Monday, 30 October 2017

Spoken Word in the news

"The rising popularity of spoken word poetry is giving a voice to artists like Dylema.

She tells the BBC's Izin Akhabau that it's "so amazing" to have platforms to be on stage and say her truth."

Torn between her Nigerian roots and upbringing in Britain, she didn't know where to call home and so she decided to make poetry her home.

When asked how Spoken Word differs from written poetry, she explains that Spoken Word takes more of a performative stance than more conventional poetry on a page.

Her favourite Spoken Word artists are "those that are the bravest, that say it and deliver it in a way that is entertaining, striking and forges a connection between the performer and the audience."

Friday, 27 October 2017



Women and Sexism in the Arts

On Wednesday the BBC radio 4 programme Front Row focused on the issue of sexism and the treatment of women in the arts. 

Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of London's Royal Court Theatre, actor and director Maureen Lipman and Helen Lewis, deputy Editor of the New Statesman discussed how leaders in the creative industries are responding.

Other topics of conversation included to what extent is the portrayal of women across film, theatre, music and visual art defined by the male gaze? And how easy is it for female artists to claim ownership of their own image?

Photographer Annie Leibovitz, Feminist Art Historian Tamar Garb, Dance critic Luke Jennings and Jacqueline Springer, music journalist and senior lecturer at University of Westminster also joined in with the discussion.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

'Dance Number' by Louise Hopkins

Mackintosh Building Wall Commission

The Glasgow School of Art

Artist wall commission (2017) 
Digital print on metal, on wood panels. 2.44m x 12.2m. Copyright the artist. Photo: Alan Dimmick.

"Dance Number is a new commission, situated directly opposite the Reid Building, on the temporary wall that surrounds the historic Mackintosh Building whilst restoration is underway.

The artwork responds to its location as part of a building site and busy loading bay. Dance Number forms and performs its own rhythm of hand drawn grid, with red, blue and black geometric shapes. It responds to the lines created by scaffolding, the pedestrian barriers and signs and the movement of people working on, in and around the building. Whilst Dance Number is a separate and unique piece, it has evolved from a chain of reproductions moving from the handmade to the digital.

Louise Hopkins is an artist and part-time lecturer in GSA School of Fine Art. Her practice involves working with what already exists in the world; making paintings onto surfaces that already contain information – such as world maps, patterned fabric and pages from books. Dance Number is her largest scale work to date. Hopkins is currently developing several large-scale works for outside locations."

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Final few days to see REALITY CHECK at The NewBridge Project : Gateshead

Get yourself to The NewBridge Project : Gateshead before it's too late to see the current exhibition, REALITY CHECK.

Open Wednesday - Saturday
12pm - 5pm

232-240 High Street, Gateshead 
(very close to the Tesco Extra, METRO station, VUE cinema)

Final day is this Saturday 28th October

Villa Joe tapestry by Paul Noble at The Laing

This incredible tapestry by Paul Noble is currently hung in the Laing Art Gallery, and dominates the large wall space downstairs by the staircase. It is based on a previous pencil drawing by Noble, and has been created using hand-dyed yarn.

"It shows the stony landscape surrounding Villa Joe, a ‘personalised holiday villa’ near Noble’s imagined city of Nobson Newtown. The villa itself, a gigantic glass building in the shape of the name Joe, is depicted as a cabinet of curiosities filled with ornaments and stuffed animals. The stony landscape around the building is littered with allusions to Henry Moore, with rock formations echoing Moore’s reclining figures and helmet series."

I'm interested in the way that Noble has created three dimensional text. It took me a while to work out what the sentence was, which is useful to bear in mind as I am thinking about ways in which to make text more challenging to read for my recent publication, Portion Control.

Monday, 23 October 2017


I have an envelope filled with cuttings from magazines that I keep as visual research. They tend to be patterns, colour combinations, textures, shapes and designs that I am attracted to. The other day I was looking through the envelope and began to arrange images alongside each other and create a kind of visual layout board. I began to think about the comic books that I have been looking at, and the way that they rely on the layout to determine how something is read. It seems that I applied a similar strategy when placing images next to each other on the page. I was creating relationships between items and leading the eye round the board. It has been a really useful exercise to play with these arrangements, and they are more than visual research. I just haven't worked out what they are yet!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Portion Control

Having carefully considered and made the gallery furniture on which to display my new publication, Portion Control, I wanted to position the actual books in a manner that would complement the formal qualities of the table and stools. In keeping with the stools with their concertina folds, the publications were connected in a concertina fashion on the table.

This sculptural method of display provided the viewer with a glimpse into the publication as well as the outer cover. I enjoy the contrast between the inside and the outside, and hope that the viewer will be prompted to read the text.

