep-seated desire to succeed. Stobbart has had major national and international rejections, including the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2011), SPILL National Platform, London (2011), Bristol Live Open Platform, Arnolfini Gallery (2010), International Streaming Festival, The Hague (2010), New Contemporaries, London (2009), Madrid Abierto (2008), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2008), Saatchi Gallery, London (2008). Stobbart has not been selected for the 2012 Daiwa Foundation Art Prize.

Kate is currently doing a practice based PhD at Newcastle University.

Kate Stobbart lives and works in Newcastle and just wants to be loved.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Multiple animation screens

I am working on some stop motion animations at the moment, and thinking that they could be exhibited on multiple screens as they have a dialogue with each other.

A friend alerted me to the multiple screens used to a similar effect during the Mercury Music Awards this year.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Mehan Fernando exhibits in Newcastle University Fine Art Summer exhibition

"My work explores intricate paintings on objects that portray nature, decay and science. The different images present affinity and symbolism. I am interested in the reactions of viewers when confronted by the beautiful, sometimes horrifying oil paintings on different materials that propels curiosity and thought."

Mehan Fernando

Tick Box Art on BBC Radio 4

Is it possible, or desirable, to measure the quality of an artwork?

In a world of shrinking resources, the question of how we decide which art should receive finance is ever more pressing. Rosemary Laryea asksif, when putting money into good quality art is the goal, it's possible to set criteria to judge what makes "good art".

Rosemary talks to members of the public looking at - and arguing about - artwork, and discusses questions of artistic taste and judgement. She also hears from the jazz musician and rap artist Soweto Kinch, playwright Simon Stephens and filmmaker Destiny Ekaragha. Tiffany Jenkins makes the case for critics and Barry Smith, a philosopher of the senses, and the art critic Lynda Neade explore the idea of taste, subjective pleasure and expertise.

Arts Council England has trialled a method of measuring quality in the art it funds, called Quality Metrics. Audiences, artists and arts organisations are invited to assess artworks - exhibitions, dance pieces, digital art, poetry, theatre, music events and more - across a range of criteria, and become part of a conversation about what constitutes quality. Rosemary wonders whether this might be a way of finally answering the question of how we know something is good, while Dr Sarah Garfinkel shows that it might be our hearts, or rather our heartbeats, that hold the clue to understanding and mapping our aesthetic response.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Anna MacRae - Newcastle University Summer exhibion

"Like a portal, my work for this show was instigated by painting objects and places taken from the inside and outside spaces I inhabit." 

Anna MacRae

The Stars squawked in the sky like geese.

The picture itself represents a room. On the the window sill there is a bowl of goldfish. Through the open window a rural landscape can be seen: the soft -blue sky, rounded like a dome, rests along the horizon on the jagged outline of the woods. In the foreground , at the roadside, a little girl, barefoot in the dust.

Georges Perec, Life A User’s Manual