Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Exploring the East Elrington area

As mentioned in a previous post, Melinda McGarry and I are creating work to be exhibited in her barn on the outskirts of Hexham.

We are keen to make work that relates to the site, whether that be the barn itself or the local area. 

With that in mind, we set off to explore the area around the barn.

I am fascinated by some of the farming equipment.

Melinda spoke of the activities that happen on her neighbours farm, and I am keen to film some of these.

She also told me about some of her conversations with the local game keeper, and I am intending on interviewing him. He mentioned that the farming tradition is gradually being lost and that there is a lot of history and knowledge of the local area that will be forgotten in a few generations. I would like to recerd some of that history.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Martin Creed - Words and Music

Artist and musician Martin Creed has been performing Words and Music at The Studio in Edinburgh as part of the International Festival and British Council season Spirit of '47.

It is billed as "a delightfully nonconformist evening of words, music and more" and audiences are advised to "expect an extraordinary encounter between artist and audience, a bit contemporary music hall, a bit art lecture, shot through with Creed’s renowned wit and absurdity, and delivered in his own highly original style. Expect to be surprised, and you won’t be disappointed."

Creed has always produced musical compositions. He has composed for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and London Sinfonietta; launched his own label – Telephone Records – in 2011 to release his albums of ramshackle, catchy folk-pop; and performed at music festivals throughout the UK and Europe.

I appreciate the way that Creed is able to talk about difficult issues such as loneliness, but avoids it becoming a sob story.

His music is lighthearted and hardly melodic, yet the lyrics are poignant. The simplicity of the words and music and his casual method of delivery emphasise his vulnerability.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Animation setups

I tend to find it useful to have several different projects or pieces of work going on at any given time. This means that if I am not in the correct state of mind to work on one piece, I can work on something else. However, it can be problematic to have too many things on the go at the same time as it becomes difficult to be able to concentrate on any of them properly. As ever, getting a balance is the key, but that seems to be my life mission! 

At the moment I am working on some writing, and given the textual emphasis and that it requires a particular mentality, I am finding that I need to have something more colourful and visual to work on simultaneously. Hence my recent drawings and collages that I have been animating.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

ArtHouses 2017

Two summer evenings on a street in Whitley Bay. The homes, gardens and public spaces of Victoria Avenue become the venue for contemporary visual art, hosted by the householders, and open to all. 

Luke McCreadie

ArtHouses is an event that brings the diversity of visual arts practice into people’s homes and offers artists a unique situation through which to explore the possibilities of working within the street. This year householders selected the works alongside the ArtHouses team. ArtHouses continues to create the possibility of generating new encounters with artworks and opportunities to explore new ways of working in contexts outside of a gallery.

David Foggo

Exhibiting in homes offers something different to a gallery experience, and I feel that the most successful work does not try to hide the fact that the work is displayed in a house. After all, it will never be a white cube, and to try to make it look like one is to bypass the alternative possibilities that the context can bring.

This year ArtHouses presented work by Totaller, Sneha Solanki, Neuschloss, Robert Laycock, Matthew Pickering, Matterlurgy, Luke McCreadie, John Quinn, Holly Argent, Graham Patterson & Sophie Foster, Gayle Meikle & Ross Hamilton Frew, David Foggo, Catrin Huber, Cathy Garner, Carol Lynn and Becky Woodhouse. 

Knit and Natter Group
Pompoms, crocheting, bunting and bollard covers were created by the Knit and Natter group and other participants at the Big Local Shop.

Gayle Meikle and Ross Hamilton Frew
Congratulations to the ArtHouses team (Tracey Tofield, Sophie Buxton, Rob Smith and Lois Hobby) for creating another wonderful event.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Practice Makes Practice at The NewBridge Project: ‘the listening room’ – conversation with Jez Riley French

This event took the form of a discussion about the role of located and performance-based sound in the contemporary sonic arts.

Jez Riley French gave a presentation/talk on some of aspects of his work with extended listening along with anecdotes, and he shared some key artists working with located sound including:

Klara Lewis

Signe Liden

Sally Ann McIntyre

Dawn Scarfe

Halla Steinunn Stefansdottir

Julia Holter

Manja Ristic

and Jana Winderen.

