Saturday 30 May 2015

'Eat Ebstractedly' at Mary Mary, Glasgow

Sometimes I can't put my finger on why I am intrigued by an artwork, or artworks, and when I visited 'Eat Ebstractedly' at Mary Mary, Glasgow and saw Hayley Tompkins' work I felt this way.

Perhaps it is the way that the images work together through careful use of colour.

Friday 29 May 2015

Study reports tensions over paying exhibiting artists

A new report finds that artists and gallery representatives agree artists should be paid for exhibiting their work in a publicly funded gallery, but they fail to agree on the specifics of how this should be implemented.

Artists and gallery representatives overwhelmingly agree that artists should be paid for exhibiting their work in publicly funded galleries, but there is no consensus on the best way to move forwards, a new report finds. Analysing the findings from an online survey, the report, ‘Paying Artists: valuing art, valuing artists’, notes that over 85% of respondents from the visual arts sector support a more equitable financial arrangement, but that there are concerns over the potential consequences of such a move. They voiced fears for the financial health of the sector and a possible reduction in the number of professional opportunities made available to artists.

Support for paying artists is echoed in “…a desire across the sector for some kind of a fees framework.” However, both artists and gallery representatives gave the proviso that any solution be sufficiently flexible to fit the diverse financial environment surrounding the visual arts. For instance, whilst considerable support was given to the general idea of guidance for artists and galleries in negotiating a fee, when it came to implementing a specific measure, any consensus disappeared. The suggestion of introducing written national guidelines was dismissed on the grounds that these could harm smaller organisations, whose time and resources would be swallowed by bureaucratic necessity. Although there is some shared understanding and agreement within the sector over what a fair fee constitutes, the report finds that “the sector, on the whole, seems unready at this stage for a very detailed set of fee requirements.”

The tension between support for the general idea of fair pay and a rejection of specific solutions continues in an analysis of what fee artists should charge. As well as noting that “at present, recognition of an artist’s time is often not reflected properly in fees,” and indicating support for indicative minimum rates, respondents expressed concerns that national fee guidelines could inhibit beneficial by-products of working without a fee in a gallery, such as having an open and accessible platform for early-career artists.

The report forms part of the Paying Artist campaign which has been running since May 2014. The online survey, used as the main research tool to complement gallery interviews, reached over 1,440 artists and 332 gallery officials. The intention is to use the conclusions to publish a full set of guidelines and fee recommendations in 2016.
Christy Romer

Library of yellow

I am delighted that Jill Arthey has responded to her experience of Out of Kansas by writing a poem. Jill saw the exhibition poster at The Hatton Gallery, and was intrigued so came along to the preview where she met me and Jodie for the first time. She talked to us at length, sharing her love of yellow with us Anne recommending a number of books for us to read, including The Culture of Yellow. 

Jodie and I invited Jill to the discussion event, and it was at this that she began to write this poem

Library of Yellow
Morticia's mould of mellow hue
Geometric jive
Yellow fellow of mirrored edge
Drones in their hive
Triangular trap of mind freedom
Structured box, told tales
Rectangles receding
Zebra striped for style
Creamed edge crevice
Wound healing
Loud lemons expose luddite minds
Located lexicon design
Looting the literary of the philistine
Refraction, reflected roles.
Jill Arthey 

Thursday 28 May 2015

Artist Eileen Cooper talks about the position of women in the art world

Wednesday's Front Row (BBC Radio 4, 7:15pm) featured an interview with artist Eileen Cooper, the first woman to be elected Keeper at the Royal Academy of Arts. 

Coinciding with her new exhibition, Hide and Seek at the Royal Academy of Arts she talks about the position of women in the art world and discusses some of the difficulties faced by women artists and, more specifically, women artists with children.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

A poetic response to 'Out of Kansas'

Artist Holly Weaver attended the Out of Kansas discussion event at the Lit & Phil, and following her visit she wrote to us about her experience.

"Going upstairs to see your work truly made the difference, I enjoyed the fact that from where we were sitting downstairs you could only see a slither of colour, on some of the shelves I was unsure if anything was there and then going upstairs I was really overwhelmed and inspired by the structures. On the way home I wrote a piece about the work and thought I would share it with you:"

As happy coincidence would have it, this surface is yellow.
Golden, invisible, but Gold. This was unexpected. 
I had the urge to conquer each of them,
to jump over the rail and hop from each like tiles on a path.
They are chunks of cheese, unreachable from the ground much like,
the episode of Wallace and Gromit on a grand day out, crackers at
the ready to sample the cheese on the moon in their makeshift
Exhilarated and otherworldly.
Monuments born out of wood. The Gold though.

