Friday, 26 August 2016

A lot can happen in fifteen minutes

I'm really pleased that my recent collaborative publication, 'A lot can happen in fifteen minutes' with UnstapledPress is getting positive feedback.

Come see it now as part of my installation 'Everything Will Be Alright' at the Newcastle University MFA Exhibition 2016.

They are printed using risograph printing, making each one (I have 75 copies)an original artwork.

Publications can be bought from Newcastle University throughout the exhibition and online or in person.

Everything Will Be Alright (Scouring pads) animation is now on vimeo

The Scouring pad stop motion animation that forms part of my current exhibition, Everything Will Be Alright can now be seen online on vimeo. 

Check it out!

Everything Will Be Alright (Scouring pads)

Everything Will Be Alright (Scouring pads) from Helen Shaddock on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

MFA exhibition open 10am-5pm Monday - Saturday until 3rd September

I am invigilating throughout the duration of the Newcastle University MFA exhibition. Despite being a pretty simple task, invigilating can be challenging. When you have put your heart and soul into making the work and spent a lot of time and energy creating it, it can be very disheartening and disappointing when people don't try to engage with the work.

However, I am finding that the majority of viewers are taking their time and appreciating what they are seeing. I've had a few lengthy conversations with different people who obviously have had a response to my work. It is an amazing feeling when someone says that they have been moved by something I have created. Long may this continue.

There does seem to be some confusion about whether the gallery is open. I can confirm that although the Hatton Gallery is closed for refurbishment, the rest of the building is open as the Newcastle University MFA Exhibition 2016 is up and running and open for public viewing Monday - Saturday, 10am-5pm. The entrance to the exhibition is via the Atrium entrance, located opposite the Northern Stage. There are plenty of signs around to point you in the right direction. The last day of the exhibition is Saturday 3rd of September, so there is still plenty of time to come and enjoy the art. I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Artists come from around the world to study in Newcastle - meet some of them here

The annual Master of Fine Art degree show has opened at Newcastle University and is full of surprises

Liying Zhao and Mehan Fernando preparing for the MFA Exhibition at Newcastle University

People cross continents to study for a masters degree in fine art at Newcastle Universityand for the next couple of weeks we can see what they get up to.
The MFA exhibition 2016 features the work of 13 artists who have a passion for art and could go on to great things.
I was lucky enough to get a guided tour before the official preview.
“Edible sculpture, fantastical beasts, illuminated mountains and a working film set” were promised. Who could resist?
My guide was Pipi Lovell-Smith from New Zealand who has just completed the first year of the two-year course (first and second year students are represented in the exhibition along with three PhD students).
Each student on the MFA course gets a studio in which to work and exhibit. This is an exhibition of mini exhibitions.
Pipi’s is called The Perilous Cliff and it features a video shot in the North East and Switzerland where she ventured earlier this year on a Bartlett Travel Scholarship.
“I got really bad vertigo the whole time,” explained Pipi who suffered for her art.
She said she had bought an album of photographs from an antique shop in New Zealand which appeared to chart an Englishman’s grand tour in the 1930s.
“I bought it years ago but I was keen to find the exact locations that he went to. He went to other places, France and Germany, but I decided to focus on one country.
“It took quite a long time and I was hiking through forests to find the exact spots. Some were easier to find because they have been tourist spots for a century but there was a glacier that no longer exists.”
Who was the mystery man? Pipi has a name but isn’t sure if his identity is the point of her interest. As she explained, the MFA course was a chance to explore.
“It’s a great opportunity to push yourself and try new things. I applied with my paintings but when I got here I started making films.”
Pipi worked in TV production before deciding to push her creativity in a different direction.
But why Newcastle University? “Because the art school has a really good reputation. Coming from a creative industry I was keen to make more of my own work and this course gives me time and space to explore ideas.”
Hannah Elizabeth Cooper with her paintings in the MFA Exhibition at Newcastle University
Hannah Elizabeth Cooper is a painter from Ohio whose exhibition of abstracts in oils is called Cope.
She came here for different reasons. “I’ve always had a taste for foreign culture and as I only speak English it would have to be an English-speaking country,” she said.
“I’m from a village of 3,000 people. I’m a small town girl and coming to a city, even one the size of Newcastle, is a big step for me.”
Hannah said she had enjoyed her first year. “The instructors are very helpful and want you to succeed.”
She had worked in the past with mixed media, notably glass and sawdust, but was currently using oils.
The paintings, she said, were a sort of coping mechanism and she saw them as having personalities. “That’s the obnoxious one,” she said. “It just didn’t want to cooperate.”
The paintings were “not supposed to be anything that you can recognise”. People would see in them what they wanted to see.
Hannah said: “A lot of the time I paint in the moment. Sometimes I’m confused by the colours I use. They come about in such a strange way.”
Jim Lloyd lives in Hexham and for 18 years has worked at the RVI in its nuclear medicine department, a branch of radiology.
“I’m a scientist by background but one of the things I’m interested in is how science and art interact,” he said.
He took the science route, taking a first degree in physics and then studying for an MSc in medical physics and a PhD.
But he is the son of a distinguished artist, RJ Lloyd, who was a friend of sculptor Henry Moore and also of Ted Hughes whose poems he illustrated.
“Probably I went into science because I could see what a precarious life it was but I’ve always had an interest in art and I’ve dabbled over the years.
“I started to take it more seriously in 2007 when I began studying for a BA with the Open College of the Arts.”
At 56 he is planning a change of direction.
His contribution to the MFA exhibition is We Have Never Been Modern, the title taken from a book by French philosopher Bruno Latour.
He has made a corridor entrance to his darkened studio with draped sheets bearing various painted marks, some mimicking the texture of the floor.
A video charts a mysterious journey, made more eerie by music and voices (actually those of late scientists David Bohm and Francesco Varela) heard through headphones.
Jim said the filmed journey was actually his daily commute from Hexham. There were “lots of different strands,” he said, adding that there were perhaps too many. It’s intriguing, though... and he’s learning.
Liying Zhao with one of her projections in the MFA Exhibition at Newcastle University
Liying Zhao, from China, deftly uses projections to wonderful effect in her show, Nameless Wild.
She said her initial idea had been to add nothing to a room containing just a sink, a radiator and a table. “I wanted to build up a zoo in this human space, this architectural environment.
“I wanted to pose a question to viewers about human activities and nature.”
The result is magical – a projected ‘flower’ of human hands on one wall and, apparently balancing on a tap, a little person with a hippo’s head fishing in the ceramic sink below.
There’s a projected tiger-headed woman watering real grasses arranged in the radiator.
“I like to keep my work in between the real and the imagined and I like to put my own narratives into the actual space,” said Zhao.
She considered engaging a model but then decided to pose as the animal creatures herself.
Coming to the end of her two years, Zhao is going home for the first time next month. “I’m so excited,” she said. She will go home and, I suspect, go far.
Other exhibitors are Anna MacRae, Harriet Sutcliffe, Michael Mulvihill, Yein Son, Bex Harvey, Helen Shaddock, Mirela Bistran, James Quin and Mehan Fernando.
The exhibition is on at Newcastle University fine art department until September 3 (closed Sundays) and admission is free. Find details at

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Everything Will Be Alright

Thank you ever so much to everyone who came to the preview and who has visited the exhibition so far. The exhibition as a whole has been praised highly and my own work has been very well received.

There was a lovely celebratory atmosphere on Friday night and everything ran smoothly. The whole organisation of the exhibition including everything from the marketing, promotion, catalogue, website, posters, vinyl, maps, signage, press release, invigilation, logistics, to the hospitality, has been a real team effort.


I was delighted to see the work being enjoyed and for so many children (and adults!) to embrace the packing peanuts.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A taster of what is on offer



Thursday, 18 August 2016

Testing the packing peanuts

I'm really excited about putting the packing peanuts on the floor, but this needs to be the last thing that I do. However, I am eager to see whether they will have an impact on the screen (i.e. if they will reflect onto the white), so I did have a quick scatter of a few to get an impression of what it may look like.

Waiting for the postman...

After weeks of work, the publication that I have been working on with UnStapledPress is in the post and the printers have sent a few photos to give us a sneaky peek of what is to come.

To see it in person, come to the MFA Exhibition 2016 at Newcastle University which opens tonight (Friday 19th August 2016) at 6pm. The exhibition runs until Saturday 3rd September, and is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm each day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Packing peanuts galore!

As the different elements to my exhibition have developed and my installation has progressed, I have been conscious that there is something missing. This something is the thing that will add a little more texture and physicality to the work. At the moment I feel that the sculptural element of my practice is lacking within the space. Rather than make an individual sculpture, I want to find a way to unite the works so they exist as part of an installation rather than works on their own.

I have been considering doing some kind of drawing on the floor, but I feel this may be too controlled and flat. I enjoy creating experiences for the audience, and want to do something that would affect the way they interact with  the work.