This lead us into an open conversation where we discussed topics such as

How does fit recording sit with the idea of nature and the idyll?

The role of misogyny in the distorted histories of sound cultures

The act of listening

I really appreciate Jez' way of working and highly respect his approach to making work. He likes discovering and sharing existing sounds, as opposed to manufacturing his own. He uses a range of microphones including hydrophones, electromagnetic, ultrasonic and contact microphones to record sounds that are beyond our normal hearing capabilities. His use of photography adds another element to the audio rather than illustrating the sound.

Newcastle University Master of Fine Art Show 2017

Newcastle University
Master of Fine Art Show 2017

Preview 18 August 6 - 9 PM

The show continues
19 August – 2 September 2017
Free admission
Open daily between 10 AM and 5 PM
(10 AM- 4 PM on Sundays and bank holiday)

Fine Art Department,
King Edward VII Building
The Quadrangle, Newcastle University NE1 7RU

This year’s Newcastle University Master of Fine Art Degree Show 2017 will see MFA students present a dynamic range of work, including painting, sculpture, video and light installations, photography, print and sound.

The artists exhibiting are Shaney Barton, Hannah Cooper, Mehan Fernando, Elizabeth Green, Peter Hanmer, Paul Jex, Hania Klepacka, Jim Lloyd, Anna MacRae and Gill Shreeve.

Work on display explores a range of themes and ideas including social politics, our connection and relationship with the natural world, investigating the everyday and commonplace, human consciousness and perceptions along with light, space and time.

Newcastle University Fine Art Department continues to have an outstanding reputation and has been ranked top in the country by the Sunday Times University Guide 2017. The department was key in radical developments in art education in the 1960s and some notable alumni includes, Richard Hamilton, Victor Pasmore, Sean Scully and Susan Hiller.

Taught by leading art professionals who nurture creative innovation and rigour, the Master of Fine Art programme supports emerging artists who wish to extend their existing practice within the contemporary art field.

The MFA Degree Show coincides with the Creative Arts Practice Degree Show ‘Lost Ontologies’ which also previews on 18th August and runs through until the 25th August.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Charles Bonnet Syndrome

I recently became aware of Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS), and was surprised to find out how common it is. Despite this, the CBS and the effects of the condition seem to have little coverage, hence the importance of talking about it. Here is some information about the condition from the RNBI.

Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is a common condition among people who have lost their sight. It causes people who have lost a lot of vision to see things that aren’t really there, known as visual hallucinations.

People who have CBS may have lost a lot of their vision from an eye condition, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma or diabetic eye disease.

It’s thought that there are more than 100,000 cases of CBS in the UK. Some research suggests that up to 60 per cent of people who are experiencing serious sight loss may develop it.

The main cause of CBS is loss of vision and how your brain reacts to this loss. Current research seems to suggest that when you are seeing real things around you, the information received from your eyes actually stops the brain from creating its own pictures. When you lose your sight, however, your brain is not receiving as much information from your eyes as it used to. Your brain can sometimes fill in these gaps by releasing new fantasy pictures, patterns or old pictures that it has stored. When this occurs, you experience these images stored in your brain as hallucinations.

There are some medical problems, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, serious mental illness and other brain conditions, which affect the part of the brain concerned with seeing and these conditions may cause some people to have hallucinations.

Certain things about CBS hallucinations make them different to the hallucinations caused by other conditions. Usually, with CBS you’re aware – or can learn to recognise – that what you’re seeing isn’t real, although it may appear vivid. CBS hallucinations only affect your sight, which means that you don’t hear, smell or feel things that aren’t there. People with CBS do not develop any obvious, complicated non- medical explanation about the cause of their hallucinations (sometimes called “delusions”). For example, someone with CBS wouldn’t have thoughts that the people they were seeing wanted to hurt them.