Monday 25 May 2015

Post from Tracy Mackenna and Edwin Janssen

I regard it as a real treat to receive a personal letter, note, postcard or parcel from a friend. Items of post such as these make a welcome change from the usual bank statement, bill or piece of junk mail.

I have received a package from Tracy Mackenna and Edwin Janssen, the collaborative duo of artists who gave a talk the other week as part of the Newcastle University visiting artist lecture series, and with whom I had a wonderful tutorial with.

In the tutorial I was discussing the Out of Kansas exhibition at the Lit & Phil, and that Jodie and I were going to host a discussion event. I explained that we wanted to engage Lit & Phil regulars and those who visited the exhibition, and talk about issues around the work such as site responsive art, the changing role of libraries, and gather some opinions.

I then mentioned that Jodie and I are considering producing some form of material that could prolong the life of the artwork, and act as a document of what happened.

They then told me about one of their own pieces of work in which they had produced a set of beer mats that captured some of the conversations that happened in the pub.

I was delighted to find that in the brown A4 envelope there were a few beer mats as well as a postcard, a friends forever badge and a publication. Huge thanks to Edwin and Tracy for sending me such a thoughtful piece of post. Much appreciated!                              

Colour inspirations from pinterest - leifshop

Pinterest is a good way to find images of things that one is looking for. I find it useful as a source of inspiration for colour combinations. Here are a few of my recent picks:

Sunday 24 May 2015

Fordite forms

Old car factories had a harmful impact on the environment, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, land and water. But it wasn’t all ugly. Oddly enough, one of the by-products of car production was Fordite, also known as Detroit agate. The colorful layered objects take their name from agate stones for their visual resemblance. But instead of forming from microscopically crystallized silica over millions of years, Fordite was formed from layers of paint over several tens of years. Back in the day, old automobile paint would drip onto the metal racks that transported cars through the paint shop and into the oven. The paint was hardened to a rock-like state thanks to high heats from the baking process. As the urban legend goes, plant workers would take pieces home in their lunch pails as a souvenir for their wife or kids.
image via
Since then, car production has modernized and Fordite has been rendered a relic of the past. Artisans have been using the colorful material for jewelry but it’s not a stretch to imagine a future when these pieces sit behind glass in a museum. The colors can also be used to judge how old they are because car paint was subject to different trends. In the 1940s cars were mostly black or brown enamel while the 1960s ushered in an age of colorful lacquers. (via My Modern

Saturday 23 May 2015

Out of Kansas destall

Today was the day we had to destall Out of Kansas from the Lit and Phil. How time has passed so quickly. 

Thankfully, taking the forms down from the top of the bookcases was easier than it had been to get them up. We carried them downstairs out of the way, and dismantled them. 

There were a number of reasons why we did not keep them intact. Most importantly, the forms had been made specifically for the Lit and Phil, and they would not work in the way we wanted them to work if they were sited in another context. 


We also have very little/ no room for storage of work. 

Thirdly, having spent hundreds of pounds creating the exhibition, we had no money to pay for another van to transport the work back to the studio. 

With the seats down and some careful positioning, we were able to fit the components of the forms in Jodie's car, but not when they were fully constructed.

The moveable forms were not so easy to transport, and involved us pushing them from the Lit & Phil through a bustling Newcastle city centre on a sunny day at lunchtime. Despite the number of people around, no one offered to help, even when the wheels of one of the forms got stuck on a kerb of a busy road! Half-way on the journey, two of the wheels fell off one of the forms, making it even more difficult to manoeuvre! It must have been a rather funny sight, seeing two small women pushing two large shiny silver geometric shapes along the busiest street of Newcastle! 

As we approached the University, a friend spotted a moving triangle, and knew it had to be me! He stood outside the cafe and laughed as he took a few photos!

Friday 22 May 2015

Out of Kansas discussion event

Thanks to those who contributed to the Out of Kansas discussion at the Lit and Phil today. It was really interesting to talk about some of the issues surrounding the exhibition and hear your thoughts on the work. When I think back to all of the things we covered, it is easy to see where the three hours went!

- The apprehension that some artists have about using colour, and the reasons for this

- Chromophobia

- The Luminous and the grey

- The Culture of Yellow

- The Wizard of Oz

- Bookbinding
- Marbling
- The history of the Lit & Phil
- The role of libraries and how this has changed
- The library as a site for art
- The Cubby hole
- Viz magazine
- The Ladies Room
- The Smoking Room
- The comments book
- Site specificity

I look forward to following up on some of the recommendations and am excited to read the poetry being written in response to the artwork.

Thursday 21 May 2015


Today I discovered Monoqi, an online store showcasing limited edition design products from around the world. Each day, MONOQI presents up to 100 hard-to-find and unique products from several international designers.

Here are a few things that grabbed my attention.

Brooklyn-based, American artist Doug Johnston’s work is centred on fragile, irregularly formed objects made of sewn ropes inspired by the traditional woven baskets of earlier ages.

1945 Divided Crate

Oak Book Rack

Marco Ripa's iron furniture

For more products visit

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Out of Kansas discussion event - Thursday 21st May 2015 - 1-2pm - The Lit & Phil, Newcastle

As part of our exhibition, Out of Kansas, Helen Shaddock and Jodie Dunnill will be hosting a discussion event on Thursday 21st May 2015 between 1-2pm at the Lit & Phil in the main library. 

The event will be a way for library users, and visitors to the exhibition to join in a discussion around the work. 

We are eager to generate an honest discussion, and are inviting a number of people from different backgrounds to share their experience. 
We would be delighted if you would join us for what will be an insightful mode of engagement, and a positive way to conclude our exhibition. 
Refreshments and biscuits will be served.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Artist talk/ presentation for EXPLORE, the lifelong learners group

Today I gave a presentation about my art practice to members of a lifelong learning group called EXPLORE. Artists Holly Weever and Alex Searle also discussed their respective art practices. 

Explore was originally conceived in 2009 by Dr Ian Ground of the North-east Centre for Lifelong Learning (formerly run by the University of Sunderland) as a creative response to the effective withdrawal of funding for lifelong learners by the previous government. 
Explore is a radical and revolutionary vision of what lifelong learning can be: accessible and flexible, democratic and participative, innovative and challenging. Learning for the love of learning. And built around the learning that people say they need rather than what successive Governments think they need.In the summer of 2013, funding was withdrawn and Explore was to close. 
However, a group of Explore Ambassadors formed an Interim Steering Committee and called two Extraordinary General Meetings in June 2013.  As a result of their initiative and the overwhelming response, in September they registered The Joseph Cowen Lifelong Learning Centre as a Community Interest Company, published a draft programme for the autumn term and requested prospective members to commit their £325.  On Monday 7th October, it was announced that EXPLORE had sufficient members to run the programme and the first classes convened on Tuesday 15th! 
I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was delighted that the audience were so responsive and enthusiastic about our work. As ever, it was interesting to hear the opinions of and answer questions from people whom I had not met before. That said, one woman who attended the group today also came to the preview of Out of Kansas, and Jodie and I had spoken at length to her. She had some really interesting interpretations of the work and comments to make. I also enjoyed the presentations by Holly and Alex.

The room in which I gave the presentation had rather beautiful windows.

For more information about EXPLORE, visit 

Sunday 17 May 2015

A Third Exhibit

It has been a really intense but exciting and fun day installing the collaborative installation 'A Third Exhibit' in the Hatton Gallery. All was resting on today - bringing the various elements together into the space and turning them into a cohesive whole.

As Sean dealt with all the programming operations of the sensors for the lights and sound, Corbin adapted the footage that we were recording in the space during the install into something unrecognisable and extremely atmospheric and mesmerising.

Ed was busy attaching all the lights to the columns, inflating the balloons and positioning the speakers.

Once Mags had cut the aluminium rods and I had cut the fabric, we wrapped double sided carpet tape around the rods and then rolled the top of the fabric around the rod, creating the horizontal pole from which the fabric hung.

Rob and Jack made little sandbags which acted as weights to prevent the balloons from floating up to the ceiling. These were attached to the corners at the bottom of the lengths of fabric by eyelets that had been punched into the fabric.

The balloons were inflated with helium and between us we managed to create suspended planes from the fabric.

It all came together in the last hour when we collectively decided on the volume levels, the fine tuning of the lights and the positioning of the planes.

This entire process, and throughout the Late Night event, a webcam filmed what we were up to and live streamed to view online.

The exhibition will be open to the public between Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm. The exhibition runs until Friday 22nd May 2015

Saturday 16 May 2015

A Third Exhibit - The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle - Saturday 16th May

The Gallery of Wonder - on tour

This afternoon I was part of the crew helping Irene Brown to destall The Gallery of Wonder which had been erected in the grounds of Newcastle University prior to it going on tour across Northumbria.