I've been researching different materials and surfaces that I could cover the floor in. After much consideration I opted for green polystyrene packing peanuts.

I'd looked at various colours of packing peanuts, and found one colour that was ideally matched to the colour of one of the scouring pads in one of my video animations. 

I did a couple of quick mock ups in photoshop to give me an idea of what it may look like, and this confirmed my decision to opt for the green packing peanuts.

It was rather difficult to gauge how many bags i would need as the volume of the bags were measured in cube feet, but after a bit of calculating (and an element of consultation with my piggy bank to see how much i could scrape together), I ordered 6 bags making a total of 90 cube feet worth of packing peanuts!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Check out the straight lines!

It's those finishing touches that make the difference.

That's why I spent a good few hours meticulously painting the rim around my room! The joins between the grey floor and the white walls used to be messy and uneven causing ones eyes to focus on this unsightly detail. 

Hopefully this is no longer the case!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Positioning the monitors

I view the scouring pad animation as a kind of moving painting and therefore it seems appropriate to display it on a flatscreen monitor on the wall.

However, the folding napkin animation suits a more sculptural setup. I want for it to appear like the napkins are being folded on a table, and should be viewed from above, rather like the way in which I filmed them. 

Due to some rather dull technical reasons which I won't bore you with, I am using an old computer to present my folding napkin animation on. Unfortunately there is no way of getting rid of the bulky tower, and so I need to make a bespoke case to fit all the equipment in, and hold the monitor horizontally. I will need access to it on a daily basis and so the box will have a door that enables me to switch it all on and play the video.

I want the box to be as near to the size of the animation setup as possible, and so have decided to use the speakers on the monitor rather than having to house a couple of additional speakers. 

 The box has cut out rectangles in the position of the speakers on the monitor.

I've encountered an unexpected problem; namely that the screen of the monitor seems much darker than it should. The image above shows that the top of the monitor is much darker than the bottom, and the image below shows that when viewed the other way round, the image is the intended colour.


 In order to rectify the issue, I have tried to rotate the video. The problem with this is that the holes for speakers are now above the animation, and if I align the monitor correctly, the door to the box is at the front and is unsightly. This is a job to resolve tomorrow!                                                      

Friday, 12 August 2016

Projectors are installed

After installing the screen yesterday, today it was time to fix the projectors and BrightSigns into place. The BrightSigns is a piece of equipment that synchs videos. They were programmed the other day, and I tested the synchronisation using televisions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

In the evening it was time to paint the floor of what will be the audio room.


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

We have lift off and are venturing to the world of technology!

All began to come together this morning when Burnie, Steve and I installed the projector screen. It hangs, intentionally hovering just above the floor, moving slightly back and forth when people walk past. 

The next major milestone will be the installation of the projectors onto the walls at either side of the projection screen. The projectors will be mounted high up on the wall so that no one will walk in front of them and block out the light. The brackets have been made and the projectors attached. I've booked to use the cherry picker and organised some people to assist with what could well be a fiddly job.

I seem to be amassing a rather large collection of technical equipment and endless amounts of cables and extension cables. Let's just hope that there are no power cuts during the exhibition!     


This is the master...

and this is my own slave!


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Plan of action

If you step inside the Newcastle University Fine Art department at the moment you are likely to detect an unusual energy in the atmosphere. This is an energy consisting of multiple emotions, from excitement and anticipation to frustration and anxiety.

We, (the 10 current MFA students) are less than 2 weeks away from the opening of the Master of Fine Art Exhibition. For half of the cohort, this will be the final exhibition marking the end of their 2 year postgraduate studies, and the other 5 students have another year to look forward to! When I look back at what I have done in the 2 years, I can see how far my work has travelled, and am pleased that I have really challenged myself and tried out new ways of working. I started the first year making plaster cast sculptures, and am now working with audio and video installation alongside some performance! I love how this multidisciplinary approach gives me the freedom to remain true to my ideas and realise them in the most appropriate way.

There are, of course, many problems associated with such a way of working, and my unfamiliarity with some of the things I am using has lead to some sleepless nights and the occasional curse erupting from my mouth!

My head feels bombarded with things to remember and tasks that need to be done. I am an avid list writer, and at the moment this is the stage that I am at:


It's easy to be totally consumed by your own work, and it is exciting to venture into the other students spaces and see the changes and progression of their work.

I shared a wonderful moment of satisfaction with Bex Harvey as we admired the set that she is constructing. Just look at that column!

For more photos of other works in progress keep checking the MFA Exhibition Facebook page and event page