Sunday, 22 January 2017

Just below the bang bang - Mark Joshua Epstein - Vane, Newcastle

"Mark Joshua Epstein explores a sense of the baroque through the lens of exuberant abstraction. Inherent in the paintings is a kind of dandy-aesthetic, as Epstein investigates modes for thinking about sexuality, uncoupled from its traditional association with corporeal desire. These works play with obfuscation and revealing, while teetering on the edge of taste. Colours are amped up, patterns delivered through the imperfect marks of the artist’s hand.

The title refers to a remark by British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. While discussing her work as a war correspondent, she explains that to survive, one must inhabit the space “just below the bang bang” – or, just below the gunfire. Within this idea Epstein sees a metaphor for the formal decisions in his own work, lurking just below the threat of disaster, nearly falling apart at a moment's notice. The forms in these works are piled, butted up against, leaning on – structures always on the verge of toppling over.

The metaphor grows with the current American political situation, in which the margin has rapidly become a more dangerous place to dwell. Suddenly questions arise about what kinds of lives will need to be lived in the shadows as threats to minority groups like the LGBTQ community escalate. 

There is gayness lurking in Epstein’s recent abstract compositions. Unlike say, the hanky code, where a single colour denotes a particular sexual proclivity, his works are meant to be looked at for their combinations of colours – for their discordant colour stories, to borrow a phrase from fashion. He is far less interested in hues or patterns in isolation than he is in these elements forced together – layered, interrupted, obfuscated and otherwise occupying the same spaces. The work says to the viewer, take these elements together, or not at all.

The things Epstein makes are inspired by the revered and the crass – by the titans of geometric abstraction and by the cheap plastic tablecloths sold by the yard at dollar stores. In his studio practice there is no distinction between capital ‘A’ art, with its authoritarian stamp, and mass-produced (and mass-consumed) design, with its anonymous creators never getting to claim credit. The work celebrates all of it."

Thursday, 19 January 2017

NewBridge community tea towel - guess who!

I was delighted to open the NewBridge community tea towel box tonight and find another drawing to be added to the tea towel. Can you guess who drew this?

For more information about Raise a Mug, please visit

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Deadline extended - contributions to NewBridge community tea towel now due Saturday 28th January

As you know, I am working with Holly Wheeler on an artwork called Raise a mug which will be part of the last ever NewBridge Projects exhibition throughout the month of February.

We are producing a NewBridge tea towel featuring drawings of those in the NewBridge community - studio holders, past studio holders, members, staff, volunteers, exhibitors, and all those who are, and have been part of NewBridge.

If you are one of the above, we would really like for you to be included on the tea towel, and hope that you want to contribute.

All we need is a black and white line drawing of 'yourself', on white paper, occupying a space no bigger than 5cm x 5cm. Please include your name with the design. If you'd rather do a drawing of someone else in the NewBridge community, go ahead, but get don't forget to ask someone to draw you too!

You can leave the drawing in the box in the PMP Space on the 1st floor of NewBridge, pop it under my studio door on level 2, give it to us in person, leave it at the office, or post it to the NewBridge office. 

We have extended the deadline to 5pm on Saturday 28th January.

The tea towel will be for sale in the NewBridge bookshop. By the looks of the contributions so far, it will be a masterpiece!

We look forward to receiving your drawing.

I submitted my drawing today. You will have to wait for the finished tea towel to see the full image, but here is a sneaky preview.

Monday, 16 January 2017

'Hold Tight' - Mark Joshua Epstein and Stina Puotinen at Vane

"In ‘Hold Tight’, Mark Joshua Epstein and Stina Puotinen invite the viewer in for a shared experience in response to recent political events in the US and UK. 

The installation they have created references both the physical space of the waiting room and the often anxious sensation of waiting. A world away from the neutral colours and decor we associate with institutional waiting rooms, Puotinen and Epstein have instead created a visually dynamic space, where the familiar is rendered unfamiliar. 

A space where the organic is synthetic, where innocuous patterns are in fact drawn from the security industry, and where a nostalgic feel-good poster has been updated for this era. 

As the title implies, the artists aim to expose and highlight this act of waiting, a sense that this time of collectively held breath thrust upon us by forces outside of our control doesn’t have to be borne in isolation. Puotinen and Epstein implore the viewer: hold tight to yourself, hold tight to your beliefs and hold tight to each other."

For more information visit

Raise A Mug research - My first school tea towel

It is often the case that at times of significance, a commemorative tea towel is made. This is no exception for the NewBridge community tea towel, as it is being made at this landmark stage in the organisations existence. As we move from the premises on NewBridge Street West, we are giving all those involved in this amazing group, the opportunity to be featured on the NewBridge Community tea towel. These limited edition artworks will be for sale in the NewBridge Bookshop, and word in the studios is that its the essential buy of 2017!

I've hunted out my first school tea towel as a source of inspiration. Do I really have such big ears?!

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Drone Ensemble play in UnEarth II at Alphabetti Theatre on Saturday 14th January 2017

A night of experimental music from the North

When: Saturday 14th January 2017
Show begins: 7:30pm 
Tickets: £5 from: or on the door
Age recommendation: 18+

UnEarth, presented by TOC (The Occasion Collective) will be the second of a series of experimental music events at Alphabetti Theatre, showcasing some of the North’s experimental and electronic musicians from the fields of coding, improvisation and more.

A special late licence has been arranged so the music can continue until 2am!


Cooking with Faye

A Newcastle based improvisation ensemble, creating spontaneous soundscapes and beats. The band is made up of electronics, sax + collaborators.

Some Some Unicorn

Some Some Unicorn has evolved from an online collaborative project into a free flowing collective of improvising musicians, poets and artists who value shared experience and community.

The Drone Ensemble

The Drone Ensemble are an experimental sound group that design, make and combine installation and performance on unique sound instruments. The simple form of a drone ignites a capacity for a sound­scape that, during performance, allows freedom from rigid harmonic and rhythmic progression. 

Unfortunately I wont be able to play as I am at work, but if Monday's rehearsals are anything to go by, it is set to be a great night, so go along and enjoy!

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - Phyllida Barlow

Anyone who read my postgraduate dissertation will recall that I have a fondness for the work of Phyllida Barlow, and once again, she does not disappoint. Barlow's work is on the cusp of sculpture and installation. The viewer can stand back and admire the sculpture or can enter into the work, walking amongst the rough concrete pillars.

Although this work has been exhibited before in Des Moines, Iowa, Barlow has obviously put a lot of thought and planning into how it can be re-exhibited in The Hepworth as it responds to and commands the architecture of the Gallery. Moving around is an adventure, and one is continuously changing their understanding of the work as different elements are revealed and new aspects discovered. For instance, once I had scrambled through the structure, I was surprised to be faced with a stunning array of coloured boards that formed the roof of the structure I was just moving through. Out of the darkness I found brightness from these 'roof tiles'. 

In one corner of the gallery a number of right-angled boards lead up the wall, bringing ones attention back into the gallery. 

A bundle of black cables hangs in the opposite corner. The friend that I am visiting with thinks it resembles a sun, but I am less convinced. There is already lots to take in, and I do not think any more is necessary.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Raise a mug have just received our first submission for the NewBridge tea towel

Raise a mug are asking for members of the NewBridge community to a submit black and white image (no larger than 5cm x 5cm) of themselves to be included on the NewBridge community tea towel. Please include your name within the design.

We've just received our first drawing and it is AWESOME!

Can you guess who it is from this small section?

You'll be able to find out when the tea towels have been printed.

In the meanwhile, please submit your own drawings - deadline is 5pm on Saturday 21st January

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - David Madalla

It is fair to describe David Medalla's practice as varied and expansive. In his 70 year career, the work he has made includes painting, sculpture, participatory work, kinetic art, installation and performance. The different works presented in this exhibition are a good representation of his multidisciplinary approach.

For the exhibition at The Hepworth Gallery, Medalla exhibits one of his so called Auto Creative Sculptures, Cloud Canyons.

Cloud Canyons consists of a number of clear plastic pipes standing in a circular plinth. Foam is forced up and out of the tubes, and as the foam rises, it doubles back on itself and falls down the tubes and the cycle begins again. I find it mesmerizing; rather like watching flames in an open fire. The natural rhythm and movement of nature.

I find the work in the other room far less engaging. Medalla invites the audience to contribute to A Stitch In Time, another work from the sixties that Medalla is exhibiting at The Hepworth. Fabric is suspended in the gallery, and visitors are encouraged to sew any items they wish to onto the fabric. As is often the case with such participatory work, we are left viewing an accumulation of rubbish, used train tickets, shopping lists and chocolate bar wrappers. Surely we've moved beyond this kind of work.

David Medalla, Sand Machine, 1963/2015 from Venus Over Manhattan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - Helen Marten

Having only seen Helen Marten's work in image form as opposed to the actual thing, I was curious and excited to get to experience it first hand. 

Marten's use of an eclectic mix of materials appeals to me, and I enjoy the way in which she forms relationships between seemingly unconnected objects and surfaces. Materials used in her work on display at The Hepworth Gallery include a tennis ball, dried vegetables, wood, steel, screenprinted leather and fired clay.

Read more at:

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - Steven Claydon

Over the next few blog posts I am going to guide you through one of the current exhibitions at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, namely The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. 

The experience of Steven Claydon's work begins as one walks through a curtain of yellow plastic, the kind that could be found in a factory or supermarket, as the fringe separating the shop floor from behind the scenes in the stockroom. Claydon tests the boundaries of sculpture, making work that often engages multiple senses including smell and sound. In this work Claydon has infused the curtains with citronella, a scent used to repulse mosquitoes and midges. 