The visual hallucinations caused by CBS can vary and can range from simple shapes and dots of colours, simple patterns, straight lines or a network of branches, to detailed pictures of people, animals, insects, landscapes and buildings. When you have lost a large amount of your vision it may be difficult to see everyday things, but you may find that your CBS hallucinations are very detailed, and much clearer than your normal vision. The images can appear “out of the blue”, lasting for just a few minutes or in some cases, several hours.

At times, the hallucinations may fit alongside the background you are looking at, making them feel quite real, like seeing cows in a field when the field is actually empty or seeing a fence across the pavement. At other times, they will seem totally unreal, like seeing fantasy images such as dragons.

The kinds of things people see with CBS hallucinations seem to fall into two broad types:

• simple repeated patterns
• complex hallucinations of people, objects and landscapes.

Both kinds of hallucination can vary. Sometimes they may be in black and white and at other times in colour, or they may move or stay still. It’s possible you may have one type of hallucination more than another or have both types of hallucination at the same time or one after another.

Simple repeating pattern hallucinations

Many people with CBS experience hallucinations of repeating patterns. These may be grids or shapes or lines, which can be quite vivid in colour, like bright green dots surrounded by vibrant pink squares. You may also see complicated brickwork or mosaic patterns that grow in size to cover more and more of your vision. People can also see patterns that look like a network of branches or roots from a tree, growing over everything they see.

People usually describe this type of hallucination as being laid on top of everything they see, or growing across any surface they look at. Sometimes people also experience patterns of distorted faces, which appear in their vision and can change shape or move towards them.

Complex hallucinations

The second type of hallucination people can experience are more complicated and include hallucinations of people, places, insects and animals.You may experience hallucinations where whole scenes appear, such as landscapes with waterfalls, mountains or a garden full of flowers. At other times you may see individuals or groups of people. You may see people dressed in costume, like Edwardian families, Roman soldiers or small children in bonnets. The figures of people in your hallucinations may be life size, larger than life sized or very commonly very small. All these types of figures may move or remain still.

At times, the hallucinations may fit with the room that you are in when you experience them, so that you may see animals in your bed or people working in your garden. At other times the hallucinations can appear very odd, such as double-decker buses in your kitchen or hallway.

Dealing with hallucinations of space

You may find you have hallucinations that change the shape of streets and rooms. For instance, your hallucinations might suddenly make it look like there is a wall or fence in front of you and you may have to check if this is real. This can make you lose confidence walking around and it may take you longer to get out and about.

If you experience hallucinations like this, it’s important that you are not afraid to check the area around you. It may be sensible to go slowly, to reach out and feel around for what is real and what is not.

Dealing with hallucinations of people

Hallucinations of people can be frightening, particularly if they’re inside your home. If the images are of very small people or people in costumes then it may be easier to realise that they are hallucinations than if the figure is in ordinary clothes. Having a good idea of when you’re likely to have visitors may make you more confident if you have this type of hallucination and will help in you feeling secure in your home or your surroundings.

Dealing with hallucinations of animals

Hallucinations of animals are also very common. Often people describe animals on their chairs or in their bed. Sometimes this can be very upsetting, especially if you aren’t keen on a particular type of animal.

Using touch to make sure that the animals are hallucinations is not a bad thing and sometimes reaching out towards the hallucination may cause them to stop and disappear.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Cooking with Three performance in The Bottomless Pit of Outros

Cooking With Three are a mixed-media improve. ensemble that work loosely with dance, visuals and sound, directed by Jamie Cook. Collaboration is a key element of the group's process, with core members Lizzie J Klotz (dance), Adam Goodwin (visuals) and Jamie Cook (sound) inviting members of all disciplines to an open fortnightly forum to improvise together and develop interdisciplinary improvised performance.

The 'Echoes of Abstraction and the Bottomless Pit of Outros' performance was fully improvised, realised amongst the exhibition, responded to the work as well and the unique space and audience at the Laing.
Echoes of Abstraction II and The Bottomless Pit of Outros brings together newly commissioned work by artists Jamie Cook, Adam Goodwin, James Pickering and Paul Trickett, alongside highlights from the Laing Art Gallery’s modern and contemporary painting collection. The exhibition explores and is inspired by the legacy of abstract art, and has been organised in partnership with The Laing Art Gallery.