May, 2015 Group Show

Touring Show

The Gallery Of Wonder will travel across Northumbria, appearing at Northumberland county and border shepherd shows in a distinctive customised dark grey wagon, covered in symbols of curiosity and mysticism presenting tantalising clues to its unique contents.


Northumberland County Show Monday May 25th

Woodhorn Miners Picnic Saturday June 13th

Powburn Show
 Saturday August 1st

Spittal Seaside Festival Saturday August 8th

Falstone Border Shepherd Show Saturday August 22nd

Alwinton Border Shepherd Show Saturday October 10th

Newcastle City Campus Saturday October 17th (tbc)

At each venue the crew will erect the gallery, a big black circular tent decorated with countless piercing eyes, some set with small lenses providing a distorted peep into the shadowy interior. Outside, a barker (performance artist Dennis Jobling) entices the public to purchase a ‘magic ticket’ to gain entrance to the mysterious exhibit.

Within is an exhibition of new works of art created by seven nationally and internationally known artists who have responded to the idea of wonder, captivating an audience and holding them spellbound by what they see.

How exactly do they do this? It must be seen to be believed. What we can say is that fifteen-foot snakes, enchanted flowers and vindictive fairies are part of this extraordinary spectacle.

The tented gallery makes specific reference to the history of travelling booths and side shows at fairs, when items of curiosity such as waxworks of famous people, coronation tableaux and strange misshapen creatures were presented, juxtaposing the exotic and the amazing, the scientific and the fantastic and firing the imaginations of visitors.

The Gallery Of Wonder On Tour has been developed by Arts&Heritage and is project led and designed by Irene Brown.

This is an exceptional project that sees a national arts and heritage agency taking artists’ work to a very different place - muddy fields and isolated rural village fairs.

Albert Einstein said,

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed”.

Can you pause to wonder?

The Gallery Of Wonder On Tour has been funded by Arts Council England, Newcastle University’s Institute for Creative Arts Practice, Berwick Visual Arts and Northumberland County Council.

Thursday 14 May 2015

A Third Exhibit

Tonight I met with the group of architects and musician with whom I am collaborating for the exhibition 'A Third Exhibit' at The Hatton Gallery which opens this Saturday. As we inspected the various packages containing the equipment that we have purchased with the money from the commission, it seemed like Christmas had come early.

We systematically discussed all of the elements of the installation, flagging any potential problems and making sure we had sourced everything we need for Saturday.

We made a list of, and allocated the jobs that still need to be sorted, and agreed to meet at 10am on Saturday to start the exciting process of bringing the installation together. Visitors are welcome to the gallery during the day, so come and watch the installation in development.

The installation will be part of The Late Shows from 7-11pm on Saturday night (16th May), and the exhibition will run until 21st May.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

From studio to Lit and Phil

After a few final touch ups, the sculptural forms were ready to be wrapped and transported to their new home: the Lit and Phil.

For the past week, the studio has been inundated with triangular MDF forms. The other MFA students  with whom we share the studio have been extremely accommodating of our need for rather a lot of space as we worked on the sculptures - thanks folks!

One by one we wrapped the triangles and then negotiated our way with them from the 4th floor to the ground floor through many a set of double doors!

Our initial plans to move the sculptures in Jodie's car now seems like a joke given the size and number of items we had to move.

We hired Robert, a man with a van to transport the work to the Lit and Phil in one easy trip. The van could not have been more fitting for the sculptures - it was as though he had chosen the colour to complement our artwork!

On the journey to the Lit and Phil I asked Robert what was the most unusual item he had moved. He then began telling me of the item of furniture that had been adapted on one side and turned into a snow scene with lots of miniature people and models. From the outside the item of furniture looked inconspicuous, but when the doors were opened, a miniature snow scene was revealed.

It turned out that he was a regular art handler, and it is not unusual for him to transport paintings by Damien Hirst around the country. At one time, he had over £3 million in the back of his van!

Once we had unloaded the items from the van, we put them in the Librarians office for unwrapping, and peeled off the film protecting the reflective surfaces from getting chipped or damaged.

We then began placing the forms on the tops of the bookcases. There are a number of different styles and sizes of bookcases in the main library and we had made specific forms for specific bookcases. We followed our plan of the positioning of the shapes, but made a few adjustments once they were installed.

The bookbinding group meet on Monday evenings and take a break around 8pm for a cuppa and biscuit. As they sat at the round table, with interest they watched us climb up the ladders and install the work. Their engagement was very encouraging, and they responded positively to the work.