I made the furniture child-sized and used candy colours for the work to give the impression that it is innocent and accessible. I hope that this contrast between the appearance and the written content of the publication will surprise the reader and make the work more powerful.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Live Stream footage of The Drone Ensemble performance at TUSK 2017

The TUSK Festival website features the live stream footage of the performance by The Drone Ensemble at The Sage.

It can be viewed via this link:

Our set begins around 7mins 50seconds into the footage.

We also documented the performance ourselves and made a high quality audio recording. We will share these once we have edited the footage. So watch out for another blog post with more documentation.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Hans Grüsel's Krankenkabinet perform at TUSK 2017

Hans Grüsel's Krankenkabinet perform in a very theatrical manner. The three performers were transformed into Hansel and Grettle-like characters wearing huge fabric headgear that covered their entire face apart from a couple of holes for their eyes. Sporting a pretty pinafore dress, the violinist danced wildly around the stage in an energetic and enthusiastic manner so much so that she continuously had to readjust her headgear as it became loose. The seemingly innocent appearance was in contrast to their chaotic, wild and aggressive noise which left me feeling disquieted and in need of some fresh air!

"Hans Grüsel's Krankenkabinet is an ever-changing woodgrain diorama of dark forest characters. Using electronics, field recordings, acoustic instruments, props, costumes, and scenery, the ensemble explores the lost Teutonic rites of the past, while stumbling into the failure of the future."

"What this band are like really can’t be done justice with a few pithy sentences. They’re genuinely like nothing you’ve heard before – and bizarre to the point of actually being quite disturbing: dwelling too long on their singular version Tea For Two can feel like you’re opening the door to a rapidly descending psychological staircase from which you may never escape. Heavy Vibes magazine had a good stab at defining the Krankenkabinet experience though – “Imagine yourself in a pre-WW1 German village where wooden children with mekanikal insides have taken over as they conspire to concoct the most demented Moog-driven kilng klang you’ve ever heard in your livenlife”. Lovers of Caroliner and last year’s sanity-tweakers Rubber O Cement will hear psychic parallels and there are rumours of shared personnel, clandestine though facts re Hans’ membership are. Whoever they are and whatever the hell they are doing though, this is going to be some kind of spectacle."

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Staraya Derevnya performance at TUSK Festival 2017

Before the start of TUSK Festival 2017 I received an email from Gosha, one of the members of the collective, Staraya Derevnya, who was interested in The Drone Ensemble.

"Staraya Derevnya are a Russian/Israeli collective with a tangible feel of the steppe and the ice and a curious musical hybrid that suggests endless/lawless, hard-bitten territories but yet with submerged echoes of the Incredible String Band and MV+EE, or maybe Caroliner but with psychedelic stimulants forsaken in favour of eyesight-endangering homebrew hooch. Of course there are remnants of some kind of un-placeable folk music in there too, the ethno-musical signature of some imagined state long gone rotten, perhaps. And yes, fleetingly yet more than once there is a glimpse into what Comus would have sounded like had they been Russian. Staraya Derevnya make bewitching music that seems impossible to place in terms of direction and intention, like climbing into a cab only to realise its not a cab at all.."

Gosha explained that he was really excited about seeing The Drone Ensemble play as part of TUSK 2017, but that unfortunately the band had other commitments on Friday evening and so were going to miss our performance. We agreed to meet on the Saturday after Staraya Derevnya had performed in Sage 2.

I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, and found it very interesting talking to them about how they work together despite different members of the band being based in London, Moscow and Tel-Aviv. They play some of their own handmade instruments alongside sounds and noises and other instruments such as flutes, guitars, Theremin, Mbira, Shruti box and a kazoo. Vocals are in Russian. For their set at TUSK 2017 they worked with an artist to produce visuals for the performance. Hopefully The Drone Ensemble will get the opportunity to collaborate with Staraya Derevnya at some point in the future. Watch this space!

Friday, 13 October 2017

The gallery before REALITY CHECK

The NewBridge Project have recently secured a site in Gateshead that will be the home of the Collective Studio and a gallery. Located on High Street, it used to be Poundland and prior to that was Woolworths. Needless to say that it is not set up as gallery and studios and requires a total revamp and rebuild in order for it to be fit for purpose. Since getting the keys to the premises a few weeks ago, Dean from TILT Workshop has been working all out to get the space up and running and ready for the opening today. He has had a tremendous amount to do, ranging from plumbing the toilets to building the studios. The gallery is just part of the building. On Wednesday and Thursday we did the last coats of paint, cleaning etc

and here is the gallery before we installed the show:


Come tonight to see what it is like now! 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Drone Ensemble Live At The Sage, Gateshead On Friday 13th October, 6-7pm

TUSK Festival 2017 will kick off with a live performance by The Drone Ensemble from 6pm on Friday 13th October at the Sage

I'd like to invite you to join me on Friday 13th October when I'll be playing in The Drone Ensemble from 6-7pm in the main concourse of the Sage. No tickets are required and entry is free!