Losing a voice through Motor Neurone Disease and gaining a voice through Voicebank

This is a powerful and emotional documentary about Lucy Lintott, the youngest person with motor neurone disease in Scotland.

'Lucy Lintott, is becoming paralysed - she can no longer walk unassisted and she's losing her voice - not great for a chatterbox like Lucy. Even though she's been given only a few years to live, Lucy is determined to do what 22 year olds do - including dating. Over a six-month period, this lover of food and country music reveals how she is struggling to hold on to her personality and her infectious laugh.

Lucy visits Newcastle where she meets a stand-up comedian who can still crack a joke even though he can't speak.

In an emotional photographic sitting with portrait photographer Rankin, Lucy confronts two polarised parts of herself - the perfect Lucy pre-diagnosis, and the broken Lucy three years after diagnosis.'

Lucy visits Speak:Unique, a research project at the University of Edinburgh, where her voice was recorded in order for a synthetic voice to be made in case she loses her ability to talk.

For the best results, the person would record their voice before there has been any effect on their speech.

But, as is the case for Lucy, if there has already been some impact on the speech of the person, it may be possible to ‘repair’ some of the voice by adding in higher levels of another person's voice (a donor voice). Lucy's sister was a donor voice and also had her voice recorded.

During the recording session they said a selection of 400 sentences that include the various combinations of English speech sounds. While 400 sentences is an ideal number, a synthetic voice can be generated from as little as 100 sentences if people aren’t able to manage the 400. This voice recording is then “banked” and stored ready to create a synthetic voice for a communication aid if, and when, that person needs one. Using software developed by speech scientists, all the parameters of that unique voice can be automatically analysed and synthetically reproduced in a process called “voice cloning”.

During the voice cloning process the synthetically reproduced parameters of a patient’s voice are combined with those of healthy donor voices. Features of donor voices with the same age, sex and regional accent as the patient are pooled together to form an “average voice model”, which acts as a base on which to generate the synthetic voice.

The programme helped me realise how voice is such an important aspect of a person's individuality.

One participant of the Voicebank Research Project clinical pilot states:

“…I would far prefer to use it (their own personalised digital voice) than the annoyingly bland off the shelf version. The voice identifies the person and to a large extent its tone expresses both personality and character so to capture this is in a synthesised version is an important development for many of us who have speech issues.

To be able to communicate in a way in which sounds like my voice and therefore all that it portrays beyond the words themselves is a huge advance. Another important step towards maintaining personal dignity in the face of severe handicap which is an essential ingredient of compassionate care in my view. ”

For more information please visit

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Race to Fingerprint the Human Voice - Radio 4

A fascinating programme investigating the role of the human voice in forensic phonetics.

'Forensic phonetics - or voice identification - has long been used in legal proceedings to help determine if the voice on a recording is that of the defendant. But with the electronic age enabling the recording and storage of more data than ever before, its role in criminal investigations is changing rapidly and the race is on to "fingerprint the human voice".

Rory Bremner looks at some of the new research in this growing area of forensics - its applications in the fields of law enforcement and counterterrorism, and why there is such resistance to it in the UK, where we still prefer to rely on the human voice analyst than on an automated system. He hears about high profile cases involving speaker identification - including Michael Stone's conviction for the murder and Lin and Megan Russell and the conviction of John Humble as the hoax caller claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper.

Rory also talks to Francis Nolan, Professor of Phonetics, about how the way we think of people as having "a voice" oversimplifies matters. Compared to a fingerprint pattern, which is always a constant, physical characteristic, the voice is the product of two mechanisms which vary considerably - the speech organs and language. Fingerprints are identified through literal analysis; voices are identified through comparative voiceprints. Your voice as your password is now becoming an everyday reality rather than a SciFi cliche. But can it really be said that every voice is unique, as some have claimed?

The development of increasingly sophisticated automated speaker recognition systems is now bringing the prospect of a "voiceprint" enticingly close. But how accurate are these systems? Can they differentiate between 'real' Trump and Rory's impression of Trump...?'

Professor Peter French
Professor Hugh McLachlan
Dr Helen Fraser
Dr Kirsty McDougall
Professor Francis Nolan
Erica Thomson

Presented by Rory Bremner

Monday, 7 August 2017

‘You’re Reading Into It’ at Vane Gallery

‘You’re Reading Into It’ brings together bodies of work by seven emerging LGBTQ+ artists, curated by artist Oliver Doe. The work focuses on queer readings of Minimalist art and portrayals of LGBTQ+ experience through a minimal abstract lens. Seeking to challenge the machismo often associated with Minimalist art and reclaim a queerness in that visual language, ‘You’re Reading Into It’ highlights the importance of queer and radical feminist issues in the development of contemporary art.

Rachel Ara’s work makes direct references to High Minimalism’s sexism and the movement’s ignorance of women artists such as Ana Mendieta, as well as gendered pricing structures in art and the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS crisis to which she lost several friends. Charlotte Cullen seeks to reinsert the individual into Minimalist formalism’s abstract removal of the artist’s hand by employing a feminist sense of craft. This contrasts the ‘masculine’ industrial fibreglass insulation and aluminium used in the sculptures in order to question binaries of gender and sex. Garth Gratrix also utilises materials often associated with Minimalism – household paints, concrete, and metal – but turns this machismo on its head by playfully examining their ‘queer’ properties through language, innuendo and slang.

Oliver Doe’s paintings question queer visibility in visual culture, employing opaque gloss paint over translucent, skin-like nylon grounds. Abstracting figures into confused, amorphous and sometimes invisible bodily forms, Doe critiques formalist hard-edge painting through an inquisitive queer lens. These are well complemented by Singaporean artist Daniel Chong’s intimate mirrored sculptures, Safe Spaces, which critique his country’s criminalisation of homosexuality. These laser-cut works present the abstracted spaces between embracing figures, removing the bodies and their associations from sight, whilst reflecting the figure of the viewer within.

Tessa Hawkes’ practice plays with object-hood, materiality and narratives, working across a diverse range of media to explore closeness, balance and unalike objects. Her choices of ‘things’ are purposefully colourful and fun; working from collections of images and objects informed by industrial spaces and queer culture, playing with her own queerness and aesthetic views while working through formal methods. Liam Fallon’s sculptural work plays with similar visual codes, deeply invested in the objects’ properties and their relationships with queer coding. Using a diverse and colourful range of materials, Fallon explores and makes reference to subtle forms of queerness and sexual subcultures within pop culture.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Echoes of Abstraction II and The Bottomless Pit of Outros at Laing Art Gallery

'Echoes of Abstraction II and The Bottomless Pit of Outros brings together newly commissioned work by artists Jamie Cook, Adam Goodwin, James Pickering and Paul Trickett, alongside highlights from the Laing Art Gallery’s modern and contemporary painting collection. The exhibition explores and is inspired by the legacy of abstract art, and has been organised by The NewBridge Project in partnership with The Laing Art Gallery.

Collection works featured in the exhibition chart the gradual shift from representation to abstraction, arguably one of the most influential artistic developments of the twentieth century. More recent works illustrate how, to this day, abstraction is used to various degrees, from relatively minor formal alterations in otherwise realistic works, to completely abstract compositions in which the painting bears no resemblance to the real world. Highlight works include paintings by Francis Bacon, David Bomberg, Patrick Heron, Chris Ofili, Prunella Clough, Ben Nicholson, Mark Gertler and Frank Auerbach.

Contemporary artists Cook, Goodwin, Pickering and Trickett join forces as The Occasion Collective to experiment with notions of reality and the natural and artificial worlds, bringing together art and technology. In response to the Laing’s collection works and the theme of abstraction’s long legacy they have made a new interactive installation of sound, image, object and digital experience entitled The Bottomless Pit of Outros.

They have created a virtual reality rendering of the Laing’s grand Edwardian gallery suites, in which works from the collection can be reimagined in an ever-changing virtual display.