He uses materials in inventive and surprising ways, sometimes creating objects that appear to be made from a material such as wood but that are actually made from a substance such as polyurethane. Seemingly historic artefacts are positioned in relation to contemporary objects, prompting the viewer to question what they are looking at and question how they value such things. 

Claydon made use of one of the freestanding walls in the gallery. "He covered it in dark blue magnetic film, then threw pennies at it." From afar it resembles a constellation of stars in a nights sky, but only on closer inspection does it become apparent that it consists of pennies attached to the background.

Of the four artists included in the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, I felt most distant from Claydon's work. It might be Claydon's use of trickery that I find dissatisfying. A barrier is created between the artist and the audience, the artist being the one with the upper hand and the knowledge, and the audience as those who are being deceived. This has the effect of making the work seem dishonest and cold. If it were not for one of the gallery invigilators who told me a story behind one of the works, I would be unaware of the references to Jurassic Park. Claydon's work seems very impressive and intelligent, but I felt separate from it and found it difficult to engage with on a deeper level. That said, the skill that goes into making the work is evident and it is good to see an artist who obviously enjoys making beautiful objects.


Read more at:

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield

During my visit to Yorkshire this Christmas I was keen to check out the The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture is the UK's first Prize for Sculpture. It is a new £30,000 biennial award that recognises a British or UK-based artist of any age, at any stage in their career, who has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture.  It is an integral part of The Hepworth Gallery's 5th anniversary celebrations and named in honour of Barbara Hepworth.

The 2016 shortlisted artists are (in alphabetical order):
- Phyllida Barlow
- Steven Claydon
- Helen Marten
Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield and Chair of the Selecting Panel said: “We are delighted to have such a strong and diverse shortlist for our inaugural Prize and are looking forward to working with these artists and to inspire and engage our audiences with the medium of sculpture. It is particularly fitting that we launch the first Prize of its kind, here in the heart of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle.”
He added: “While there is no shortage of prizes in the art world, few specifically recognise sculpture and it is our aspiration to redress that with the launch of one of the UK’s most important new awards. We have based the selection of the four shortlisted artists on the significance of their contribution to sculpture in its broadest definition.”

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Happy festive times and here's to a wonderful 2017

I would like to thank you for taking the time and making the effort to read my blog, and I hope that you find it enjoyable.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my Christmas greetings to you. I hope that 2017 fills you with happiness.

Over the next few blogs I will be looking back at 2016 and reviewing things that Ive been involved in. I will also be sharing some of what is in store for 2017.

Friday, 23 December 2016

My contribution to No Niceties exhibition - collages

The 'No Niceties' exhibition featured works by a diverse group of artists, some based in Newcastle and the others from all over the country. They were united by the premise of the exhibition, namely to make a work in response to my recent publication, 'A lot can happen in fifteen minutes'. Some artists responded specifically to one of the texts within the publication, whereas other artists responded to the general themes of the publication.

I wanted to create a work that acted as a summary of the publication, and so I selected a key sentence or phrase from each text. I chose to use letters cut out from magazines to form the words, and then applied them directly to the walls in the gallery.

I scattered the texts around the gallery at varying heights and sometimes specifically positioned a sentence in relation to one of the other works.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

My contribution to No Niceties exhibition - spoken word performance

In addition to all the responses from other artists to my publication, 'A lot can happen in 15 minutes', I used the 'No Niceties' exhibition as an opportunity to test out a couple of ideas relating to the text.

Given the success of the spoken word performances at the publication launch, I decided to create another to perform at 'No Niceties'.

My performance was scheduled after Stella's performance, so while everyone was focusing on Stella, my group of performers got into position, spreading out around the perimeter of the room, each facing the wall.

Once Stella's performance had finished, my performers gradually began whispering the phrase 'The ticking clock', a line from one of the texts within 'A lot can happen in fifteen minutes'. After a few minutes an assortment of other single sentences or phrases such as 'Desperately searching', 'You knew what to expect', and 'No explanation', were gradually introduced by all but one of the performers. This single performer repeated 'The ticking clock' throughout the performance, but the other performers varied the lines they were speaking.

As the performers changed the way in which they delivered their lines, increasing in volume and altering their tone, they also slowly moved backwards away from the wall and towards the centre of the room. They ended in a circle, each facing toward the audience with their back to the other performers.

As they neared the end of the performance, they became more softly spoken and returned to delivering the single line, 'The ticking clock'. At the point when there was some regularity and the performers were in tune with each other, I called out "No Niceties," marking the end of the performance.

My thanks go to the wonderful individuals who kindly agreed to perform this work with me.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Radio 4's 'Something Understood' ponders Is Art Good For Us?

In the latest episode of BBC Radio 4's Something Understood (Sunday 18th December 2016) "the poet Michael Symmons Roberts explores the idea that the arts are good for us - body and soul - and considers whether they can be both tonic and threat to society.
He says, "Art is as various as we are, and its moral weight and status is unstable, unpredictable. In times when people are losing trust in politics and religion, art can start to look like a replacement. But if we put too much of our moral weight and hope into art, we imperil it, and it can imperil us too."
Some of the great Victorian philanthropists thought art would benefit society and used their wealth to make art freely available to the masses. Whether or not the original Turner paintings offered in a Manchester museum,improved the lives of the working class is not evidenced, but the continued idea that the arts are of moral benefit persists.
Roberts offers the example of Ken Loach's groundbreaking film Cathy Come Home as a sign that society can be improved through the arts - along with the way Bob Dylan and others used their music to effect social change in the US during the 1960s.
But he also strikes a note of caution. "The arts can act as the conscience of the state, a challenging force for good. But they can equally be used as an instrument of propaganda. Whenever I hear the arts per se being touted as a positive moral and political force in society, I start to feel uneasy." Using evidence of Nazi propaganda from the Second World War, he also points out that a love of art is not necessarily an indication of a healthy morality.
Roberts concludes that art is not per se a good thing for us, but that he 'couldn't imagine, and wouldn't want to, a life without music or poetry or films or paintings'."

Sunday, 18 December 2016

No Niceties contributing artist - Stella Dixon

In the No Niceties exhibition, Stella Dixon staged a performance. 

The gallery lights were switched off, and the freestanding lights lit up the 'stage' area which was suggested by an array of pink and purple balloons, some of which were shaped as hearts, scattered on an area of tin foil on the floor.

Dressed in joggers and a pink bra, Stella entered the stage area as the music began to play. 

Over the course of the song, Stella performed to the mirror on the wall, rather like the way a teenage girl may practice in front of a mirror in her bedroom.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Liz West featured in FRAME

I was delighted to be able to meet up with artist Liz West while she was in Newcastle. Liz recently invited me to contribute to 'Our Colour Wheel', a new work in a three-person alumni exhibition at Leeds College of Art's Vernon Street Gallery, part of the College's 170's Birthday celebrations. The exhibition opens tomorrow night, Wednesday 14th December 2016 and runs until 27 January 2017. Liz was able to show me a sneak preview of the works that will be in the exhibition, and I will share some of these once the exhibition has opened.

Liz was also excited to show me the latest edition of FRAME magazine. "Frame is the go-to reference for designers and interior architects." Since its inception, the magazine has identified the world’s most innovative interiors, and the December 2016 publication features an article about Liz West and her installation Our Colour Perception.

"Liz West creates vivid environments that mix luminous colour and radiant light. Working across a variety of mediums, West aims to provoke a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer through her works. She is interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour.

West's investigation into the relationship between colour and light is often realised through an engagement between materiality and a given site. Within physical and architectural space, West uses light as a material that radiates outside of its boundaries and containers. She playfully refracts light through using translucent, transparent or reflective materials, directing the flow of artificial and natural light. Our understanding of colour can only be realised through the presence of light. By playing and adjusting colour, West brings out the intensity and composition of her spatial arrangements."

'In Terms of Performance' - a free online resource worth checking out

I've recently discovered a fascinating website called 'In Terms of Performance'. 

"It is a free web-based keywords anthology designed to provoke discovery and generate shared literacies for how the goals, skills, and artistic traditions of experimental interdisciplinary work are understood. 

Produced by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia in collaboration with the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley, the site features essays and interviews from more than 50 prominent artists, curators, presenters, and scholars who reflect on common yet contested terms in contemporary cultural practice such as Curating, Choreography, Duration, Live, Participation, Score, and Spectator. 

The authors contemplate the relations among visual art, theatrical, choreographic, and performance art practices; the poetry of miscommunication; and the stakes of literacy in our current context of progressively hybrid cultural production."

Topics covered include

"As a free online resource, In Terms of Performance is non-linear and richly cross-listed, enabling an unstructured browsing experience in which terms, contributors, and artworks connect intricately in a true web of reference—while inviting new entries to be added in the future. It also allows users to create their own PDF publications, customised to their interests."

The coeditors, Shannon Jackson and Paula Marincola conducted a set of extended interviews with major figures in art and performance, who reflect on their own experience with the poetry of miscommunication, the challenges and rewards of collaborating, and the history and future of intermediality.

An extended conversation between Jackson and Marincola explains the project’s evolution and muses on the stakes of literacy across disciplinary boundaries today.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Kate Stobbart : No Niceties contributing artist

Kate Stobbart exhibited a work called Fifteen minutes of picking at clay to the No Niceties exhibition.