I'll then be heading up the road to The NewBridge Project: Gateshead, 232-240 High Street, NE8 1AQ for the opening of REALITY CHECK, a group exhibition that I have work in. I hope you can make it along to what should be a treat for your ears and eyes!

The Drone Ensemble emit vast, deep, sonorous drones using instruments we have almost entirely designed and built ourselves.

Joe Sallis leads musically and on instrument design and the Ensemble’s evolving line-up has been causing some excitement in Tyneside’s subterranean circles and how those sonorous waves of sound interact with the interior of Norman Foster’s architecture is something we can’t wait to hear.

Once more, alongside a truly eclectic and international music menu and TUSK’s trademark slew of UK debuts, festival goers can again enjoy the festival’s renowned film programme, exhibtions, talks, installations, interactions and more, all curated to inspire the musically curious.
The announcements for TUSK 2017 are typically genre transcendent, offering festival goers a unique opportunity to broaden their musical horizons whilst enjoying a rip-roaring festival experience.
The Line Up is:
Fri 13 Oct Concourse 6pm Drone Ensemble Sage Two 7pm Swarmfront Sage Two 8pm Duncan Harrison Sage Two 8.45pm The Tea Towels Sage Two 9.45pm Valerio Tricoli Sage Two 10.45pm United Bible Studies
Sat 14 Oct NRFH 12pm Andrew Liles NRFH 12.45pm Panel Discussion NRFH 1.45pm Midwich NRFH 2.30pm Film Programme Sage Two 6pm Luna Del Cazador Sage Two 7pm Kink Gong Sage Two 8pm Staraya Derevnya Sage Two 9pm ELG Sage Two 10pm Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet Sage Two 11.15pm Brainbombs
Sun 15 Oct NRFH 2.30pm Film Programme NRFH 5pm Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet & Staraya Derevnaya NRFH 5.45pm Radio Play Sage Two 6.30pm Kara-Lis Coverdale Sage Two 7.30pm Ulas Ozdemir & Arash Maradi Sage Two 8.30pm Klein Sage Two 9.30pm Brigid Mae Power Sage Two 10.30pm Beatrice Dillon Sage Two 11.30pm Nurse With Wound
As well as 3 days of TUSK’s unique and famously diverse live music programme, the festival will also include films, talks and more, as well as afterhours action and exhibitions at The Old Police House, Workplace Gallery and Shipley Art Gallery.

Weekend Tickets for TUSK Festival 2017 are £60. Day Tickets are also available for £21.80.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Displaying 'Portion control'

When working with text, one of the challenges is deciding how to display it. There are many things to consider. For example, is it meant to be read aloud and listened to, is it to be performed, is it to be read individually by the audience members, and if so, how will they interact with the text? Is it on the wall so more than one person can read it at once, or in a publication that only one person can read at once. How is the text written? By hand or computer? Is it important to read the text as a whole, or does it consist of shorter individual parts to be read in any order? Are there images alongside the text? Is it part of an installation?

I am going to be exhibiting a text in the group exhibition, REALITY CHECK which opens on Friday. I know that the other artists in the group exhibition have a lot of wall based work, so I want to avoid adding to this. I personally find it quite difficult to read when I am in a gallery, so I want to give the audience the opportunity to take the text away so they can read it in their own time and situation of choice. I have therefore chosen to produce a small publication.

I want to ensure that the publications are not 'lost' amongst the rest of the work, and so I am making a table for the publications to be presented on, and some matching stools for people to sit on while they read the text. In keeping with the publication, Portion Control, I am painting the table to resemble a pie chart.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The NewBridge Project, a Newcastle art success story, is soon to open in Gateshead - article in The Chronical by David Whetstone

The artists, with the support of Newcastle University, are taking over a former town centre shop unit occupied by Poundland

Success follows success for the artists of The NewBridge Project. As DAVID WHETSTONE reports, they’re soon to open in Gateshead

Demolition could have spelled doom for an artists’ collective in Newcastle. Instead they moved to smart new premises nearby and are now about to pop up in Gateshead.

The NewBridge Project: Gateshead is shortly to open on the High Street in an empty shop unit that used to be Poundland and before that was Woolworth.

Artists will breathe new life into the old unit in a collaboration between the artist-led NewBridge Project and Newcastle University’s Institute for Creative Arts Practice (NICAP).

The building will be a base for artists, photographers, architects, filmmakers and others as they establish themselves professionally. It will also be the base for a graduate development programme.

The NewBridge Project has been a North East success story since it was established in Newcastle in 2010 by a pair of Newcastle University fine art graduates.

It provided a supportive environment and an affordable space to work for arts graduates in the former office block, Norham House, on New Bridge Street West.