The partnership between the Laing Art Gallery and The NewBridge Project has been devised with the dual aim of supporting emerging artists from the region, as well as creating a new platform for The NewBridge Project at a time of both flux and renewed ambition as they relocate to new premises at Carliol House, Market Street.'

It is a really impressive installation that works especially well in the context of the Laing as opposed to a white cube gallery space. The vibrant modern interiors created by The Occasion Collective contrast with the traditional interior of the Laing Gallery, and made me consider the collection works in a new manner which I enjoyed.

In this instance I did not find that the virtual reality added anything to my experience of the work. I find myself being impressed by the technological complexities, but find virtual reality difficult to respond on a more artistic level. 

I'm looking forward to a couple of the associated forthcoming programmed events alongside this exhibition:

Cooking with Three performance in The Bottomless Pit of Outros

The Laing Art Gallery
Saturday 12 August, 6-7pm

Cooking With Three are a mixed-media improv ensemble that work loosely with dance, visuals and sound, directed by Jamie Cook. Collaboration is a key element of the group’s process, with core members Lizzie J Klotz (dance), Adam Goodwin (visuals) and Jamie Cook (sound) inviting members of all disciplines to an open fortnightly forum to improvise together and develop interdisciplinary improvised performance.

The ‘Echoes of Abstraction II and the Bottomless Pit of Outros’ performance will be fully improvised, realised amongst the exhibition, responding to the work as well and the unique space and audience at the Laing.

| PMP | ‘the listening room‘ – conversation
The NewBridge Project
Saturday 19 August, 5pm

For this salon style event everyone is invited to come along to discuss the role of located & performance-based sound in the contemporary sonic arts.

Jez Riley French will be on hand to present a talk on some of aspects of his work with extended listening & recording, and to highlight some key artists working with located sound. The talk will then lead us into an open conversation where everyone is welcome to contribute. Whatever your interest in sound come along with questions or comments for us all to discuss.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

BALTIC Artists’ Award 2017

One of the current exhibitions at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead is the BALTIC Artists’ Award 2017: an exhibition featuring work by Jose Dávila, Eric N. Mack, Toni Schmale and Shen Xin.

The four recipients of the award each received £25,000 to create new work and a £5,000 artist fee. This major new international award is the first worldwide art award to be judged solely by artists.

Four of the most celebrated international contemporary artists - Monica Bonvicini, Mike Nelson, Pedro Cabrita Reis, and Lorna Simpson - selected an emerging artist whose work they strongly believe in. The four winning artists work across a diverse range of media. The exhibition will provide a vital opportunity for those selected to have their work seen by tens of thousands of visitors, to work with BALTIC’s curators and be supported by a high-profile artist.

Public visitors to this seminal exhibition of new works are able to vote for the artists’ presentation they have the greatest connection to. This will inform an additional legacy commission project enabling a deeper engagement between one of the artists and local communities in Gateshead to be announced in autumn 2018.

I was drawn to the work by Jose Dávila, (b. 1974, lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico), the artist selected by Pedro Cabrita Reis.

"Influenced by Minimalism, American Conceptual Art, and Brazil’s Neo-concrete movement, Dávila’s artistic practice questions the inherent qualities of modern architecture and art throughout history. His sculptural work is based on the arrangement and overlapping of common construction materials such as boulders, glass, steel, concrete and marble, kept in perfect balance addressing the never-ending struggle against the force of gravity."

I enjoyed the unusual and playful combination of materials and the lightness of touch to this installation. The simplicity added to its power. I had a physical reaction to the work, and enjoyed walking around it to experience different angles and see it in new ways. The sculpture is seamlessly constructed, which is essential for a work so minimal. The balloon adds a refreshing splash of colour and is in contrast to the industrial metal girders and heavy natural rock.

It was only when I saw the video about the work of Eric N. Mack that I realised that the clothing that was hung on the wall could be experienced in a different way. Every day, a performer wears the clothing for a few hours and walks around the gallery space. I was disappointed that I did not see this is person as from the video, the clothing comes to life when it is worn. The fabric becomes part of the installation and an interesting dynamic is formed between it and the structures.