Peppercorn rents were possible because eventually the building would be demolished and the occupants would have to move on or disperse.

By the time Norham House was scheduled for demolition, the NewBridge Project had become acknowledged as a valuable addition to the city centre.

It was recently granted four-year funding by Arts Council England, as part of its National Portfolio, from April 2018.

As the demolition team moved in early this year, the Newcastle artists moved into nearby Carliol House where they have signed a longer lease which means more security.

The Gateshead development, also going under the name The Collective Studio, is the latest chapter in this particular success story.

Julie Sanders, pro-vice chancellor at Newcastle University, said a graduate development programme based at NewBridge Project’s Gateshead offshoot, also known as The Collective Studio, would help to bridge the gap between university and work.

“Our graduates play a vital role in the cultural economy of the North East and this programme demonstrates the university’s commitment to furthering their contribution to our region’s cultural ecology,” she said.

“We are delighted to work with The NewBridge Project.

“Their development from a pop-up initiative to Arts Council National Portfolio organisation in seven short years is testimony to the strength of talent our universities produce and to the value of collaboration between higher education and the creative sectors.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Charlie Gregory, director of The NewBridge Project, who said The Collective Studio demonstrated an ambition to work together to support artists early in their careers.

“We are excited to be launching The Collective Studio with Newcastle University who have shown invaluable support for NewBridge, our programme and artist-led approach and generating new forms of graduate support,” she said.

The graduates based there will be able to take part in professional workshops led by leaders in their respective fields. They will also have access to a mentor and be able to draw on expertise within Newcastle University.

The scheme will culminate in an exhibition of the work they have produced.

As well as the graduate scheme, The NewBridge Project: Gateshead will provide space for artists at any stage of their career and house NewBridge Gallery, which will present a programme of contemporary art exhibitions and commissions.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Finishing touches to my new publication for REALITY CHECK exhibition

Portion Control, my new publication that I will be exhibiting in REALITY CHECK, the forthcoming group exhibition at The NewBridge Project : Gateshead has been in the making for several months now.

In the form of a stream of consciousness, the text is an honest and raw account of a mundane activity that many find trivial, but is of significance to the narrator and others. The process of live experiential writing reveals the narrator’s meandering thoughts and preoccupations during a short period of time; self doubt, indecision, tiredness, relationships, the pressures of modern life.

Although the initial writing period was relatively quick, the text has gone through numerous edits and I have experimented with the format of the text and how it should be displayed. After much thought I have decided to make it into a publication and have incorporated my drawings into the design.

Here is a little taster:


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Hatton gallery to reopen after £3.8m refurbishment

This article in the Guardian outlines the importance of the Hatton Gallery and reveals some of what we have to look forward to when the gallery reopens on Friday.

A gallery that contains what for some is the most thrilling, important and influential piece of postwar modernist art ever made in Britain is about to reopen after nearly two years of closure.

The Hatton gallery, founded in 1925 and part of Newcastle University, has undergone a £3.8m refurbishment ushering in what should be a new era. While the gallery is internationally important, it has for decades been hard to love and difficult to find.

It will finally reopen to the public on Friday next week with an exhibition exploring the role Newcastle played in the rise of pop art. But for many art lovers, the chief draw will be the chance to see Kurt Schwitters’s restored Merz Barn wall, a modernist masterpiece that was rescued and installed at the Hatton in 1965.

The 20-month redevelopment, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has created bigger spaces that are airy, bright and pleasant – a far cry from the old Hatton. “There were no environmental controls; the lighting was terrible,” said Richard Talbot, head of fine art at the university. “The fittings were such you couldn’t even get the bulbs for them.”

Julie Milne, chief curator of the city’s art galleries, recalled the complaints from visitors. She said: “Most of the feedback we got was about the gallery’s gloominess. There were wires all over the place and lumpy walls, which were difficult to hang on. Intrinsically, the building is beautiful – it was just very shabby and run down.”

In the days before instant access to maps, the gallery was also difficult to find, something that has also been addressed by better signage. “It has been a real problem,” said Talbot. “We’ve had meetings for years talking about it, but it is a lot more visible now.”

The lack of proper environmental controls often meant borrowing works for exhibitions was tricky. It also posed huge problems for Hatton’s star work, the Merz Barn wall.

The wall was created by Schwitters, an artist who is today considered a giant of modern art. It is based on the idea of collage, with found objects incorporated with paint and plaster swirled in to the wall to create an artwork that the Observer’s Rachel Cooke described as “part cave painting, part modernist fantasia.”

The wall is from his dadaist Merzbau project, one that dominated Schwitters’s life. He created his first Merzbau between 1923-33 in his family home in Hanover, but it was destroyed by an RAF bomb in 1943.

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd